An Inspector Calls heads to Brighton
Liam Brennan is on his fourth stint as JB Priestley’s Inspector Goole as the classic thriller An Inspector Calls heads to Theatre Royal Brighton from Tuesday, February 25-Saturday, February 29.
It comes in Stephen Daldry’s landmark production, first seen in 1992, which has won 19 major awards including four Tony Awards and three Olivier Awards and has played to more than four million theatre-goers worldwide.
“It is certainly quite a radical production,” Liam says. “30 years ago, I think Mr Daldry pretty much reinvented it when he took it away from it being done in a very naturalistic way. It does a British tour every four years and always captures a new generation of school kids. I don’t think it ever goes off the curriculum, but I also think it is genuinely exciting.”
But Liam certainly wouldn’t consider this the definitive version: “I think any piece of good writing can stand up to different interpretations. There was a BBC TV production quite recently that I really enjoyed, and there was also that black-and-white movie with Alastair Sim that was great as well.”
Written at the end of the Second World War and set before the First, An Inspector Calls offers a compelling thriller.
The story begins when the mysterious Inspector Goole calls unexpectedly on the prosperous Birling family home, shattering their peaceful family dinner party with his investigations into the death of a young woman.
“Sometimes we do question and answer sessions with the audience, and it always comes up ‘Who is the inspector?’ and ‘What is he?’, and I always say ‘Look, at the end of the day, the writer does not solve the mystery any more than we can, so we shouldn’t expect to be able to.’
“The writer wants us to go away asking questions about what has happened.
“I think you can have different ideas about the role, but if I decided, for example, that the inspector was some kind of ghost, I don’t know what I would do with that. What is good ghost acting? You can only be flesh and blood, and actually I love the fact that not everything is all tied up at the end.”
It’s a deliciously double ending. The youngsters have learnt their lesson, but the older members of the family haven’t. And that’s why the phone goes again, Liam believes.
“If they had learnt their lesson, there would just be no need for the phone to ring again.
“I think if there is a message in the play, it is about responsibility and about looking out for those who are less fortunate than ourselves. And hopefully that message is pretty timeless. I think that is another reason why the play has survived.”
The current tour is pretty much half way through.
They also did America last year, playing LA, Chicago, Boston and Washington: “The audience laugh a lot more in the States, much quicker to laugh, but I would say the play is received pretty much the same way wherever you are.
“It is not a play that ever goes down badly.
“And I must have done this part more than I have done any other part.
“I am at the stage where I hardly have to relearn the lines. They just stick. But you can always find new things.
“This is my fourth outing with it.
“I did it four years ago. That was the first time. And sometimes there is also a little stint in the West End and then last year there was America, and now the British tour again. And each time there will be two or three cast changes which keeps it fresh.”
Liam Brennan will play Inspector Goole, Christine Kavanagh Mrs Birling, Jeff Harmer Mr Birling, Alasdair Buchan Gerald Croft, Chloe Orrock Sheila Birling, Ryan Saunders Eric Birling and Diana Payne-Myers Edna. The cast is completed by Michael Ross, Portia Booroff, Elissa Churchill and Jonathan Davenport.