STAGE REVIEW: An Inspector Calls at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Tuesday, November 5 to Saturday, November 9, 2019.

THIS classic thriller will have audiences utterly pensive as it resonates incredibly with much of our social history of the past 100 years or so.

It focuses on 1912 and the often contemptible constraints of society, our class system and how the capitalists of the world made the most of their privileged lives to the detriment of those lower down the pecking order.

We see this with the Birling family - full of their own importance. They lead selfish and smug lives with businessman Arthur Birling preening himself in anticipation of a knighthood.

Not much has changed, to a degree, in the meantime - from the time the play was set, written and what today has brought us to.

JB Priestley’s play is not just about class distinction, it comprehensively places morals under the microscope.

He wrote it in 1945, at the end of the Second World War, when the country was recovering from the blitz. As in 1912 there was still plenty of the population struggling with the working classes and the war also left many maimed servicemen coping precariously with keeping their heads above water!

Priestley’s plea is, it appears, for a fairer and kinder world and is imbued by director Stephen Daldry, who made his National Theatre debut almost three decades ago with this brooding play.

He reshaped it and revived it and in the intervening years it has been hailed as one of the theatrical events of its generation.

Malvern’s opening night saw the audience packed with college pupils who are studying the book for their exams and their enthusiastic response proved it still has a long life to enjoy.

The handling of the play is sure to assist their studies.

It has a cracking set from designer Ian McNeill - eerily forbidding, dark and claustrophobic, with the Birling’s ‘miniaturised’ home threatening to collapse dangerously balanced as it is along with the family when Inspector Goole calls…

He has grim news about a woman’s suicide which blows the family apart and fearing for their future as the drama unfolds - with extra shocks in store for cast and crowd. We too can perhaps recall certain decisions and their consequences...

The cast are outstanding with fine performances in particular from Liam Brennan as the inspector. He will be known to many tv followers as a familiar face in a number of series set in Scotland.

Also Jeffrey Hamer as the pompous Arthur Birling, Christine Kavanagh as his wfe and Eric Birling, who likes his women and drink.

Gloomy lighting and ethereal music add to the atmosphere of the inspector’s visit.

Running at a most acceptable 1hr and 50mins, with no interval, it’s well worth answering the knock at the door.

But you may well wonder if the inspector really did call…