How has your reading of J.B Priestley’s ” An Inspector Calls” been enhanced by Stephen Daldry’s production at the Garrick Theatre? 

Year 10 has been to see ” An Inspector Calls” at the Garrick Theatre in London on the 28th September. In year 9, the year all read the play script at school and now we have been asked to compare the production and play script. John Boynton Priestley wrote the play script in 1945 but set the script in 1912, the pre World War 1 period. Daldry’s production although very different still produced the same message that Priestley wrote about; in society, everyone should be treated as one another. Daldry also thought that Priestley’s message was still relevant, for today, because the play is being seen still, and for the past 9 years. Margaret Thatcher spoke on 31st October 1987 “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.” This is the reason why Daldry thought it would be relevant to today as she talks of no society.

In the script the only visual guide to the set is at the beginning of Act 1, where the play script describes the Birling family and the house. The house and dining room are realistic Edwardian. The play script only describes the inside of the house and not the outside or what surrounds it, because in the play script they never go outside so there is no need for knowledge of the outside. The whole story line is set inside the house in the play script. The only room they have is the dining room: “Substantial and heavily comfortable” It is seen as a wealthy house and very elegant. The house contains “good solid furniture” which also means it is a wealthy house, and symbolises the family is stable and is happy with the way they are going.

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In contrast, the production situates a house and a very small distant house. The Birling’s house is displayed high up from the street with a cobbled pavement breaking up around the house. The way it is high up from the street seems as if they are higher up in society and when the house is opened they are unprotected by the house. The set is symbolic and is a character in the play because it changes. The house has it’s own personality that it changes and it is a display of the Birling’s stability in society. This does enhance the play script more because the play script has no set; the production has literally added another character to explain the Birlings’ fall in society. In the play the audience and the Inspector peers into the Birling’s lives and Stephen Daldry has shown this by the house being prised open like a doll’s house. The main objects in the dining room are a large grandfather clock at the rear, the table and many pictures, which creates an atmosphere of cosiness. Up in the attic, there are “floppy” teddy bears that sit looking over them.

The set is most important in the play because it is a visual aid to the story and the play script doesn’t have pictures or any visual aids about the set. This may be good, because then you are left to decide how you want the house to look like. At the beginning of the production the set is only the curtain and a wooden floor. There is a wireless at the side amongst a pile of rubble. A little section of the floor then opens up and three children come out. The children are not in the same period of time as the Birling family. This makes the audience think about why the children are there and how are they from a different period of time. The youngest boy hits the wireless and the curtain opens up. The audience may seem confused about the opening set but it unfolds to explain itself. It is mysterious due there is smoke and rain. The children come from the age of World War 2; it is as if they are looking back in time to see what society did to end up in war. The production had no interval, although there are three acts. This is so the actors can build up an atmosphere of tension or emotion and it won’t be broken by the interval.

During the production when all the rowing is going on, the house collapses and the plates fly off the table and smash next to the Birlings who are sitting on the curb. This is a great surprise in the production that was not in the play script. It improves your knowledge and understanding of the characters feelings. This is a cathartic moment where the house symbolises how the Birlings feel, as if their whole world is falling apart. Their cosy home is no longer there to protect them from the real world. When they hear that there is no girl that has died at the infirmary, their spirits are lifted, and the house erects itself and the lighting goes back on. This symbolises how they feel and how their feelings change throughout the production. The final curtain is dramatic and is not expected by the audience. The final curtain is as soon as Mr Birling says the final line, the curtain drops all the way down. Which is unlike in the play script, where there is no description of the how the final curtain falls. The house is now open with all the children in the house, as if saying the Birlings’ has been invaded by the truth. The curtain comes back up and the house is empty apart from one child. The curtain drops but this time no the whole way to the ground, and all the characters come out for applause.

The play script and the production are quite different but in one way is that Daldry has enhanced a very minor character. Edna was a very minor character in the play script yet; Daldry has used this character as a symbol of society. In Priestley’s play script he wrote about Edna, as a simple character. She doesn’t have a huge part in the story. Edna is not at all important in the original, so she is not described at the beginning of the script, unlike the other characters, so we don’t know anything about her. Edna is the maid of the house and she is first talk of in Act 1; Mr Birling asks for more port. “Giving us the port, Edna?” She is not being treated like a servant but Mr Birling makes subtle hints about what he wants, instead of being rude. Edna leaves the room with a polite and simple line. “Yes, Ma’am.” She respects the family and seems to be neither happy nor displeased with her job as a maid. Edna re-enters when the inspector has arrived. “Please, sir, an inspector’s called.” She is polite and very basic, compared to the manner of the rest of the family. Through the rest of the play script she is not mentioned at all, so she is a very brief character and is only an introduction to Inspector Goole.

