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An Inspector Calls (tour – Cambridge)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Seeing an iconic production more than once can be a dispiriting affair. Not so with the re-cast Stephen Daltry staging of JB Priestley’s 1946 exploration of moral values An Inspector Calls. With its silent chorus of the bombed-out and the dispossessed, it retains its status as a contemporary tragedy in the classic Greek mould.

The performances are very good. Kelly Hotten in particular makes Sheila Birley’s transition from fluffy ingénue on the brink of making a “suitable” marriage into a woman who can think things through and act accordingly. And Karen Archer brings every nuance of Sybil Birling]’s social ruthlessness to life with her vocal range and body language. Janie Both plays Edna, the patient servant who can influence nothing.

All four of the men also give fine performances. Henry Gilbert catches Eric Birling’s uncertainties as he lurches between what his father expects and what he can (just) recognise as his own weaknesses. As that father, Arthur Birling, Geoff Leesley fills in the fine details of a self-made man who will probably manage to scrabble out of the pit into which his family has dug itself.

Gerald Croft, Sheila’s fiancé, is one of the outsiders for the drama. John Sackville balances the contradictions of the part to make him understandable. Tom Mannion is the rough-hewn title character, drawing out the sad story of Eve Smith – this morality tale’s own Everywoman – with brutal contempt for the men and women who drove her on her path to the bottle of disinfectant and the Infirmary. Ian MacNeil’s set, as before, remains a major player in this concentrated, interval-free two hours.


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