I was on the internet recently and saw someone suggesting that with the wealth inequality, cost of living, and housing crisis that seems to be happening globally, billionaires should just build communities for their employees as part of their work and provide them with housing and access to food. This person was, perhaps unknowingly, suggesting a modern form of serfdom. This perpetual effect of class divide ran through my head while watching the latest outing at the Pavilion Theatre, "An Inspector Calls." J.B. Priestley's work is an allegory for the rich whose lives are built on the unknowing suffering of those below them.
If you have ever read one of my reviews of the work produced by the Castle Hill Players, you will know that I am a fan of their slick and professional work. I honestly believe that they are producing some of the highest quality theatre in Sydney at the moment. Good theatre is in the details, and the set of "An Inspector Calls" is all about the details. Designed by Abby Bishop, the use of lighting to create the walls, the detail of the decor, and the execution of stage effects in the final act is impressive, to say the least. The other area that is always perfect in a CHP show is the costuming. Leone Sharp always excels in coordinating this aspect of the production. Director Dave Went has clearly used the resources at his disposal well to create an engaging and powerful piece of theatre. The choice to have a sliver of the stage dedicated to an ever-present gang of street women is a clever one to keep the core theme of the play present in the mind of the audience without being too heavy-handed. They are being kept out by a wall, an artifice of difference that is constructed but can and should be removed.
If I were to simplify this show into a few words, it is just rich people in a room talking, but the quality of the performance on stage is captivating. This is a well-balanced cast that works together seamlessly to create a fully developed world on stage. Thomas Southwell as the titular Inspector Goole is commanding, charming, and stoic. He does a great job of changing the energy of a scene as Goole's investigation moves forward. Steve Rowe as the patriarch of the Birling family is wonderfully pompous and proud. He fills the room with grand energy without ever overshadowing anyone else. The same could also be said for Leigh Scanlon playing the matriarch Sybil. Scanlon is so good in this role; her interrogation sequence is one of my favorite segments of the play.
Caitlin Clancy does an excellent job of giving a full emotional arc to the audience in her role of Sheila. From shallow and vain to reflective and remorseful, the transition is gradual and never jarring, and in lesser hands, it would not feel earned. Clancy is not the only one pulling the emotional weight of the show. Jem Rowe, who plays Sheila's fiancé Gerald, also puts in a stellar performance. Confident and sure of himself, he is really a grounding figure on stage. The final part of the leading roles is that of Eric, portrayed by Mitchel Doran. Doran gives a truly tragic performance that captures the empathy required to truly reflect on what it means to wrong someone.
This show is thought-provoking and entertaining, blending comedy and tragedy expertly, and is representative of why I will always recommend a night at the Pavilion. I give this performance 4 nips of sherry out of 5. Photos provided by Chris Lundie