AN INSPECTOR CALLS | London, The Playhouse Theatre

The seminal 1992 National Theatre production returns to London’s west end with a sensational cast. Many of the actors are reprising their roles from the recent UK tour, and others are new, including a brilliantly sympathetic Clive Francis as “hard headed businessman” Arthur Birling and an electric Barbara Marten as impeachable grand dame Sybil Birling.

J. B. Priestly’s 1945 soul-searching drama takes place in an upper class family household dining room in 1912. But the world famous 1992 National Theatre production, directed by Stephen Daldry, takes place in a theatre. Not an earthly theatre, but a theatre where 1945 and 1912 combine, where an air raid siren gives way to a white tie dinner and talk of the wonder of the new vessel RMS Titanic. And inevitably, the audience are part of the show.

Some may find the meta-theatrical framing unhelpful. At the production’s core is Priestly’s play, where an urgent, machismo Inspector Goole (Liam Brennan) questions the smug Birling family about a young girl’s suicide, and the family begins to unravel.

The Playhouse Theatre is small and shallow (the production was originally designed for the Lyttelton Theatre at The National), and the magnificent set, with its 1912 house suspended over a 1945 blitz crater, looks sadly dwarfed and claustrophobic, with some technical effects coming across as tame. But it’s an iconic production for a reason: don’t expect more or less than the production which has been touring the country for over two decades, go and be amazed.

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