With contrast to the script, the production is a very different story because Edna is portrayed as a very symbolic character. Edna symbolises the rank of the Birlings’ as she moves closer to the front of the stage and then finally on the chair, throughout the production. Edna may not have more lines than she did in the play script, but she is always on stage. She sits by the side of the house and when the Inspector comes she introduces him to the audience and the Birlings. It is as if when she sees the inspector she already knows him or they have met before. During the whole production she brings him tea and takes his coat, yet she does not say anything. Gradually throughout the play she moves more closer to the front house, and when the beginning of the trauma happens she brings a chair for Sybil to sit on, but by the end Sybil is on the floor and Edna is on the chair.

Daldry uses Edna’s character as an almost completely different character, by using her to show what society has become. This portrays the message much clearer than script because it is a visual aid and it draws it to your attention. the At the end of the production when the children have come out and the inspector is about to leave, Edna stands with the inspector as if saying she is part of the lower society and agreeing with what Inspector is saying. Edna shows the message in the production that the Evas and the Ednas should be treated with respect and Daldry portrays this message clearly.

Inspector Goole is not that different in the production or the script. He does however he explains the message fully in the production. He is described once he first arrives at the Birling household. “Witty, speaks carefully…” Priestley wrote about the inspector, to make him seem a mysterious character that has come to try a make the Birlings’ confront the issues involved in Eva’s death. The Inspector is the bringer of bad news. Edna first introduces him and then when he has met Mr Birling, Mr Birling attacks him with questions. “You’re new, aren’t you?” Inspector Goole has never been seen or heard of by Mr Birling and the inspector replies “Yes, sir. Only recently transferred.” The inspector is new and knows nothing personal about the family. Although he is being questioned, Inspector Goole stays polite and not put off by Mr Birlings assertiveness. In contrast with the script he shows more emotion in the production as you are unable to notice the emotion in the script. It helps you understand the play fully if you can feel the emotion form an audiences point of view.

The inspector starts asking questions and he shows Mr Birling the photo, but doesn’t allow Gerald or Eric to see the picture. His questioning strategy is well thought out, because the Birlings think they have not done wrong, yet he proves them wrong by starting off with a little information and then improving on what the Birlings say. He never showed the same photograph to the others, there was no evidence it was the same girl. “How do you know it’s the same photograph?” At the end Gerald works out that it could have been a different photograph each time a person saw it, and then they use there common sense to find out that Inspector Goole isn’t an Inspector at all. The inspector is curious to know what is going on, once a person has said something that interests him. “No wait a minute Miss Birling.”

He performs his job well whether he is or isn’t an inspector. The inspector is a good moral influence and is trying to get the Birling’s attention towards their actions involving Eva’s death. He comes across a little insensitive at the beginning because he interrupts a celebration and upsets people. “I can’t stop thinking about it.” He disturbs Sheila’s mind and she can’t let it go, knowing it was partly her fault. Another reason why he is seen as an insensitive person is that he seems to have no personal emotion. “No, I never take offence.” The inspector doesn’t take any offence to what people say, as if he is not real or only there to make a point to everyone else. He is quite different in the production. He is seen as a time traveller, or as if he is from a foreign country because when the child comes to great him at the beginning, he takes out of his pocket an orange. Oranges and other fruits were unable to eat during the war because they were not imported to the United Kingdom, so he must of come from somewhere else. This is a big difference form the script because in the script it doesn’t say where he has come from so you are left to decide but with the production you are given subtle hints.

He never moves from his place on the pavement and is always looking up to the Birlings, to show that the Birlings are higher up in society and look down on lower society. When he shows the photographs to the Birlings he asks them to come down from their protective house and down to his level. During Act 3 when Mr Birling is threatening to kill Eric, the inspector shouts “Stop!” to all the shouting being made by the Birlings. He stops the play completely and makes the point of Priestley’s message. He talks to the audience, staring at them and talking of responsibility for each other. He creates this tense, yet reprimanding atmosphere, as if he telling the audience off for at least once, looking down on the less fortunate. This brings the message to light and relates to the audience personally. It was inevitable that you would think about Priestley’s message, because there was nothing else going on around you to distract you.

Sheila is show in the Production to change and in the script her changes are not picked up that easily. In the script Sheila is described as a pretty, easily excited young lady, when we first meet her but it all changes once the inspector arrives. She has her fianc� and her family around her and the inspector interrupts the celebration of the engagement. Sheila is happy with her life and is much in love. “…Be careful or I’ll weep…” She seems engrossed in her ring and the wedding and oblivious of any one else. She is selfish. “I wish you hadn’t told me…” Sheila feels disappointed with inspector because he told her about Eva’s death that she partly caused and it has ruined her little celebration, which makes the readers think that she is selfish and spoilt. The inspector feels that she is very spoilt and easily provoked because she complained about Eva smiling at her in the shop and when the dress looked prettier on Eva. Priestley shows that Sheila is the most changed about the situation than any other character by making her regret what she did even if Eva isn’t real. “You’re pretending that everything is just like before.” Sheila was once a happy excited young person and now she can’t bear to think of the situation and what she has done. She does not seem a very pleasant character in the play script because she can not portray as much emotion or sympathy to the reader, than in the production. She becomes unpleasant when she claims that she was doing nothing wrong when she tells us her side of the story.

