THE setting may be 100 years old but the social message centred on how the privileged treat ‘lesser’ people in JB Priestley’s enduring thriller remains both stark and relevant in these challenged times.
So does the demand for a not as simple as it seems story that has captivated millions, yet continues to enjoy repeat audiences, not least in Sheffield.
That continued appetite has been fuelled as much by Billy Elliott / The Hours director Stephen Daldry’s 20-year-old revival, and Ian MacNeil’s surreal but brilliant set design as Priestley’s compelling story of a tragic young woman and her sorry links to members of an aristocratic family.
Tom Mannion’s tough brogue lends a sturdy, slightly menacing element to the mysterious Insp Goole, who calls upon the Birling family during an evening celebration.
The production’s bold and innovative use of sound, light and smoke seek to make the show an event beyond canny film noir leanings, demanding strong displays from its cast as the story unfolds like the layers of a particularly bitter onion.
And we’re in good hands with significant shifts from Geoff Leesley as the overbearing but morally feeble industrialist Arthur Birling and Karen Archer as his hilariously but fallibly snobbish wife Sybil.
Kelly Hotten is sharp and convincing as Sheila, the glamorous daughter wounded by her own guilt, and John Sackville something of a show-stealer as her caddish fiance Gerald Croft. Henry Gilbert is the at times overly emotional son Eric Birling as Janie Booth’s housekeeper Edna brings silent humour as she witnesses this family drama.
A compelling as ever tale, remains until Saturday.