The year is 1912. The Birlings are celebrating the engagement of their daughter, Sheila, when they are interrupted by the visit of one Inspector Goole. Goole begins interrogating the family about the death of a woman who supposedly had various contacts with each member of the family. These reminiscences caused poignant regrets and consequences to them. They discover that he was not in fact an Inspector, thus providing a short- lived relief from the antagonising truths, which they had just confronted.
The ambiguity of the play rests in the eerie fact that Birling receives a telephone call from the police regarding the topic pushed by the impostor inspector only minutes before, suggesting a preview of the future. An Inspector Calls is a play about consequences and ambiguity, themes that were well represented by impression given by the surreal and symbolic set, as one entered the Performing Arts Centre at Llandovery College. The audience took their seats, and the mystery began.
The appropriate mood and atmosphere was established through the agitated music combined with the eerie visual effects, of the skilled Richard Williams and Ben Wells, directed and supervised by technical stage manager, Nesta Lloyd-Jones of the Lower sixth Drama group. As the plot unfolded, each character was developed, giving an insight into the complicated consequences of their individual actions. Ronald Wainwright’s portrayal of Arthur Birling was commendable, with his successful attempt at a Yorkshire accent.
One must also congratulate the make-up artists for his transformation, which put him beyond recognition. Gemma Hatton played Sheila, the engaged daughter, and she managed to show effectively the hysteria associated with her young character. The almost comical character of Eric, played by Simon Parry achieved an escape from the general heaviness of the plot. There was a distinctive performance from Diana Bourne in her part of the confident Sybil Birling. This was an exceptional performance, and deserves due praise.
Giles Cornah, produced a fine portrayal of the ambiguous Inspector, and he must be congratulated also. For a small College the production was extremely successful, the reason for this was partly due to the actors but also the hard work shown by Mr Griffiths, the drama teacher, who showed a great deal of dedication throughout the production. With the great deal of work put into the play by the actors, teachers, students and the designers of the stage, which added to the atmosphere of the play and the reaction the actors had after each performance, I would give the play 9/10.
Well done!! Chiller with twists Reproduced by permission of the Congleton Chronicle 24/04/1998 There can be very few people who would not agree that the Congleton Players’ performance of J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls was one of their finest to date. The seven cast members tackled the powerful period drama with immense professionalism, rendering the audience trance-like until the very last line re vealed the shocking twist in the tail and released the audience from the tale’s dramatic grip.
A superb back-drop of early 20th century decor set the scene for the intense rama which plays with time in order to pose questions regarding certain grey areas of our existence such as how one action can affect the life of another; how our lives can be catalysts and whether we learn by taking responsibility for our mistakes. These complicated concepts were pulled off marvellously and, always indicative of a huge success, members of the audience were left discussing issues raised throughout the evening as they left for home on Tuesday.
The continuous action surrounds the refined Birling family and picks up one vening in 1912 as the family celebrate daughter Sheila’s engagement to the equally refined Gerald Croft. Intellectual conversation and united appreciation of the port comes to a premature halt however, with the sudden and somewhat unwelcome appearance of the mysterious Inspector Goole, played Players’ veteran John McIlwreith.
From the moment he strides into the immaculate dining room the sinister inspector easily assumes control in the Birling household, his awesome pres ence dominating both mentally and physically, and altering their lives rreparably for ever. . . Fine and mature performances came from the younger members of the cast: Rachael Hibbert was a delight as Sheila Birling, a new comer to the players and only 16 years old. Clear and effective, she brought a deep understanding to the role of the young woman whose world is turned upside down in one evening. Sheila’s wild-living brother Eric is played by Richard Copestick who, although filling in at a late stage, proved to be an invaluable addition to the cast.
His dramatic portrayal as the young but hard-drinking man who has ore than just a few skeletons in the cupboard was superb. Rachel Jackson, who has been a member of the players for several years, prompting and assisting with productions as well as acting, played Edna, the family maid, who had the unfortunate job of literally showing the inspector into the family’s lives. Although young Sheila and Eric clearly learn from their experiences it is the more mature family members who attempt to dismiss the inspector’s les sons as swiftly as possible in the aftermath of the visit.
Arthur Birling, the players’ chairman, was brilliantly unlikeable as the ealthy mill owner, as was his wife, Sybil, (Doris McGowan), who delighted in talking severely about the “culprit” of the play taking public responsibility for his actions before she realised she had been preparing a convincing case against her own son. Philip Hope had the difficult task of taking on the more complex role of Gerald Croft, whose character was not so cut and dried as the others. More secrets emerge and the engagement between him and Sheila proves to be as short-lived as the post-dinner port appreciation moment.
All eyes were on Inspector Goole however, who, thanks to the wonderful John McIlwreith, was deliciously eerie throughout the evening, with his face down-turned into a constant frown as he focused on each unfortunate in turn, extracting their confessions before leaving them to deal with it as their conscience allowed. Disappearing as suddenly as he made his entrance, the family were left in a state of confusion, perhaps at one point wondering whether he ever existed at all. In the wake of the visit questions remain un answered and hover in the air like a bad smell until the final twist when all is, well, not revealed.