Unmissable take on a chilling tale

JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls at Nottingham's Theatre Royal.
JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls at Nottingham's Theatre Royal.

SOME plays chill the spine in the intimacy of a theatre’s auditorium and such an offering, An Inspector Calls, provides a perfect example of the genre.

J.B.Priestley’s drama has thrilled audiences from the West End to Broadway and its national tour, at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until Saturday, January 28, deservedly ranks in the unmissable category.

Set in 1912, the action takes place in the home of the comfortably middle-class Birling family in an industrial North Midlands city.

An engagement dinner party is in full swing when an inspector arrives to interrogate them about the apparent suicide of a young working class girl, Eva Smith, also know as Daisy Renton.

All straightforward, Agatha Christie drawing-room stuff? Anything but, as the Birlings are drawn remorselessly into the plot, with its shockingly chilling end.

For here is a play in which the family’s greed and self-satisfaction is exposed, as each member is found to have an adverse impact on the girl’s life.

Stephen Daldry’s production for this revival includes the famous house-on-stilts, with its spiral staircase leading from the comfort of the Birlings’ home to the stark world below. It’s a stunning set, evoking a bleak urban landscape with children at play in the rain – a hymn to social justice leavened with enough humour to lighten the message in what is also a text for GCSE coursework.

Anybody playing Inspector Goole has to contend with precedents from, among others, Ralph Richardson and Alistair Sim in stage and film versions, but here Tom Mannion excels, with equally commanding performances from Geoff Leesley, Karen Archer, John Sackville, Kelly Hotten, Henry Gilbert and Janie Booth.

Also proving popular with theatregoers is the free Live at Lunch series in the Theatre Royal Dress Circle Foyer (doors open 12.30pm).

The most recent hour-long show, by jazz vocalist Jeanie Barton, attracted around 200 people and next up is a classical oboe recital featuring Imogen Coe (oboe) and Jemima Palfreyman (piano).