An Inspector Calls, Wyvern Theatre, Swindon until Saturday.

Tickets from £17.50 from 01793 524481 or

CALL me a philistine but I had neither seen nor read JB Priestley’s classic thriller An Inspector Calls before I settled into my seat at the Wyvern last night.

GCSE students across the country are only too familiar with the text, having been made to study it for many a year now, but in my school days - in an era of true blue Thatcherism - Priestley was probably considered too much of a socialist to make it on to the curriculum.

I’m sorry I left it so long to catch up with a play whose themes of greed, exploitation and social responsibility are as fresh and relevant today as they were when Priestley penned his commentary back in 1945.

I’m probably making the production sound dreary and overly political, but that’s a little unfair. Ignore the underlying message (which, admittedly, would be difficult to do) and you still have a cracking thriller; an entertaining evening for anyone heading to the Wyvern this week.

The imaginative set makes effective use of different levels to convey the theme of hierarchy, while the lighting casts eerie shadows of the most shadowy character of all, the Inspector himself.

The cast are all powerful actors, able to evoke sympathy, loathing and pity in the viewer, and even inject a little comedy into what is ultimately a humourless subject matter, death.

Karen Archer, as the snobbish Sybil Birling, stood out in the strong line-up, perfectly portraying the forceful matriarch who has to acknowledge failings in herself and her family.

Entertainment aside, however, there’s no escaping that audiences are meant to take a message away, and that message resonates long after the curtain has gone down.

See it, enjoy it and think long and hard about it.