An Inspector Calls – Theatre Royal (Review updated)

Stephen Daldry’s production of An Inspector Calls is a thundering, brooding, iron-clad show which makes for a very safe bet on a February Friday night in Glasgow.

It is a delight that in such a manicured production as this, the play still shines out as being interesting in itself. Notwithstanding the big-bucks set and the almost pitch-perfect ensemble acting, it is, on reflection, the play which still intrigues. Here it is sold to us as a thriller. In the past it has been filmed as a ghost story. For me, I think it will always be simply a morality play. The word “thriller” is not here used simply to pack them in. The chilling music and severe lighting all rack up the tension throughout. Indeed, one particular lighting change (which came just before the Inspector’s big sermon) even managed to eclipse the set which responded appropriately to the devastation and disintegration being wrought on the Birling family.

It is about 14 years since I last saw the Inspector call. In that time, his prophecy that unless we learn to live with each other we will see fire and blood and anguish seems all the more pertinent.

An Inspector Calls was written by a post-war playwright who seemed to think that had the world embraced socialist values, the horrors of the two world wars would not have happened. However, the audience these days is likely to be made up of late-Western capitalists who will probably interpret the play as a call to experience a certain amount of satisfying liberal guilt and hand-wringing before going home to chatter about when house prices will start going up again.

For today’s audience, the play scarcely foreshadows the agony of war and holocaust so much as the Inspector prefigures Dr Who. Notwithstanding his flawed presumption that socialism alone could have stopped Hitler, the sensibilities of the modern audience are hardly the fault of JB Priestley.

If this is a who-done-it, the answer is still obvious.

We did.

Rating: ★★★★☆


  1. Robin says

    Everyone knows that only the LibDems could have stopped Hitler 😉

  2. Yes Robin. With Focus leaflets.

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