An Inspector Calls. The play we all tried to picture as we wrote essay after essay for an A Level in English. Lucky Platform reporters Alice Rose Hefferman and Libby Gowen went to see the play bought to life in Nottingham’s Theatre Royal earlier this week…
Starting with a great intro, a young boy ran through the audience on to the stage as the curtains went up. Throughout the performance, the boy would reappear, and even though he had no lines, he was a consistent part of the performance who also interacted with other characters in the play.
The stage setup caught your eye immediately with unexpected effects of rain, steam and mist on the stage floor to help set the mood throughout the performance. There was a house all closed up, held up on metal bars, where you could just see the characters through the window and hear what they were saying, but we found that as we couldn’t see them we felt we were missing out on building character identities.
The lighting of the stage was very dramatic which was great for the production because it helps create the mystery atmosphere.
Characters outfits were very detailed, they showed the difference in the status of the people in the house and the boy on the street. It also helped present which characters have the power on the stage. The colours of the outfits were key too because the mother was in a deep burgundy ball gown whereas her daughter had a white gown similar to a wedding dress, suggesting innocence in the fact that she had just got engaged.
In the spring of 1912, the Birlings are celebrating their daughter Sheila’s engagement to Gerald Croft. Husband and wife Arthur and Sybil Birling, along with their son Eric, are feeling pretty content with life, Birling toasts the happy couple, and Gerald presents Sheila with a ring which absolutely delights her. An Inspector knocks on the door, and explains that he is here to investigate the death of a girl who died two hours ago in the Infirmary after committing suicide by drinking disinfectant. Her name was Eva Smith, and the Inspector brings with him a photograph, which he shows to Birling—but not to anyone else. It is revealed that Eva Smith worked in Birling’s company, from which she was dismissed after being a ringleader in a strike to demand better pay for Birling’s workers. The Inspector outlines that “a chain of events” that might be responsible for the girl’s death, and—for the rest of the play—interrogates each member of the family, asking questions about the part they played in Eva Smith’s life.
All of the family are seen as suspects, each playing a part in putting down Miss Smith.
Realizing that they could each have been shown a different photograph, and after calling the Chief Constable to confirm their suspicions, Mr. and Mrs. Birling and Gerald conclude that they have been hoaxed, and they are incredibly relieved. They call the Infirmary and learn delightedly that no girl has died that night—the Infirmary has seen no suicide for months. Everyone, it seems, is off the hook, even if each of their actions was immoral and irresponsible. As Birling mocks his children’s feelings of moral guilt, the phone rings.
He answers it and is shocked, revealing the play’s final twist: “That was the police. A girl has just died—on her way to the Infirmary—after swallowing some disinfectant. And a police inspector is on his way here—to ask some—questions—”
The difference in outfits portrays the idea that the mother had more power, and suggested the daughter was more naïve and innocent. You could tell as the production progressed that this wasn’t the case, and in fact the daughter is more socially aware and has more common sense than her mother.
Overall, the play was fantastic!! The actors played their parts really well and used appropriate gestures and facial expressions to convey how they were feeling, their tone of voice also showed this. We were kept on the edge of our seats and were very intrigued at how the plot had twisted and changed in such a short amount of time.
There were very good motives for each of the characters linking to one off-stage character. All of the stories connected to one another which then turned characters against each other. Trust between the characters had quickly disappeared which was portrayed very dramatically, which left the whole production very gripping, and left the audience thinking like the Inspector even after the play had finished.
We really enjoyed watching the performance and would definitely recommend to family and friends.
By Alice Rose Hefferman