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An Inspector Calls history of production

The original production was produced as part of the regular monthly rep season in Oct 1989 at the Theatre Royal York. It was directed by Stephen Daldry and designed by Ian MacNeil (set and costumes) and lighting by Rick Fisher. I do not remember who might have done the original sound design at York.

It was well received but did not attract any particular attention and like the later version it featured a set with a house on stilts, a sky back cloth that was very cinematic that had a border and the top and bottom and a telephone box. I believe the floor cloth was a painted wasteland as opposed to the later cobblestones. The house tipped but also rocked (something that only happened in York).

In the spring of 1992 Richard Eyre invited Stephen Daldry to stage a show at the National Theatre that would perform in the Lyttelton and then tour the UK for about 7 weeks. Eventually he decided to re-visit the York production of Inspector. This production premiered in Sept. 1992 with the same design team and with an original score by Stephen Warbeck (the NT contract included live music). Sound was done by the staff sound team, but I believe the sound fx were put together by Paul Groothuis in a version that is still used today I think.

The production also featured the house on stilts, telephone box, painted sky and now added a rain curtain, distant house model, and lamp post all on a “cobblestone” floor with a radio downstage left.

The production proved to be a big success with its radical look at what had been previously seen more as a “whodunit” than a social commentary. Due to the success of this re-imagining of the play the production returned to the Olivier Theatre and the National after its UK tour and ran for about 6 months there.

The National Theatre did not consider it part of it’s remit to produce its successful shows in the West End and had a partnership deal with PW productions who took the show into the Aldwych theatre where it ran for about 2 years, later moving to the Garrick theatre where it played for about 7 years and then a short run at the Playhouse Theatre in the West End. Productions were also mounted at the Royale Theatre on Broadway, and then a national tour in the USA. Australia, Japan, also had productions. Since the National Theatre the production’s live score was recorded and played.

Every few years a new tour of the UK goes out for about 8 months and plays to packed houses often with 3 matinee performances a week as many students are brought to the theatre who are studying the play as part of their curriculum. Some of those tours have then made a few month appearance in the West End and one of those runs is due to commence in November 2016.


The Lighting for the show is still very much based on what we did at the National Theatre in 1992. The actors are primarily lit from 3 side light positions on either side of the stage. The sky cloth is lit by either fresnels or profiles to control the light off the black borders of the cloth (though this cinematic style is less pronounced in the touring version to cope with the variety of theatres we visit). The rain curtain is lit by strips of lights just upstage of the proscenium. There is just one back light bar of a single back light and a single back light wash. There has always been a large HMI source to back light the crowd who enter for the final confession with an ominous cloud of smoke. Also a large Fresnel in very flat front of house position (balcony rail usually) to simulate the work lights being switched on for a moment to break the theatricality. Also there have always been a few Reich and Vogel beamlights to really pick out important confessions. A few front of house specials and some set mounted LX in the house, the small house, and the lamp post complete the lighting package that still does not have any automated lighting fixtures. While the type of specific fixture has altered over the years, the purpose and the look of the lighting are still very much what was done at the National Theatre in 1992.