The classic thriller An Inspector Calls has come knocking on the door of Milton Keynes Theatre this week.
As one of the most tense dramas of all time, it has not only proved popular with audiences around the country but the book is also studied by thousands of English GCSE students every year.
And this was evident with swarms of youngsters helping pack out the auditorium at last night’s opening night in Milton Keynes.
Stephen Daldry’s National Theatre and West End production of JB Priestley’s classic thriller is at the theatre until Saturday (February 27).
A family dinner party at the home of the successful Mr and Mrs Birling is shattered by the arrival of Inspector Goole, who introduces himself as a local police inspector.
His investigations into the death of a young woman shake the very foundations of the lives of each of them sitting around the table and, in doing so, challenge the audience to examine its own consciences.
Just over 70 years since it first premiered, Daldry’s production unites the 1912 setting of Priestley’s play with the post Second World War period in which it was written.
The cast includes Liam Brennan as Inspector Goole, Caroline Wilde as Mrs Birling, Geoff Leesley as Mr Birling, Matthew Douglas as Gerald Croft and Katherine Jack as Sheila Birling.
The cast is completed by Hamish Riddle as Eric Birling, making his professional theatre debut, and Diana Payne Myers playing Edna.
As the story unfolds, there is a beautiful balance between the intensity of the questioning by Inspector Goole interspersed with moments of humour, sarcasm and impertinence from those being quizzed.
Katherine Jack’s portrayal of Sheila wonderfully captures the young lady’s innocence before she is taken on a journey of realisation with Inspector Goole highlighting how the actions of her and those closest to her can impact on others.
Her maturity grows as the story plays out and it is actually her seniors who fail to realise the error of their ways, preferring to try and play down their part in the death of Eve Smith (also known as Daisy Renton).
The stage set, which opens out to reveal the Birling’s dining room, works sublimely off-set against the glow of houses and lampposts in the distance, with the rain and mist swirling to set the scene as darkness descends on the house.
As the inspector lights the touchpaper, sparks start to fly both metaphorically as well as literally towards the end of the show.
This production is full of drama and has the right measure of tension even if you have read the book and know how the tale concludes.
Speaking to some friends straight after the show, they had just one word for the production - they said it was excellent and we thought they were spot on.
Performances are at 7.30pm each evening with matinee performances today (Wednesday), tomorrow (Thursday) and Saturday during the week-long run.
Tickets cost from £12.50.
For further information or to took tickets call the box office on 0844 871 7652 or visit www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes.