An Inspector Calls



  • A play by J. B. Priestley. It was first performed in 1946 atthe New Theatre, London, starring Ralph Richardson, Alec Guinness, andMargaret Leighton with the Old Vic company. Stephen Daldry's muchadmired revival opened at the Aldwych Theatre in 1993 and transfered toseveral other West End venues before closing almost a decade later in 2002.

    A happy engagement party at the home of the prosperous Birlingfamily is interrupted by the arrival of a mysterious Inspector Goole.The family clock stops as he announces that he is investigating ayoung woman's suicide. It transpires that each member of the familyhas contributed to the girl's tragedy, and all react in a hostileand guilty way. As he leaves, the Inspector reminds them:

    We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsiblefor each other.

    The clock starts working again as the family checks with thelocal police to find that the inspector is unknown; consequently theyreturn to their celebrations, assuming that they have been the victimsof a hoax. The telephone then rings to inform them that an inspectoris about to call to interview them about a suicide.

    Not all critics liked the play. J. C. Trewin of the Observerwrote "we feel that the Birlings are hardly worth this elaboration,this prolonged rattling of skeletons (and, indeed, this high placein the Old Vic's repertory)." Lionel Hale of the Daily Mailcalled it "a pitiful play" and wondered who the inspectorwas and if the dead girl ever existed, adding, "The theaterhates indecision. Mr Priestley, not making up his own mind, does notpersuade ours."