Smug northern complacency is shattered in this superb new version of J B Priestley’s classic An Inspector Calls, first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on May 29 2010.
Toby Jones is terrific as the mysterious inspector who quietly, calmly hits the Baring family with a series of devastating questions - questions to which he already knows the answer. A young woman has died the most agonising of deaths, drinking detergent in the moment of her deepest despair after events consistently conspired to crush her every last hope. The family’s instant reaction is that her tale, though sorry, has got nothing to do with them - an illusion which the Inspector dismantles with clinical precision. It emerges that one by one, through acts of ranging from spite to sheer callousness, each member of the family drove the unfortunate girl into her grave. Knowing exactly the part they played, the Inspector brings each of them to an awareness of their guilt - an awareness they variously embrace or dismiss. The play starts with the family in full and smug celebration of impending nuptials. The Inspector slowly reveals the extent to which the edifice of their happiness is built on cruelty or, at best, indifference. David Calder, Frances Barber, Morvern Christie, Sam Alexander, Geoffrey Streatfeild, Vineeta Rishi complete the cast, offering a powerful new take on one of the 20th century’s most thought-provoking plays. Phil Hewitt