New Wimbledon Theatre's An Inspector Calls is a winner - and so is the new Piano Bar
By julie_cross | Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 13:00
Review: An Inspector Calls, New Wimbledon Theatre
A scene from An Inspector Calls, running at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday
The new Piano bar, which is a perfect place to round-off the evening
Glamour comes to Wimbledon
New Wimbledon Theatre has suspended its usual choise of musicals this week to showcase movie director Stephen Daldry's production of the dark, classic thriller, An Inspector Calls.
As expected Daldry, who directed award winning films Billy Elliot, The Hours and The Reader, didn't disappoint with a fantastic moving set, dramatic music, and rain. Yes, there really was water cascading onto the stage.
The well-known play written by JB Priestley, has been reproduced countless times, and was brought to the big screen in 1946, starring actors Alec Guinness and Margaret Leighton.
On stage it has often been entirely set in an Edwardian dining room, where an engagement celebration is interrupted by an inspector investigating the suicide of a young girl.
In this instance, Daldry has pulled his experience of film onto the stage, producing a show that flows, rather than remains stagnant.
While the story is still set in 1912, and the actors are in period costume, the house of the Birling family has a surreal air to it. It's rather like something from Alice In Wonderland with the front door half the size of a normal door and it's unusual perspective.
When the curtains rise for the first time we see a grand house, set as it is amongst a rather desolate urban scene. There are children playing in the rain, the mist and the dramatic music all bring about an uncomfortable feeling.
The heart thumping music stops and for the first time we overhear the characters inside the house enjoying a celebratory meal and drink. It is a Hitchcock 'Rear Window' moment, as we listen in and see glimpses of people as they move around inside the dining room.
Soon, the house opens up to reveal not only the dining scene, but the secrets and flaws of the characters, which unravel as the play progresses.
The choice of actors, many of them recognisable from TV, includes Tom Mannion, who has been in Spooks, Casualty, Taggart, Holby City and many more, as well as roles in big screen movies such as Iris.
Mannion plays Inspector Goole, who has a rather threatening manner and presumes to have the moral high ground, or does he?
Geoff Leesely, who has starred in the movie Wimbledon and Wilde, as well as EastEnders and Holby City, is the arrogant new-moneyed capitalist and patriarch, trying to keep control of the situation.
His wonderfully horrid wife is played by Karen Archer, again a TV regular, who is the least willing to recognise her part in the girl's demise.
The actor, who played Gerald Croft, shone out, even amongst such a quality cast. Played by John Sackville, he reveals his 'dirty secret' with great emotion.
The two Birling children, played by Kelly Hotten and Henry Gilbert, are truly vile, but manage to win you over by the end.
Janie Booth, who plays the housekeeper Edna, never says a word, but performs her role to perfection, even managing to create a few laughs, in what is a dark and murky play.
All in all the stellar cast provided an outstanding performance and thanks to JB Priestley, just as you think you've worked out what is going on there is a delicious twist.
To top a brilliant night out the theatre's newly refurbished Piano Bar was open, which has to be the most glamorous bar in town. On such a warm summer's night, the huge balcony doors were open and there was seating on the balcony overlooking the Broadway.
Not only that but what seemed to be the entire cast popped in for a drink.
Holby City regular Guy Henry, who plays Director of Surgery Henrik Hanssen in the TV soap, had been in the audience and was celebrating the success of the opening night in the Piano Bar, with his fellow actors.
The bar has a happy hour between 6pm and 7pm on show nights. It is not always open after every performance, but happily it was last night. Only theatre goers are allowed in. On a nice night, it is worth going to the theatre, just for a drink in the bar.
Check with Wimbledon Stage Door first for opening times on the day you are going: firstname.lastname@example.org and to put your name on the guest list to reserve one fot he tables.
Tickets are still available for An Inspector Calls at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday. To book log onto: www.atgtickets.com/wimbledon or call the box office on 0844 871 7646.