This vivid Expressionist staging still reinvigorates Priestley's play, but after eight years the performances have sadly coarsened.
Director Stephen Daldry and designer Ian MacNeil's vision was almost shocking when it was first unveiled: a miniature Edwardian town house amid an urban wasteland, with a number of mute townsfolk and children looking on as the mysterious Inspector Goole reveals the members of the Birling family one by one to be morally bankrupt and culpable in driving a girl to suicide. The air hangs heavy with the menace that the Birlings' comfortable bourgeois world is about to be blown away for ever, as the play powerfully affirms that we are all members of the same society.
However, several years on from its opening at the National Theatre, this production has lost virtually all subtlety and nuance in terms of individual performances. At times the Inspector's complicity with the audience is even treated as cosy comedy. The effect is akin to seeing an imposing monument covered in crude graffiti: you can still appreciate the underlying edifice, but wish it would be scrubbed clean again.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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