In contrast, in the production she shows that she knows she has done wrong and has learnt for the situation, because you can actually see what the situation has done to some one, rather than in the script you only hear what they can say. Sheila wears a white dress with elaborate beads and hair up. She seems rather curious about the girl that had died in the infirmary, because when the inspector talks about it she sits on the steps and listens to what the inspector has to say, yet in the play script, she does not seem as engrossed with the story. She shows a lot of emotion throughout the production, and when she tells her story of how she was able to get Eva sacked from the shop, she portrays a na�ve character. In the production Sheila produces more sympathy from the audience, by looking at the audience individually, as if asking for help, which could not do in the script. Daldry has done this to make the audience how she feels and to produce a sympathetic atmosphere. Sheila changes from being a selfish child being upset with the inspector for interrupting the celebration to an insecure, anxious young child. The Birlings have all started to argue, she walks to the back and takes off the outside layer of her white dress. She is now left with the under-dress and it contains no beads or lace. It is seen that she is striped of any rich clothes, and no what she is wearing is not valuable. Sheila dances in the rain and with the small area of light shining on her, it all symbolises purity.

The top layer of the dress symbolises her wealth; Sheila is hiding behind the wealth, hoping that it will protect her, but when she takes the top layer off, the money can no longer help and protect her. This simple part helps me understand the situation better and how there are differences in society then and still today. After the arguments and when all the Birlings have gone inside because Eva smith never died, Sheila and Eric stay outside in the rain, and still believe that it could have happened to someone; a chain reaction of unemployment and lovers. Gerald once again asks Sheila to take back the ring that he gave her, but she refuses and replies. “I must think.” In the production she says these lines in a more courteous manner, but in the script Priestley wrote about her to seem angry about the situation. At the near end Sheila sees images of World War 1 and 2, bombs dropping, and hears sounds of war as she sits on the curb with her brother, as if saying the war was inevitable now. She doe not say anything because she is scared and confused.

Priestley wrote stage directions in the script but he didn’t write anything about the music, and little about lighting.

“The lighting should be pink and intimate until the inspector arrives.” He wrote about the set as if it would be all in the dining room, so he wanted it to be mellow and cosy, to compliment the furniture and feel of celebration.

“Then it should be brighter and harder.” This is to get across that he is interrupting the cosy feeling, and he is a stranger to the area. No more stage directions about light or music are mentioned.

In contrast the production had very melodramatic lighting, music and three-dimensional effects. At the beginning there is calm, light music, but as the inspector arrives there is harsh and melodramatic music. The inspector is talking and there is music in the background and as soon as he say something shocking the music follows the subject the inspector talks of. Once the arguing is over, it is silent and the music is played to create a tense atmosphere. The lighting adds to the effect, shining from the corner of the stage, producing shadows on the floor. The lighting changes with each character; Sheila for example has it shining directly on her from above once she took her dress off, to symbolise purity.

Rain is falling outside the house when the children at first come out to play, and when the Birlings are all outside sitting on the curb. It adds the realistic effect to the production and it draws the audience with interest to the situation, as if the audience are witnesses to the whole night. The rain is a sign of purity when Sheila dances in it at the end; she is washed clean of her sins, although she still believes the whole situation. Rain was never mentioned in the script, so when it is seen in the production it helps the audience see that Sheila is washed clean. The production does help you understand the script and as Daldry has changed it, it is even easier to understand.

I didn’t expect the production to be acted out in that way because they had different sets and there were no stage directions showing rain or music. Sheila was a character that changed immensely, between the play script and production. I sympathised more for her in the production because she could look at you and produce an atmosphere that filled the theatre. Sheila is not seen as a very likable character in the script but in the production she is made to be likeable, by using the sympathy to appeal tot eh audience. Edna had the smallest part out of anyone in the script and yet she was on the stage constantly from the beginning to end. I did not expect her to be old in the production, because in the script I didn’t keep an open mind to her age, due to I always expect maids to be young and lively. The music added effect to the production that the script did not have.

I now understand the storyline more and how the characters would have felt in the situation. I always had my visions of how the script would be acted out, we even performed little sections in class, but I never thought it would be the way Stephen Daldry did. I enjoyed the play, especially when the house blew up. I never thought that the house would blow up, because it was never mentioned in the script, because it was symbolic. The production has enhanced all my views of the characters, the set and the storyline, by being so different to what I imagined. Overall, I think that the production help immensely and it helps me to understand the message that Priestley was trying to portray.