Octagon Theatre, Bolton
If you have seen Stephen Daldry's celebrated production of J.B. Priestley's classic An Inspector Calls, you may think to yourself, why bother trying to stage it?
The National Theatre production is so memorable, that by the time the house falls to the ground, you are left quite dumbstruck. David Thacker, Artistic Director of the newly refurnished Bolton Octagon is aware of this, so instead - he strips the piece back, allowing the actors to breathe and take their characters beyond the wooden- top caricatures you often see in an Agatha Christie production. And the pay off is hugely rewarding.
Margot Leicester is wonderfully good at letting her Sybil Birling's mask slip. With her immaculate dress code, and elegance and poise - shattered by the "impertinence" of Inspector Goole. Rosie Jones conveys Sybil's daughter as worldy, aware and willing to change and as a result, the character is far less annoying and sanctimonious than I have seen previously.
Brian Protheroe portrays the father of the house - Arthur as stoic, yet aware that his family is under threat of losing their social footing. Kieran Hill and Mawgan Gyles both bring comedy and despair to the piece and it's a joy to see that Thacker has bought out the comedy of this hypocritical family, on the edge.
Sure, the production misses the house on stilts collapsing. But, due to his less is more style direction - Thacker ensures that the audience can see the house disintegrating as soon as David Prosho's Inspector Goole - slowly but surely lifts the lid on this privileged family. The actor approaches the role quietly and this is more effective, as you watch intently, waiting for him to uncover more less than flattering traits.
With a new bar and restaurant, the Octagon looks incredibly contemporary. But it's comforting to see that they still remain the 'go to' theatre when it comes to treating classic pieces with respect and clarity.