You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Stephen Daldry’s Iconic ‘Inspector Calls’ Excites and Entertains in Wallis Annenberg Run

Penned in 1945, J.B. Priestley’s classic thriller “An Inspector Calls” is one of the most popular plays in the history of British theater. In 1992, director Stephen Daldry (“The Crown,” “Billy Elliot”) staged the production for modern-day audiences in London and, since then, “An Inspector Calls” has gone on to award-winning runs (including nabbing multiple Tony Awards for its 1994 Broadway revival) and has been seen by more than four million theatergoers worldwide. The play, which centers around the mysterious death of a young woman and an inspector’s subsequent criminal investigation, is now in the midst of a four-city U.S. tour, recently bowing on Jan. 23 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, where it will run through Feb. 10.

Daldry’s landmark National Theatre of Great Britain production, which Paul Crewes, the Wallis’ artistic director, calls a “transformative moment for theater in the U.K.,” still engages and entertains audiences 25 years after Daldry first staged it. With the Inspector’s famous line proclaiming, “We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other,” it remains as relevant in Trump’s America as it was in Margaret Thatcher’s 1990s England.

Scottish actor Liam Brennan has played lead protagonist Inspector Goole three times now, but the role never gets old, he says.

“I remember seeing the old black-and-white movie of ‘An Inspector Calls’ when I was young and loved it,” Brennan recalls. “I also read the play as a teenager and I loved the mystery element to it. For me, the fundamental question of who is the Inspector is something that the writer doesn’t answer, which is frustrating, but it also sparks debate. If there is a theme to the play, it’s a plea for kindness and understanding while not condemning someone for their circumstances. I don’t believe kindness and understanding should ever go out of fashion. The girl in the play does what she has to do to survive and who is anyone to condemn that? Fundamentally, any interesting play and any interesting character has relevance if one seeks to find it.”

“It’s a normality take as much as it is a detective or mystery story,” adds Crewes. “Fundamentally, it’s a story that people will listen to and make sense of in today’s world.”

With staging elements that include real water for rain and an authentic-looking Edwardian house balanced on stilts, Crewes notes that Daldry’s designer Ian MacNeil, “created an aesthetic that helped tell this story to a whole new generation of audiences. It’s a stand-out design. It’s one of the most gorgeous pieces of theater I’ve seen.”

Keeping the play, which also stars Christine Kavanagh (Sybil Birling) and Jeff Harmer (Arthur Birling), exciting not only for audiences, but for the cast, is something in which Brennan relishes creatively.

“I’ve always felt that the character of the Inspector is a bit of a blank page, there isn’t really a character to hang your coat on as he basically only asks questions,” he says. “I think the knack to playing this character is to just bring yourself. I think you keep it fresh the same way you make anything fresh. My friend Mark Rylance makes a brilliant analogy about keeping theatre live and in the moment. He says ‘You don’t want the baker who bakes your wedding cake to make exactly the same one as the couple before — you want him to make something special for you.’ As actors, we should treat each audience as a new thing.”

More Legit

  • Bryan Cranston on the Exhausting Joys

    Listen: Bryan Cranston on the Exhausting Joys of Broadway

    For anyone who doubts that being a Broadway actor can be grueling, let Bryan Cranston set you straight. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a cumulative effect of fatigue that happens on the Broadway schedule that no amount of sleep the night before is going to wash away,” the Emmy and Tony-winning actor [...]

  • Jeff Daniels Variety Broadway to Kill

    How 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Beat the Odds to Deliver a Broadway Smash

    Jeff Daniels slumps into a chair in the Shubert Theatre, grasping an oversize Starbucks and looking bone-crushingly exhausted. His eyelids are heavy, and he seems like a man in desperate need of rest. It’s easy to understand why. It’s late March, and Daniels has just given his 100th Broadway performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town attorney [...]

  • ZZ Top, Caesars Entertainment Team on

    ZZ Top, Caesars Team for Jukebox Musical 'Sharp Dressed Man' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees ZZ Top and Caesars Entertainment are developing “Sharp Dressed Man,” a jukebox musical set to open next year in Las Vegas featuring the band’s greatest hits. Members Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are all serving as executive producers. “Sharp Dressed Man” is described as an “outrageous, [...]

  • Williamstown Theater Festival 2016 season

    Marisa Tomei Starring in Broadway Revival of 'The Rose Tattoo'

    Marisa Tomei will star in the Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo.” The Oscar-winning actress will play Serafina, a part previously performed by the likes of Maureen Stapleton and Anna Magnani. It’s also a role that Tomei is familiar with, having starred in a Williamstown Theatre Festival production in 2016. “The Rose Tattoo” [...]

  • White Pearl review

    London Theater Review: 'White Pearl'

    Playwright Anchuli Felicia King dismantles the Asian market in this misfiring satire at London’s Royal Court Theatre. “White Pearl” makes a case that those seeking to make inroads into the Far East, perceiving a new El Dorado, are no better that colonial conquistadors of an earlier age — and entirely unequipped to understand the specifics [...]

  • Signature Theatre Celebrates Millionth Subsidized Ticket

    Signature Theatre Offers $35 Subsidized Tickets, Celebrates Millionth Sold

    Just the other night, a Manhattan cab driver told Signature Theatre executive director Harold Wolpert that he couldn’t afford to take his girlfriend to a show. In response, Wolpert motioned to his theater, saying that they offer $35 subsidized tickets. The driver said he’d try it out. “It was a great moment,” Wolpert said. “We’re [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content