AT THE THEATRE WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Stephen Daldry’s production of J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls has been hailed at the ‘theatrical event of its generation’. Since its debut at the National Theatre in 1992 it has won 19 major awards, including three Olivier awards and four Tony awards, and has played to more than four million theatregoers worldwide.
What many don’t realise is that Daldry’s radical take on J B Priestley’s classic thriller began life in a production at York Theatre Royal in the autumn of 1989 – three years before its triumphant London opening.
Daldry, then a 28-year-old freelance director, was invited by Theatre Royal artistic director Derek Nicholls to stage Priestley’s repertory warhorse once more. Initially reluctant, he nevertheless answered Nicholls’ call and his production of An Inspector Calls opened on October 19, 1989 at the Theatre Royal.
The story finds the mysterious Inspector Goole calling unexpectedly one fateful night in 1912 at the house of prosperous industrialist Arthur Birling. The family’s peaceful family dinner party is shattered by his investigations into the death of a young factory girl Eva Smith.
Daldry’s research led him to draw inspiration from the first production in 1945 by Leningrad Company in Moscow. At the core of the play was Priestley’s search for a new society, a theme mined in productions in Russia and war-torn Germany.
Without losing the thriller element he wanted to look at the play’s relevance to post-war Britain and a society divided by wealth and class, and the question of social responsibility.
An Inspector Calls is at York Theatre Royal from 14 to 22 September.
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