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An Inspector Calls at Playhouse Theatre - Review

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by Penny Nakou (subscribe)
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A classic yet so current play about societal relationships through John PrIistle's Socialist prism now played at the Playhouse Theatre

The Playhouse theatre is hosting the famous play ''An Inspector Calls'' until the 25th of March 2017. Stephen Daldry's multi-award winning production returns to the West End, exactly 70 years after it was first staged in the UK. April 1912, at the home of the prosperous Birling family.

The play opens with a scene of great luxury: Arthur Birling, his wife Sybil, their daughter Sheila and son Eric are in the drawing room just after dinner celebrating in a very lavish fashion Sheila's engagement to Gerald Croft, son of Sir George Croft, and heir to the most successful family business in the North of England.

The dad, Mr. Birling analyses how 'man should look after his own affairs' in a very arrogant way when an inspector, Mr. Goole turns up. He announces to the family that a young woman has killed herself and he is investigating the case. While the whole family is confident that they have nothing to do with this case through the inspection it comes up that every member of the family had influenced the girl's life and determined her ending.

The scene at Playhouse theatre is based on the street outside the Birlings property which looks like a doll's house keeping everyone that stays inside in a small bubble. It's slightly too small for them and for the show's opening minutes they're locked inside and we strain to hear and see them. Each member will come out to talk to the inspector until the truth/real story of the girl is revealed and then their house, their bubble, will demolish on stage leaving the family between the ruins of their world.

Production Image courtesy of MARK DOUET / blog.ticketmaster.co.uk/theatre/photos-inspector-calls-production-29852


The winter of 1944 when the World War II is finishing, John Priestley writes the ''An inspector calls'' to talk about a very important matter: personal responsibility. John Priestley's message is simple; we don't live alone. We are members of the same society and we have each other's responsibility. This matter is so simple that only a great writer could have the courage to write about it saying clearly that: ''the time will soon come when if men will not learn that lesson then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish''. The play is set back in 1912 because that era represented the opposite of what people were hoping for in 1945.

John Priestley in his whole life was a strong supporter of the Labour Party and he never stopped to express his socialist opinion by all means. In June 1940 he started presenting his own radio programme every Sunday evening after the breaking news in BBC called '' Postscripts''. This radio show soon became popular and drew peak audiences of 16 million. ''He proved to be a leader similar to Churchill. He could give us what no one else could; an ideology'' Graham Greene says about him. Some members of the conservative party complained that he was promoting his left ideas through his radio show and Margaret Thatcher said that ''he was giving a comfortable, ideal shine of socialism towards the left''.

After similar complaints and reactions John Priestley's radio programme was cancelled in October 1940. However, his political act and impact did not stop. On the contrary, during the World War II he founded the independent socialist party ''Common Wealth Party''. The political content of his broadcasts and his hopes of a new and different England after the war influenced the politics of the period and helped the Labour Party gain its landslide victory in the 1945 general election. Priestley himself, however, was distrustful of the state. J

John Priestley's argument that ''We are members of one body and responsible for each other'' includes an intertemporal meaning that underlines the peaceful function of society. This replies to everyone that tried to underestimate the importance of his main argument such as Margaret Thatcher, as another Ms Birling, who claimed that: '' Nothing like what they call society exists. There are only individual persons and their families''. John Priestley continued to write and express his ideas and died on the 14th of August 1984.

Casting includes:
Liam Brennan as Inspector Goole
Clive Francis as Mr Birling
Barbara Marten as Mrs Birling
Carmela Corbett as Sheila Birling
Hamish Riddle as Eric Birling
Matthew Douglas as Gerald Croft
Diana Payne-Myers as Edna

Performances are at 7:30pm every day, excluding Sundays, with matinees on Wednesday and Thursday at 2:30pm and Saturday at 3pm. Show running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes, without an interval.

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When: Till March 25
Where: Playhouse Theatre London
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