Theatre preview: An Inspector Calls
Vintage political theatre in this revival of the famous National Theatre production
The recent BBC adaptation of JB Priestley's most famous play was a reminder that his unflinching analysis of capitalism's immoral foundations remains relevant even 70 years after its premiere. Written during the Second World War, but set just before the First, it exposes the hypocrisy of a bourgeois family, when a mysterious police officer arrives to report the death of a working class woman.
The power of Priestley's fable lies in the harsh condemnation of the values of the ruling classes, whose determination to succeed traps the working class, and whose fake charity forces morality upon the vulnerable.
Directed by Stephen Daldry (who has been nominated for Academy Awards for Billy Elliot and The Hours) and starring Liam Brennan as the ghostly inspector, this National Theatre production is a timely revival at a time when the selfishness of the establishment is, once again, a hot political topic.
Despite the polemical theme, the slow unfolding of the plot, and the relentless deconstruction of the family's self-righteousness, Priestley combines the inevitability of tragedy with a supernatural atmosphere, as the identity of the inspector is surrounded by mystery. Add in a structure that seems deliberately to mock the 'well-made play' murder thriller, and An Inspector Calls earns its place as a 20th-century classic.
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Tue 3–Sat 7 Nov and UK tour.