Although written in the 1940’s the play is set in 1912 prior to both World wars. It takes place at the home of the Birlings, a wealthy industrial family in the north midlands.
The play opens on the family celebrating the engagement of Shelia their only daughter to Gerald Croft, heir to a fortune and an equally prosperous family business. The party is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Police Inspector Goole who is investigating the death of a young woman and implicates each of diners in her death.
As the play progresses we come to realise that no one member of the party is guilty they all are; each character playing an important part in the circumstances that led to her death.
Inspector Goole himself is a quintessential British detective: direct, uncompromising, preternaturally insightful and unfathomable. Each character in turn bends under his line of questioning and eventually snaps, recollecting their dealings with the dead woman. Although every character is unmasked Shelia becomes the only one who truly understands the implications of her actions. The others go to great lengths to reassure themselves of their lack of culpability.
The play really focuses in on how each character deals with their connection to both the crime and the young girl.
However it is the ending that stays with you long after the play is finished, with its chilling twist, throwing the whole play into a totally different light. It will make you want to go back and re-read certain scenes with a different perspective.