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Hard-hitting classic still relevant today

The multi award-winning National Theatre production of JB Priestley’s classic thriller An Inspector Calls is back in Cardiff.

This hard-hitting adaptation of a set-text classic, directed by three-time Oscar nominee Stephen Daldry, opened at the New Theatre last night (Tuesday 18 October) to an enthusiastic response from a near-full house.

The production is now something of a classic itself, having first been performed 30 years ago in 1992.

Since then it has won 19 major awards and been hailed as ‘the theatrical event of its generation’, attracting more than 5 million theatregoers worldwide. It also has the distinction of being one of the last live performances in Cardiff before the 2020 lockdown.

The excellent Liam Brennan remains in the traditional raincoat and hat of the titular detective – Inspector Goole, whose investigation into the death of a young woman interrupts an evening of celebration at the prosperous Birling family home in an industrial northern town in 1912.

His questioning implicates family members in the woman’s death, leading the characters to examine their consciences and consider their (and, by implication, our) responsbilities for others in our community and wider society.

It’s a play which clearly reflects Priestley’s socialist values and is as relevant in today’s politically troubled times as it was when first performed in 1945, as Britain and the rest of Europe set about rebuilding and reshaping their post-war societies.

It’s a very physical version of the play, performed by a talented cast alongside Brennan – Jeffrey Harmer (as Arthur), Evlyne Oyedokun (Sheila), George Rowlands (Eric), Christine Kavanagh (Sybil), Simon Cotton (Gerald), and Frances Campbell (Edna).

The dynamic set by Ian MacNeil is outstanding – dominated by the elaborate Birling house, which seems precariously perched above the cobbled streets. The design is enhanced by the work of lighting designer Rick Fisher and sound by Sebastian Frost.

It’s a powerful night of theatre, not to be missed. An Inspector Calls plays at the New Theatre, Cardiff until Saturday. Tickets are available from the box office 0343 310 0041 or online here.

Review by Andy Weltch

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