“The point is, you don’t seem to have learnt anything”: Re-Imagining J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls as a Brechtian Lehrstück for the Middle Classes

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This article considers the applicability of Bertolt Brecht’s most radical formal innovation, the Lehrstück or learning play, to a play that is neither written in the Brechtian tradition nor ostensibly a Lehrstück itself. J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls (1944) is a popular play, often considered ‘political’ by reviewers, yet it proposes no fundamental change to the political landscape its seeks to critique. Brecht’s Lehrstück, which dissolves the boundary between actor and spectator, offers a different mode of performance that actively confronts performers with the implications of their fictional counterparts and invites reflection on how the problems presented might be addressed. The article identifies the political shortcomings of Priestley’s play, introduces Brechtian categories into the analysis and performance of the play, before radicalizing these by transforming An Inspector Calls into a Lehrstück. The process the play undergoes signals the liveliness and durability of this dramaturgical form and offers an example of how Brecht can remain productive in a contemporary theater context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-405
Number of pages25
JournalModern Drama
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2022

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  • Bertolt Brecht; Umfunktionerung; participatory theatre; dialectics in the theatre; politicized theatre

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