A West-End and Broadway success, Stephen Daldry’s production of ‘An Inspector Calls’ returns to Dublin early this month, for the second time this year. Whilst the play itself has won more awards than any other, Daldry’s adaptation promises to add an element of spectacle with its cleverly orchestrated sets and stage imagery. The production is certainly visually impressive, and yet, however beguiling the stage adaptation, it does not diminish the chilling effect of J.B Priestly’s narrative, in which, following the death of a young girl, the now-notorious ‘Inspector Goole’ arrives to question a family regarding their involvement in the incident. From the outset, it seems as if the family have little association with the matter, but one by one, the Inspector unravels how each family member played an integral part in events which cumulatively precipitate the death of Eva Smith (known to some characters by her alias Daisy Renton).
What transpires then, is the breakdown of the Birling clan. No longer a cohesive and fully-functioning nuclear family, the characters are reduced to a bumbling herd of unconscious moral agents. Each of them it seems, were once so blindly self-obsessed that they acted without any regard for the consequences of their actions. Certainly, the supposed sins committed by the Birlings are hardly far removed from daily life, yet in this instance such consequences, it appears, were grave. Yet when Inspector Goole disappears as suddenly and surprisingly as he had arrived – questions as to the implications of his investigation arise. The family argue as to whether the girl ever existed as more than a metaphor used by the Inspector to break them apart, and if indeed, it matters if this is the case. Even the Inspector’s own existence is cast into shadow – some preferring to assume he existed as a ghostly apparition rather than acknowledge their own mortal flaws.
Despite its elements of social commentary, the overall impression left by the play is that it endures in its own right as a thriller. Wonderful then, to watch Daldry’s punchy interpretation back on the Dublin stage.
An Inspector Calls runs at the Gaiety Theatre until June 9th.