An Inspector Calls

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Norwich Theatre Royal


Stephen Daldry's National Theatre production puts a new edge on JB Priestley's thriller, which cunningly uses every trick of classic drama to stir consciences in a clarion call for social responsibility.

The apple cart is upset, the comfortable world of the bourgeoisie is shaken to its very foundations and five crisply-drawn characters are caught in a mousetrap of guilt.

At the end, the maid is still busy with her knitting, like Charles Dickens' sinister revolutionary at the foot of the guillotine.

Designer Ian Macneil explodes the traditional drawing room setting to reveal the cold, wet world outside, and Stephen Warbeck's music emphasises each strong emotion. Even better is the long, long silence when, towards the end, everyone waits anxiously to learn what may just be the truth.

As Inspector Goole, Nicholas Day is also most impressive when, for a while, his voice is quiet and his manner sinister in a controlled way. David Roper embodies the bluff North Country businessman. Understandably, he stands in awe of his wife, played by Sandra Duncan, who hides behind the Lady Bracknell manner until the crash comes.

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Performed without interval, the play gives an hour and three-quarters of mounting tension.

There is a marked pause with the inspector's final political speech direct to audience.

Then Priestley adds another scene, with not one but two ingenious extra twists.

t An Inspector Calls continues until Saturday July 5. Box office: 01603 630000.