WHEN Stephen Daldry’s An Inspector Calls returned to Yorkshire, to play Leeds Grand Theatre 20 years after its premiere at York Theatre Royal, your reviewer wrote “another 20 years would be a long time to wait for the inspector to call again”.

Good news: Inspector Goole has turned up with his case, trilby and raincoat rather more quickly this time, only nine years since that Leeds run in May 2009. Bad news: all performances, including two extra shows last Friday afternoon and tonight, have pretty much sold out. In fact, you may have to commit a crime to acquire a ticket, but it would be worth it.

As any Bradfordian would tell you, it is not Stephen Daldry’s An Inspector Calls, but J B Ptiestley’s play, yet Daldry’s remarkable re-imagining has put such an imprint on the work – National Theatre production, 19 major awards et al – that it feels like it should be copyrighted in its own right.

York Press:

Scene of devastation: An Inspector Calls at York Theatre Royal

The latest tour of Daldry’s re-awakening of Priestley’s socialist uprising has been overseen by associate director Julian Webber, sticking man-marker tight to Daldry’s template. Ian MacNeil’s audacious original set design is still extraordinary, still breathtaking: an over-sized doll’s house set on stilts to raise its smug, partying Edwardian occupants for moral examination by Priestley, the inspector and the audience alike, following the suicide of a young, discarded, pregnant factory girl.

Inside, the year is 1912; outside it is 1945 as urchins play in the rain-swept, thundering wartime streets in the year when Priestley wrote his play. A pillar-box telephone and steam radio denote the latter era, as does the Bogart raincoat of Liam Brennan’s sternly Scottish Inspector Goole (Goole by name, ghoul or spectre by implication, if less mysterious than in past productions).

The double-breasted dinner jacket of bumptious former Lord Mayor Arthur Birling (Jeff Harmer)) and the Edwardian finery of haughty Sybil Birling (Christine Kavanagh, all social-climbing airs and graces) denote puffed-up earlier times.

Goole’s forensic, assiduous, tongue-loosening style of questioning keeps the conventional thriller boiling, as daughter Sheila (Lianne Harvey), arch fiance Gerald Croft (Andrew Mackin) and Sheila’s unhappy, inadequate, lush brother Eric (Hamish Riddle) are grilled one by one. The impact mirrors a wartime bombing raid as the ground buckles beneath them.

York Press:

Burden of responsibility: Hamish Riddle as Eric Birling and Lianne Harvey as Shirley Birling in An Inspector Calls

Meanwhile, over these 105 unbroken minutes, Daldry’s German expressionist interpretation builds a political layer, one whose resonance renews with each era. In 1989, his wish was to send Margaret Thatcher’s Tory philosophies to the grave, to damn the pursuit of individual gain; in 2009, Parliamentary expense claims and duck ponds were in the headlines. In 2018, Inspector Goole’s final speech, with its wish for collective responsibility and someone, anyone, willing to say sorry, rubs against an age of austerity, intolerance, division and worsening working conditions. Do call again, inspector.

An Inspector Calls, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568, on the off-chance of any returns.