On Tuesday 17th November, year 10 were given the opportunity to go to the Bath Theatre Royal and watch ‘An Inspector Calls’ by JB Priestley performed live. We are currently studying the text in our English lessons to prepare for our GCSE exam at the end of Year 11. The experience of going to see the play, interpreted by director Stephen Daldry, gave us the chance to see how each character was portrayed by the actors and compare this to the original text and the latest TV interpretation on the BBC.
In comparison to the written play, the performance was quite true to the story line, however some of the longer speeches delivered by Mr Birling and Inspector Goole were cut down to make the play an appropriate length. In my opinion, this resulted in a loss of the prevalence of the theme of Capitalism vs Socialism, which is a very key part of the story. I think that this led to Mr Birling sounding more sympathetic and Inspector Goole sounding more anxious than Priestley portrayed them in the text because of the lack of dramatic irony used in the performance. I think that if dramatic irony had been used then the audience could have grasped the use of the dual timeline as it appears in the text.
On the other hand, I feel that Daldry displayed the theme of the split of the generations and Capitalism vs Socialism well with his inventive use of staging. By using levels in the staging, Daldry created a split between the older, capitalist characters and the younger, socialist characters. This clearly presented the sides taken by the characters and demonstrated who was on the Inspector’s side. I think that the use of staging made the most important themes stand out, even to audience members who are not studying the play.
Many of the characters in the play were portrayed in a different way to how I imagined them to be in the text. Personally, I think that the character that stood out for me was Mrs Birling, portrayed by Caroline Wildi. Sybil Birling was presented as a rather snooty character who used her authority to get her own way and had pride in the very little work she had done. Wildi spoke bluntly, occasionally firing sarcastic comments with an air of confidence at Inspector Goole and her children, Sheila and Eric, which enhanced her stage presence and allowed her to show how she had made the character her own. This made me dislike Mrs Birling even more as a character than I did when reading the text. I think that Caroline Wildi presented Mrs Birling in exactly the way Priestley meant for the character to be portrayed which helped me to understand the story and brought out some of the hidden themes in the play.
It was wonderful to be invited to come and watch these actors interpret Priestley’s work in their own way and has set us up in good stead for our GCSE exam and upcoming assessment on the novel.
Written by Abigail Hunt