4th September 2022

An Inspector Calls: In conversation with Liam Brennan

Jessica Hamilton interviews Liam Brennan ahead of the latest tour of An Inspector Calls, which includes a stop at the Lowry – in which he plays the titular Inspector Goole
An Inspector Calls: In conversation with Liam Brennan
Liam Brennan and Diana Payne-Myers in rehearsals, August 2018. Photo: © Mark Douet.

A few weeks back, an inspector called, not to interrogate my morals and lack of social conscience, but rather to talk about the upcoming An Inspector Calls tour.

To clarify, I had the chance to speak to Liam Brennan. The Scottish actor has been involved in the production since 2015 and plays the ominous detective, Inspector Goole.

The play, first published by J.B. Priestley in 1945, reveals much about the nature of humanity. The Birlings are interrupted by the Inspector, who calls investigating the death of Eva Smith. Each member of the aristocratic family is interrogated, and through their actions (or rather, lack of), the family’s callousness is called into question.

The significance of An Inspector Calls has been widely recognised by society, and continues to impress audiences in theatre. The relevance is maintained decades later, so it’s no surprise the text has made the GCSE curriculum. Liam attributes part of the play’s success to the story: “It’s just a great story; the thriller and mystery element is exciting and urges you to work out what’s going on”.

Each character is uniquely revealing, but arguably none more than Inspector Goole. Interpretations of the character have been long debated; the inspector’s ambiguity fascinates audiences.

Liam avoids having an opinion on the character himself: “I try not to think of the labels; there’s just something neutral about him”. He elaborates, “I just try to be relaxed about it and go with the neutrality”.

Some interpret the figure of Goole to be ghost-like, but Liam doesn’t take this into account when performing: “What is good ghost acting? I just come in to sort this family out.”

Joining the cast 6 years ago, Liam is extremely well-versed in the role of Inspector Goole. He describes his portrayal as “pretty consistent, but probably a lot more relaxed now”. Yet, contrary to his calm demeanour, Liam found difficulty in playing a detective: “It was quite hard to learn the lines because I’d be constantly asking questions, and normally you’d get a bit of a queue for your next line”. But this hasn’t put Liam off investigative work; he could even see himself playing other well-known detectives: “I’d like to play Columbo in the future.”

Throughout my chat with Liam, it became clear he deeply understands the character of Inspector Goole in a way not many can. He even struggled to picture himself as any other character: “I suppose realistically I should play Mr Birling, given I’m the same age, and Gerald has more time on stage, but I’d say Eric”. He likes the thrill of interrogating the entire Birling family “but especially Mrs Birling; she’s a tough nut to crack”.

The long and continuous tours of An Inspector Calls would be testing for any actor, but Liam doesn’t seem to mind the travelling. He describes himself as a “gypsy at heart” and looks forward to “seeing places I haven’t been before”.

Inspector Goole will visit many towns and cities across the UK so prepare yourself for an interrogation like no other!

An Inspector Calls begins its UK tour on 9th September and tours until late May 2023. The tour includes a stop at the Lowry (Lyric Theatre) from 10th until 14th January.

Written by Jessica Hamilton.

Note: This article was originally published shortly after the interview but is one of several articles that were lost during a WordPress update.

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