Home > Food & Culture > J.B Priestley’s play provides lessons for us in these dark and uncertain times

J.B Priestley’s play provides lessons for us in these dark and uncertain times

Adapted in the 1990s by Stephen Dalry, the former director of Netflix’s The Crown, J.B Priestley’s classic play entertains and inspires Cardiff for 4 days and nights amidst global chaos.

“We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other.

“And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.”

These are the most quoted lines from JB Priestley’s 1945 play An Inspector Calls.

And amidst the uncertainty of coronavirus, when spoken to a packed crowd at the New Theatre in Cardiff last week, they felt more poignant than ever.

Known by many a GCSE English Literature student who delved into the trials and tribulations of the Birling family, the play reveals much about humanity’s deepest regrets.

From selfishness to greed, guilt, suicide and collective responsibility, among other things, this timeless classic, which also launches uncomfortable probes into the British class system, explores universal themes about the human condition, making it a must-read for literature lovers, philosophers and political activists throughout the world. 

With Liam Brennan playing the part of the mysterious yet instantly authoritative Inspector Goole and Jeff Harmer as the naïve but strongly opinionated Mr Birling, the dramatical performance followed J.B Priestley’s cleverly crafted concoction closely. 

At times the audience laughed, at times there were tears, and at times there were uncomfortable moments. 

Centring around the suicide of a young girl, and an Inspector on the search for answers, a family celebration is cut short when the latter arrives at their front door.

After several knocks on the door, life would never be the same again for the Birlings.

Although each of the 5 members of the family did not kill the young girl, who we learn is called Eva Smith, the Inspector has no doubt about the role each individual played in the lead-up to her death. 

“What happened to her then may have determined what happened to her afterwards, and what happened to her afterwards may have driven her to suicide. A chain of events,” argues the Inspector.

The importance of the so-called chain of events is the take-away message from An Inspector Calls, which is needed now more than ever. 

Due to the onset of Coronavirus, the current tour plans for An Inspector Calls are up in the air. 

But for those who are socially distancing, and want purposeful messages when spending their time reading, the play has the potential to change your mindset about life. 

The 2015 film, starring David Thewlis as the Inspector is 90 minutes of thought-provoking entertainment which we would all do well to follow. 

“One Eva Smith has gone, but there are millions of Eva Smiths… all intertwined with our lives.”

At such a difficult time across the globe, we should all follow Inspector Goole’s advice and look after each and every Eva Smith.  

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