A new year means a new program for the consistently amazing Castle Hill Players, who are looking to give locals another six plays this year to enjoy in the heart of the Hills District.
2024’s opening production is J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, a taut and intense drama-thriller that sees the idyllic celebration of an early 20th-century industrialist interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Inspector Goole.
Director Dave Went has been with Castle Hill Players since 1996, and he says that he was drawn to the sense of mystery and drama running through An Inspector Calls.
He says: “The play is penned by J.B. Priestley, which gives it automatic provenance, but it really is beautifully written. The more you get into it as a director with actors on stage, the more you realise how well-paced and tight the script is – you keep unpeeling layers to the characters and message.”
Dave says that though the themes of the play were intended for an audience in 1946, the core message of An Inspector Calls is deeply relevant today. “What Priestley was asking was ‘How well are we treating those of a lower class or socio-economic group?’
There was an allegory there to comment on how people were still clinging onto a lot of these behaviours, rationalising their treatment of servants or others who we consider beneath us. It’s a universal message, and it still applies to this day.”
An Inspector Calls is the fourth play that Dave has directed at the Pavilion Theatre since 2012, but this production is the first time that he’s directed a primarily dramatic show. He says: “I think what really appealed to me creatively is that it’s a thriller, but not in the Agatha Christie whodunit style.
The play is set during a fascinating time, at the height of the British Empire before it began to decline. We’ve done some interesting things with the set, lighting and sound, as well as some extra bits of information to communicate the message more effectively.”
Despite the many productions and adaptations of An Inspector Calls there have been, Dave has actually never seen a version of the play himself, making the Pavilion production of the play a unique experience.
He says: “I don’t want to see something which I think is brilliant and then want to copy it. To me, the text gives you everything. As you progress through it and do more with the actors, the text exposes itself even further, and that’s always an exciting process.”
Dave speaks highly of his excellent cast, who have been up to the challenge of tackling the psychology of characters from over a century ago. “My approach to directing is to bring out the energy that’s in the play,” he says.
If you can get the energy and the pace required to play, that to me is the most important thing. I have an excellent cast, and it’s been exciting finding out how they work together and create their characters. I’ve worked with many of them recently, and some of them are completely new to Castle Hill Players. It’s been very exciting.”
That collaborative atmosphere is what keeps Dave coming back to Castle Hill Players. “I really think it’s the best theatre facility in the city,” he says. “I think that’s because it’s used year round, and there’s always two shows in production at any one time. For that reason, I think it attracts a lot of steady talent, because we offer so many shows.
It’s also just a really great bunch of people on the committee and behind the scenes, and it’s a very inclusive group. It’s one of those things where you can put on a great show, learn something, and have fun doing it! It’s a fabulous facility, and it’s all there in one package.”
Dave recommends An Inspector Calls to anyone looking for a tense, exciting night at the theatre. He says: “It’s a very tight thriller with welldrawn characters and fantastic dialogue, but it’s also got a bit of humour here and there. I won’t say too much about it, but if you love the thriller genre, then I think you’ll really enjoy this show.”
An Inspector Calls opens at the Pavilion Theatre on Friday February 2nd, with the season running until February 24th. Tickets for adults are $30 and can be bought online at https://paviliontheatre.org.au/aninspectorcalls/.