Cast and Crew
Arthur Birling Daniel Hill Sybil Birling Nicola Jobson Eric Birling Peter Gordon Sheila Birling Hayley Warwick Gerald Croft Thomas Reynolds Inspector Goole David Kirkbride Edna Rachel Scott
Director Robert Icke Assistant Director Fiona Sibbald Producer Daniel Hill Lighting Designer Matthew Case Technical Director Simon Cole Furnishings Dovecot Furniture Glass Effects Breakaway
14th July 2006
The stunning young cast proved themselves more than equal to the challenge posed by this JB Priestley classic, carrying off their parts with flair in a flawless production as entertaining as it was convincing. A terrifying, hurtlingly tense production which reimagines a classic play as something chillingly modern – it fully deserved its sold-out success.
The British Theatre Guide
14th July 2006
Those (and there must be some!) who actually read the URLs of links will notice that this review of Arden’s An Inspector Calls is in a different directory to those of the reviews of their two previous shows (A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Taming of the Shrew). They were in the /amateurtheatre/ directory whilst this one is in the /reviews/ directory.
So what? you may well ask. It is an important change, for it shows that they have made the transition from being a youth theatre (albeit an unusual one) to a company whose work demands that they be considered alongside the other smaller companies we review here. What entitles a company to this – and it could be a dubious privilege, for the criteria we apply to a youth theatre production are less stringent – is an imaginative approach to the piece, quality of performance and high production values. Arden’s An Inspector Calls qualifies on all three counts – and it is interesting that the theatre, too, no longer advertises them as a youth theatre but just as a theatre company.
And Arts Council England (North East) has recognised their achievements with a grant which will allow them to double their output.
The back wall of the Arc’s black box stage is covered from head-height to the lighting grid with ornately framed pictures of various sizes with, below, a door and various items of furniture, among which is a clock whose ticking grows ominously loud at significant points in the play. A red carpet delineates the playing area on the very wide stage and on it sit a chair, a sofa, a drinks table and a cabinet. Atmospherically lit by Matthew Case, this restricted space, surrounded by darkness, creates a real sense of claustrophobia. Simon Cole’s subtle soundscape, linked with the lighting which flickers and dims as the thunder rolls outside, adds to this atmosphere.
The cast of seven play out this typically Priestley toying with time with total conviction. Daniel Hill’s Arthur Birling is obnoxious and arrogant in his self-satisfied certitude (surely a prototype of the Thatcherian “there is no such thing as society” attitude?) and, as his wife Sybil, Nicola Jobson slowly reveals her character’s selfishness, starting as some for whom we can feel a little sorry and ending as a monster of self-centredness.
Thomas Reynolds as Gerald Croft has a superficial air of concern and sensitivity but gradually is revealed as amother Arthur Birling in the making. It is left to the two Birling children to show remorse at the effects of their actions and both Peter Gordon (Eric) and Hayley Warwick (Sheila) capture the essence of these two young people. Sheila (a very effective performance by Warwick) is jolted out of her complacency and, like her brother, accepts responsibility – and expresses genuine regret – for her actions.
Over it all broods the utterly cold and ruthless in his pursuit of the guilty Inspector Goole, played chillingly by David Kirkbride.
The play runs for about eighty minutes without an interval and the time simply flashed by. An Inspector Calls marks the real coming of age of Arden, which crosses the boundary which separates a high quality youth theatre from a thoroughly professional company. Congratulations to director Robert Icke and his team. In September they are tackling Twelfth Night. I look forward to it.
Magnificent, riveting, brilliant. What more can I say? The standard of acting was most impressive considering the age of the actors — it would have been impressive irrespective of their ages. One tiny criticism, did they not deserve more than one “curtain call”? I saw Taming of the Shrew which was equally good, and I shall be back to see Twelfth Night. Congratulations
To all who were involved in last nights production of ‘ An Inspector Calls ‘ many congratulations, I have seen all your productions since you started and you go from strength to strength. I have never been other than delighted and very well entertained at every visit, I look forward to your next offering.
I’d never seen your work before, but, having read the British Theatre Guide’s critiques of your productions, and decided it was high time I gave you a shot. I drove down from Berwick to see you (and to visit a friend as well) and was genuinely so surprised, even after the rave reviews, at how exceptionally good your work is. Your production of the Priestley was taut as a wire throughout, beautifully paced, designed and directed, and it ran, forgive the pun, like clockwork. The hour and 15 minutes literally flew by, and the play seemed so much more interestingly, both dramatically and thematically, than it ever has before. Thank you for living up to expectations.