An Inspector Calls
Last month Year 11 went to see 'An Inspector Calls' at The Mayflower in Southampton. After the trip the English Department ran a review writing competition.
On Thursday my year group and I travelled to Southampton to watch J.B. Priestley’s “An Inspector Calls”, directed by Stephen Daldry. Personally, I really enjoyed the play and its modern approach to the classic text.
In the very beginning of the play, all of the Birling household along with Gerald Croft are hidden away inside a moderately large prop house. Only Edna is outside by herself. The house is structured in an unusual way, in that the audience’s view of the Birlings and Gerald is extremely limited. Daldry uses this exclusion to his advantage, as he manages to make the audience feel as though they are a “third wheel”, which is rather ironic as it is the very audience itself that has paid to come and watch the play.
Furthermore, the aforementioned exclusion of Edna displays the many parallels between the wealthy capitalists and poorer socialists that existed at the time. Although Edna works as the Birling’s house, she is shut away, exposed to the audience. Daldry cleverly uses this character placement and the simple house to illustrate the fixed barrier of class division that was set up in society during those times and many still believe is set up to this very day. It seems to me that the Birlings are closed off and hidden away, living in their own world, far away from reality. In contrast, Edna is very much present in reality and very much aware of the inequalities that society faced in those times. I find this very powerful and I believe Daldry’s character placement plays an important role within the play.
Daldry’s production takes things outside the warmth and the security of the Birlings’ home, and out into the cold, damp and very unwelcoming streets. Daldry cleverly manages to do this using the innovative house which “opens up”. The removal of the Birling family along with Gerald Croft from their home serves not only to make the Birlings feel very uncomfortable (out of their comfort zone) but also to lower them to the level of the less privileged individuals in society. It works quite well, making each individual from their regular surroundings feel misplaced and tense.
Inspector Goole’s character, played by Liam Brennan, can be seen as the ‘guardian angel’ for all of the “Eva Smiths and Johns Smiths” (lower class) of this world. Brennan accurately embraces his role as the Inspector, accompanying passionate lines with delicate physical gestures. Within the play, I noted that with every wrongdoing revealed, the Inspector removed a layer of his clothing (e.g. Mr Birling – removed coat). This may symbolise the slowly declining professionalism with each layer removed. This may also symbolise the deepening/thickening plot the Birling family find themselves in with each wrongdoing revealed.
Other members of the cast all do a very good job of being the unlikeable Birling family. The depicted relationships and arguments are painfully familiar and each performer accurately exudes the atmosphere and gracelessness of those who “are better than others”.
Stephen Daldry’s production is an excellent modern interpretation and composition that I believe J.B. Priestley would approve of if he were still alive today.