The great joys of re-reading a beloved classic are looking forward to revisiting favourite moments and spotting new things you’d never previously noticed.
The great joys of re-reading a beloved classic are looking forward to revisiting favourite moments and spotting new things you’d never previously noticed. Unless you love musicals, it isn’t usually possible to get these twin pleasures in the theatre but, for the next few weeks, An Inspector Calls is back in London at the Novello theatre.
Stephen Daldry’s 1992 production remains pin sharp and pacey, running at 110 minutes uninterrupted. Stephen Warbeck’s swelling, portentous music is almost an extra character on Ian Macneil’s excellent set on which the comfortable and complacent middle-class Birling family are forced to confront the consequences of their actions by the arrival of a mysterious Police Inspector.
J. B. Priestley wrote the play in the early 1940s and set it in 1912 in order that its portentous warning, of the consequences of ignoring social responsibility in favour of selfish individualism, might be a clear reference to the two World Wars and, perhaps, the then impending Cold War: the play’s world premiere took place in Moscow in 1945.
Many decades later, there are a few more candidates jockeying for the dubious distinction of having Priestley’s finger pointing at them: bankers and their bonuses, MPs and their expenses, the impending savage cuts in public spending, the huge hole in the pensions of all but the wealthiest coupled with ever increasing life expectancy, the developed world’s atomised societies with their widening chasms between rich and poor – the list is endless.
Nicholas Woodeson invests the inscrutable Inspector with a restless energy and a wry, mocking manner that allows him to make the most of the comedy in the play and Marianne Oldham renders Sheila Birling a far more sympathetic figure than either of her parents or her errant fiancé.
Go and see it before Priestley’s prophesy is fulfilled or 14th November when it closes – whichever is sooner.