Assignment 2 How a key scene (Act 1) from the play might be staged and explaining the role of a chosen character (Birling) in the part of the play. As the curtains are drawn, the audience should immediately be able to see that the house belongs to a prosperous family. The furniture in the room would show this. It should be large, solid furniture of the time, as Priestley described it, substantial and comfortable looking however not welcoming and homelike. It should be more like a show room, a chance for the family to show their wealth with many ornaments and precious antiques on display.
The dinning table should be in the centre of the stage so to dominate the room, as this is were the characters will be. The table should also be at an angle so as the characters are seated their back would not face the audience. I imagine the seating plan to be as follows; Birling would at the head of the table, Gerald would be on his right and Eric would be on his left. Before the inspector enters the room, the lighting should convey a warm and intimate atmosphere in the room, as it is a special family occasion, Priestley suggests pink light. On arrival of the inspector, there should be a fairly strong spotlight on him to create a feeling of superiority. Once the inspector has sat down the intimate lighting should fade away and become stronger since Edna had been instructed by Birling to give them more light.
Also it would help create an instant change in the atmosphere from being "pink" to it being white, cold and harsh. Once the inspector arrives he would take his place directly on the left of Birling, as Eric would move down one chair away from his father. Edna should enter from the right side of the stage, then curtsy to show her respect. When she comes in with the inspector he should be hidden behind her, as she moves away to presents him, is the point in which the spotlight should be shone on him. Before the inspector arrives-as Birling is giving Gerald and Eric his speech- Eric should be sitting looking fed up and uninterested while Gerald would be sitting up straight and attentive. As the doorbell rings (a strong, loud doorbell like sound would need to be used to show the importance of cutting off Birlings speech at the particular point) and stops Birling from continuing Eric should jump up with excitement to say his line as a sign of relief.
All the characters should be smartly dressed, in order to show what social class they belong to. Edna should be wearing an apron etc. as a maid of the time would. I chose to do this particular scene, as it is when the inspector is firstly introduced to the audience. This makes it interesting as one can see the initial reactions of main characters like Birling to him. I think this is important as it tells us many things about the person's character.
It also gives the audience hints as to how the play may develop. For example, it already begins to show us that no-one recognised the inspector despite Birlings links with the Brumby police which does not seem significant now but is later on in the play. It Also begins to suggest to us the problems that Birling might encounter with the inspector due to him not showing Birling the respect he wants / is used to. This is also an interesting scene as Edna is a part of it, it is the only time where we can see how Birling treats the lower class, helping the audience to understand his character even more. Throughout the play Birling is shown as an almost emotionless character whose main concern is to achieve "lower costs and higher prices," regardless of the hurt it might cause anyone around him. He thinks that "a man has to make his way - has to look after himself" as he has done.
The pompous, oppressive and inflexible character of Birling are stereotypical characteristics of "a hard-headed man of business," of the time trying to work his way up the social hierarchy. To show his over confidence and pompousness on stage, while he is saying his speech he must be standing up with his head held high to show authority and importance. The way he sees the engagement of his daughter Sheila to Gerald Croft as an opportunity to unit the families and in business so they are "no longer competing but working together," shows us his main concerns and his way of thinking. This is shocking, especially to a modern audience, which is what makes Birlings character interesting to study. The arrogant and immoral personality of Birling also shows us Priestley's views of that social class of the time and of capitalism in general. Birlings disrespect for the lower class is demonstrated in this scene, as he does not give Edna the chance to give him a message (about the arrival of the inspector) without him constantly interrupting her, to keep her in her place and show his supremacy.
Birling beginning his sentence almost before she has finished saying her last words would show this on stage. In a previous scene of the play Priestley has used hindsight to show the audience that Birlings confidence is meaningless and his views are incorrect. For example when he talks about there being no war and all the "silly little war scares" showing that he is not a character to be taken seriously and almost ridiculing that class of men. I think Priestley has done this to confirm his views on capitalism. Once the inspector has entered the room. All the attention on Birling transfers to the inspector.
The language used by the inspector is very short, simple and to the point. It is almost as if he is implying that there is no need for him to explain himself, as he is something greater than the other characters. I would imagine him to say his lines in a very cold and unfriendly tone of voice. This also helps create an impression of massiveness, solidity and purposefulness around the inspector.
Birling is obviously irritated by this therefore he attempts to put the inspector back in his place. He does this by flaunting to him about being an alderman and a Lord Mayor for two years to inform the inspector about his social position (if he was unaware) and to try to alleviate the situation and make it less serious and professional. Birling also repeatedly says its "trouble with a warrant," this gives Priestley another chance to show the audience that Birlings ideas are incorrect and as his role in the play represents a whole class of people it again shows us Priestley's ideas of that class. Birlings insensitivity and the way he sees the lower working as inferior to him, is shown when his response to death of Eva Smith is self-possessed. However, I also think that Birling also becomes begins to feel uneasy and anxious.
"I don't understand why you should come her inspector, "I think this is trying to hide those feelings. To show this on stage he should say these lines in a concerned way, not in his usual confident tone. Although most people's views of men from Birlings social class is the same as Priestley, some people might see Birlings character as offensive, and the way Priestley seems to represent an entire class my one man, as very narrow minded and too general. Especially as there is proof of not all employers of the time being as ruthless as Birling. On the other hand, Priestly could be using Birling simply for anyone who is pompous, over confidant and unrelenting as Birling regardless of class or at what point in time.
I think he could be trying to show that these are terrible characteristics to have. He is proving that people should not think that they can live life not caring about other people around them and always doing what they wish to do, as the tables will someday turn and all the thoughtless actions that the person has committed will come back to haunt them. Birling is also a character in the play for contrast, and to create variation keeping the play interesting. For example, him and Sheila (by the end of the play) become two completely opposite characters in every way. As well, shows how different people react to the same situation in a completely different way, it also proves that some people of that class were not all like Birling. Furthermore, it was not just the women as Eric reacts similarly, but in contrast to Sheila there is Mrs.
Birling. As we can see priestly has chosen to represent the younger generation as more humane, sensitive and open minded, he could have done his to try and show the audience that the future should not be like past and we should all try to change our faults. Everyone does mistakes, but you must learn from them. He could also be using them to represent all the new ideas being explored by the people in the time when priestly wrote the play for example everyone is equal and should be treated equally not by class, but based on basic human rights.