Review: An Inspector Calls, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Review: An Inspector Calls, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

by Martin Brisland.

An Inspector Calls is a modern classic. It is rightfully still on the school curriculum, hence the plethora of schools in attendance on the opening night last night (November 1). 

The play follows the Birling family, who receive a visit from Inspector Goole regarding the death of a young lady, and the audience witness how each member may be implicated in her death. 

Stephen Daldry’s National Theatre production brings a fresh perspective on J.B Priestley’s seminal work, written in 1945. Priestly was very much the voice of the common man and the play explores themes of capitalism, exploitation, the class system and hypocrisy. Another theme is that we should be responsible for our actions, therefore the audience is also in the Birlings’ house being questioned by the Inspector.

The setting of the ‘Edwardian’ home, appearing like a doll’s house sat in a desolate street, becomes almost a bombsite by the end. The characters are in turn made to reflect on their outwardly perfect looking but dysfunctional home life as they respond to the questions of the Inspector acting as our conscience. Ultimately the characters are left to crawl in the rubble of their collapsed house, as the facade they have built for themselves crumbles around them. 

Director Stephen Daldry places the production in the era Priestley wrote the play, the tail end of WWII. The set designed by Ian MacNeil, becomes almost another character. Daldry uses rain, mist and some superb music from Stephen Warbeck to make this a wonderfully atmospheric production. The performances from the main cast of seven are exemplary, with Liam Brennan as Inspector Goole and Christine Kavanagh as Sybil Birling the stand-outs.

The narrative holds a shattered mirror to the audience and society as a whole. It is telling that a play written nearly 80 years ago can hold such relevance for today, amid the lack of care we can show for those we meet in life.

This timeless play is all about class and the imperfect society we live in. Highly relevant to the situation the country finds itself in today, JB Priestley would be very disappointed to learn that there is still a need for this lesson. A 5 star production.

An Inspector Calls runs until 5th November. Book online via or 02380 711811.

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