AnInspector Calls: Production
J.BPriestley who is an English dramatist wrote An Inspector Calls whichis one of the playwright’s most remarkable play and the mostpopular production on stage. The play is split into three acts, andthe events transpire in a single night in the April of 1912. Theaffluent Birling family is celebrating the engagement of Sheila,their daughter, to Gerald Croft when they are visited by a mysteriousman, supposedly an inspector of the police, concerning the suicide ofa woman said to have been the family’s employ at some point in thepast (Gray, 1990). It is then revealed that members of the familywere involved differently in events leading to the suicide of thewoman, Eva Smith. Later on, the family realizes that the localprecinct did not know anything about an Inspector Goole what’smore, no suicide has been reported. As the family celebrates,however, Mr. Birling receives a phone call informing him of a deathand the coming of an inspector. In the production of this classicalwork of art, it would be prudent to base it on the elements oftheater and performance as follows:
Agiven theatrical set should build up mood and atmosphere, give theaudience clues as to the time and setting of the play as well as makeit possible for actors to move creatively on stage. For instance,there is a lot of agitation in the air when Inspector Goole isinterrogating the family members. Consequently, there is a lot ofpacing and another movement. My set design would be in such a waythat it does not hamper this movement. Through the characters in theplay, we get to understand that the play takes place sometime inApril of 1912 (Gray, 1990), the set design should, therefore, bear inmind this period. Stage props, being an essential part of stagedesign should also be included these will include chairs, a table, adoor as well as draperies. These props will be of a wealthy kind todistinguish the Birling family’s social class.
Costumesare yet another essential element in the production of the play theycan be rented, made or bought depending on their complexity andstyle. A good costume should, at a glance, give the audience a lot ofinsight into a given character, way before the said character uttersa word, this could be regarding gender, social class, occupation aswell as age. In the play under study, for instance, the costumes theBirling family wear should be different from Edna and the Inspector’srespectively to denote differences both in social class andoccupation. Additionally, the costumes used in the play should give aclear distinction between major and minor characters. Accessories canalso be included with costumes these include gloves, jewelry, hatsor canes. The ladies in the Birling family, for instance, should bepresented to the audience adorned in all manner of fancy jewelry orgloves while the men have hats. These accessories add flair to acharacter’s appearance and are very useful in showing thedistinction between different characters. In designing costumes forthe play, I will get inspiration from the characters’ dialogue aswell as their immediate surroundings as presented to us by theplaywright. For example, there is mention of Millward’s, this is afancy clothes shop in the fictitious town of Brumley and suggests theBirling family’s affluence (Gray, 1990). As such, members of thefamily should don elaborate costumes which would adhere to the periodmentioned within the play. The Inspector’s suit should stay true tothe script. We are informed that he wore a ‘darkish’ suit, thisshows the serious nature of his visit which can be said to foreshadowwhat was to happen later on in the play to the principal characters.
Froma layman’s point of view, light within a theatrical production isused to make both the actors on stage and the stage itself visible tothe audience. Additionally, light can be used to enhance a givenmood, show the time, and be it day or night, shift focus from onepart of the stage to the other. For example, I would have the lightfocused on Mr. Birling when he is talking to Eric and Gerald to givethe character some dominance. In the scene where Sheila Birlingdescribes her first encounter with Eva, I would use light to bring asense of flashback I would have an actress embody Eva Smith and acolleague at Millward’s as Sheila describes what Eva did (Gray,1990). This time, the light shall focus on the two as Sheila’sdisembodied voice provides narration.
Thedirector is primarily the individual who gives the final word ondesign elements. This person determines how the script is to beinterpreted and in what way. There are two directing styles: thefirst one involves a faithful reproduction of a given play. In thisstyle, the director stays true to the playwright’s original workwithout any embellishment. On the other hand, the director can beseen as a creative artist with the freedom to use all elements oftheater to design a unique product of art. In the production of thisplay, I would opt for the first style as this gives the play anauthentic feel the audience can see traces of J. B Priestley in theperformance.
Theactor within a play is the most influential as they breathe life intoa character. A good actor can either make you like, despise or evenfeel sorry for them. There are two processes which come into playwhen an actor is on stage. To begin with, we have mimesis thisinvolves imitation of a dramatic character by an actor. It calls fora simulation of a character’s behavior as presented by theplaywright. This could be regarding mannerism, costume, and evenmake-up. For instance, the actor playing Eric Birling should clearlyand convincingly portray his drunken state. The characterrepresenting Mr. Birling should bring out the character’sauthoritarian predisposition this should come about from the way thecharacter addresses other characters on stage, both in manner andintonation. The actor portraying Inspector Goole should come acrossas both mysterious and indifferent to the family’s woes. Secondly,we have embodiment his process involves surpassing mere simulation,the actor ‘becomes’ the character. In this manner, the actor ownsa given character’s habits, the manner of speech and so on and soforth. In this way, the actress playing Mrs. Birling shouldcompletely embody how the character is haughty and self-righteous,this should come about from how she carries herself and talks to Ednaor about the unfortunate Eva Smith.
Inconclusion, my selection of production designs is meant to reinforceboth character and thematic portrayal while staying true to what theplaywright originally intended, right from acting, set, lighting,costume design as well as directing style.
Gray,Katie and J. B Priestley. J.B.Priestley, An Inspector Calls.1st ed. Harlow: Longman, 1990. Print.