NEXT week An Inspector Calls will be calling again at the Lyceum Theatre when JB Priestley’s social drama-cum thriller arrives on tour.
It’s hard to know whether its enduring appeal is down to the quality of Priestley’s ingenious three-act fable written in the Forties or Stephen Daldry’s daring 1990s re-invention for the National Theatre complete with its spectacular set.
It’s probably a bit of both says Tom Mannion, playing Inspector Goole who interrupts the dinner of a prosperous Edwardian family to question them about the suicide of a young working class woman.
“For some young people it’s their first time in the theatre and given the theatrical pyrotechnics it makes it very visceral and accessible which it might not be if it was just the drawing room thing,” he says. “It’s now in the GCSE syllabus and they buy into the conflict between the generations, the relationship between the children and the parents.”
The way the play exposes the follies of the rich is very timely, says the actor.
“We have been up and down the country and the company has seen for ourselves the gap between rich and poor is real and true. Westminster is very far removed from any of that – and the media too.”
Reactions to the play have varied too from place to place. “Some pick up on all the irony but I am sorry to say in Scotland it didn’t happen quite so well,” says the Glaswegian actor.
“We took the play to Ireland for the first time and got a terrific reaction over there.
“So much so we are going back in June when the tour has been extended for one week.”
Mannion is looking forward to returning to Sheffield where he has appeared in recent years at the Crucible in The Romans in Britain and The Cherry Orchard with Joanna Lumley. “For various reasons particularly productions in your career make a lasting impression. I have particularly fond memories of The Cherry Orchard and have met up subsequently with some of the company,” says Mannion.
He has also appeared at the Lyceum in a production of The Duchess of Malfi so knows the city well. “My wife is connected with Sheffield even longer, having been in Oh What a Lovely War when the Crucible opened back in the Seventies.”
An Inspector Calls is at the Lyceum from Tuesday to Saturday.