On Wednesday 8th February, Year 11 students enjoyed a trip to the Grand Opera House in York to see Stephen Daldry’s multi-award winning production of J B Priestley’s ‘An Inspector Calls’. The trip was a fantastic opportunity to see a live performance of the text that the girls are currently studying for their English Literature GCSE.
The play centres around a dinner party at the prosperous Birling family home, where Inspector Goole unexpectedly arrives to deliver the unfortunate news of the death of a young woman. Their peaceful dinner party is then shattered by the launch of his investigation and the subsequent discovery of shocking and unexpected secrets. As the play progresses, the decisions and behaviour of characters are dissected, which challenges us all to examine our consciences and what we would do if we encountered the challenges the characters faced.
The exceptional performance by the National Theatre actors enabled students to experience the plot in real time, discovering plot twists and revelations alongside the rest of the audience – developing their understanding of the literary techniques used by Priestley, and deepening their appreciation for the skills needed to produce such an acclaimed piece of literature.
Mrs J Megson
Thank you to Amelia Parkin for her review:
An Inspector Calls – a ‘whodunnit’, a political play or a modern day morality play?
On the 8th of February, Year 11 went to York Opera House to watch a production of An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley. Everyone had studied this play as part of GCSE English, so to see it onstage was really interesting as it made a play we had only read very real. This version of the play was very interesting as it contrasted the 1912 setting of the play with a eerily silent 1940s ensemble, reminding us when this play was written and who would’ve been watching.
From a curricular point of view, this play was very useful in cementing my knowledge of the play and the character dynamics which are hard to understand on the page. However, it was also an incredible watch without the studied text to go with it. Obviously, the fabulous base text helps to create such an amazing show, but the set design, music, and fantastic acting were what made this play so immersive and interesting to watch, and made me rethink my view of the play as a whole.
While this play may be framed as a simple ‘whodunnit’ with the classic structure of a victim, detective and five unlikely suspects, it is so much more than that if you care to look just a little deeper. When J.B. Priestley wrote this play in 1945, it shared a clear socialist message at a time of political upheaval, clearly emphasising the idea of ‘collective responsibility’ that he felt was so desperately needed at the time, and some may argue is just as relevant now. This play was originally written to influence the middle class voters who were able to go and see live theatre, in attempts to change their minds, something I really began to understand after seeing it performed. Given the strikes earlier this year, Priestley’s idea of the rich empathising with the working class, especially in terms of wage increases, is a really prominent and current one. However, for me, this play will live on as a morality tale about caring for others, and accepting your responsibility, a key theme throughout the play. Even though the political message is clear, the sentiments shared within could more clearly be seen as moral advice about equality more than associated with a political leaning.
Whatever you thought J.B. Priestley was trying to convey, this performance of An Inspector Calls was amazing to watch, and allowed me to understand the text more deeply in the way it was meant to be presented, reminding me of the importance of equality and responsibility in our modern lives.