The play opens with a scene of great luxury: a wealthy family is celebrating an engagement in a very lavish fashion. This will be obvious to an audience that has spent the years of the Second World War without the luxuries that the Birlings are so abundantly enjoying (rationing of many luxury - and basic - goods continued into the 1950s). Although Churchill (a Conservative) is seen as a war hero for leading the fight against Nazism (he led a coalition government of Labour, Conservative and Liberal elements) a Socialist government has won a landslide victory in the 1945 General Election. Priestley was a supporter of the Labour party, and made many broadcasts on radio in which he tried to persuade people of the merits of socialism.
“We do not live alone,” the Inspector says in his final speech, “we are members of one body.” This perhaps is the most important and central theme of the play: that we have a duty to other people, regardless of social status, wealth, class, or anything else. There is, Priestley observes, such a thing as society, and he argues that it is important that people be aware of the effects of their actions on others. The Birlings, of course, initially do not think at all about how they might have affected Eva Smith, but they are forced to confront their likely responsibility over the course of the play.
The Playhouse Theatre is equipped with a Sennheiser infra-red sound amplification system, available in all areas of the auditorium. To access the infra-red systems please request receiving equipment from the Box Office situated in the main foyer. A £10 refundable deposit is required. There are two devices available: Induction Loop Necklace - Suitable for persons wearing a hearing aid, the induction loop necklace is worn around the neck. Whilst wearing the necklace switch your hearing aid to the 'T' setting and the sound is amplified. The necklace has an adjustable volume control. Headset - This device amplifies sound through earpieces similar to regular headphones. Suitable for persons without a hearing aid.