Dear Mr Priestley,
I have chosen to stage your play, ‘An Inspector Calls’ as I found it very appealing. The setting of the play was really attractive as it was written at the end of the Second World War. People wanted to entertain themselves after so much tension and stress during the War. So a play based on life 30 years ago was perfect. However, this play did more than just entertain. It is a thought-provoking play which encourages people to think about society and responsibility.
The audience in 1945 would have just experienced a terrible Second World War, with great loss and destruction. They would also be aware of the First World War which was an earlier catastrophe. The fact that the play was set in 1912 before the First World War, means that the audience have additional knowledge of the world, unlike the Birlings.
As you have used the theme of responsibility, it reminded me that we all have responsibilities in our lives. There are still people who are going to war without realising the consequences and the effects on lives of innocent people. There are still people in the world today who are starving while people who are extremely rich and getting richer by the minute take no note of the poor. There are people around us who are peddling drugs without thinking of its effect on countless children and members of the society.
Throughout the play, the words ‘responsible’ and ‘responsibility’ are used by almost all the characters in the play at some point or the other. Each member of the family has a different attitude towards responsibility. There is a contrastive pair when Mr Birling’s responsibility towards Eva is uncaring, brutal and miserly while his son, Eric’s responsibility towards Eva is caring but naï¿½ve and selfish in a way. There is a similarity between Mrs Birling and Shelia. Mrs Birling and Sheila’s responsibility to Eva is somewhat similar as they both share and accept their guilt on Eva’s death.
In real life, we all have different attitudes to responsibility for our parents, family, friends, work and school. In your play, you as the playwright, encourage people to seize the opportunity at the end of the war and give them a chance to build a better, more caring society. For example, just before the Inspector walks in to the Birling household unexpectedly, he creates a dramatic effect by his statement and the use of dramatic irony shocks the audience. The dramatic irony is Mr Birling who states that the Titanic will not sink (which actually famously sunk on its maiden voyage) and there will never be a World War as he states but actually the audience of 1945 had been through two World Wars “the world’s developing so fast that it’ll make war impossible if we do not adopt your message of responsibility to each other”.
I loved the ending of the play. The ending leaves the audience on a cliff-hanger. Just when the family had started to feel that there had been no inspector coming to speak to them about a suicide, the final telephone call is heard and announces that a real inspector is on his way to ask questions about a young girl’s suicide. The tension comes back flooding in. It is a surprising final twist.
I was inspired to produce my own version of the play after having seen the National Theatre Production of ‘An Inspector Calls’. I particularly liked the use of music because it created an effective atmosphere. I also liked the use of lighting because it is very attractive; the lighting involves the audience into the play.
There are two dramatic devices used in this version: One is the setting; the setting is a dramatic device as you have described the key setting such as Mr Birling’s house in detail. The house opens up like a doll’s house, we can hear the voices of the actors inside which creates an eeriness. The Inspector is in the street outside speaking, with children walking around as though they were homeless. The Inspector was dressed up in dark suit with an overcoat. Lighting also makes an effect as it reflects the mood of the play.
In my production of ‘An Inspector Calls’, some of the ideas I will be using are as follows: a proscenium stage (I developed this idea from the very first act of the play where the stage directions mentioned the rising of curtains.); I will also use different background music for entrances of key characters, such as the Inspector who may be accompanied by sombre and heavy sounds of the organ and Mrs Birling’s entry may be with a light piano with a chirping sound. My use of music will reinforce the message of the play by drawing attention when responsibility or society is being discussed. Spotlights will only be used in underlining the significance of the entrances of key characters.
I have realised that the Inspector’s final speech in the play is one of the most important moments in the play because this speech contains a wide range of rhetorical techniques which include: the use of contrastive pairs; the rhythm of language for example, the length of sentences, the effects of pauses. These techniques forces the characters in the play as well as the audience who are watching the play to rethink their understanding of major issues like responsibility, truth and inclusiveness of all members of the society. As we are not alone in society, we have to think of the other members of the society with sympathy and compassion. He reminds everyone about the importance of responsibility and society.
To direct the Inspector’s final speech, I will start off with the argument between Mr. Birling, his wife and Eric about who is really responsible for Eva Smith’s death. Tension will rise by the effect of dramatic background music. Next, halfway through the argument, the Inspector says “STOP!” really loudly as if he is commanding everyone present like a director and the background music will stop.
Then, slowly, he will start his final speech. When the Inspector says “One Eva Smith has gone – but there are millions”, he will use one finger to enhance the uniqueness of Eva and to include everyone he will open up his arms when he says “millions”. When he says “but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us”, he should open and merge his arms in a gesture to include everyone in the audience. By using repetition, he is showing the vast amount of people that will need help at some point in their lives.
When he says, “their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness”, we hear “their” as a repetitive word. “…with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness”, makes up a rhythm of the sentence by using “their…”. This rhythm is effective because “their” is being repetitive. The phrase is an oxymoron because there are words that seem to be the opposite of each other and is also a contrastive pair as we see “hopes and fears” connect with “suffering and chance of happiness”. The phrases are powerful and memorable because they help involve the audience by using “hopes and fears” and “suffering and chance of happiness”.
Next, when he says “We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other”, he would give a dismissal look at the Birlings when he says “We don’t live alone” and he point his finger at the family to say that “We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other”. The word “We” indicates that the Inspector is talking positively about society, responsibility and caring for others.
Here we have an important listing of three things emphasising how nobody should be alone but be together, caring and being cared for. “We” and “Millions” being repeated here and are two of the key words in this speech. The Inspector wants to show us that we have to responsible for each other and care for others in society. The use of “I” in the sentence, “And I tell you…” makes the audience feel the Inspector is sincere.
There are negative moments in the speech as well: “then they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish.” indicates that the Inspector is talking negatively about the Birlings’ as they only care about themselves and not for others around them, which makes the Birlings’ selfish and rude. “Fire and blood and anguish” also makes a list of three things, a rhetorical technique which makes the speech both appealing and memorable.
I would like to invite you to see my production. Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.
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