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Explore the ways in which Priestley's instructions for staging add to the audience's understanding of theme and character in "An Inspector Calls."

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Introduction

Chloe Masters 11c Mrs Joyce Explore the ways in which Priestley's instructions for staging add to the audience's understanding of theme and character in "An Inspector Calls." In your answer you should consider; * The stage set * Sound and lighting effects * Stage directions for the characters throughout the play. John Boynton Priestley was born on the 13th September 1894 in Bradford. He grew up under the strong, heavy influence of his father, who was a committed socialist. John .B. Priestley had the gift of writing quickly and is said never to have corrected his first drafts. In 1945 Priestley wrote his most famous play "An Inspector Calls." Although written at the end of the Second World War the play is set in 1912, two years before the First World War. "An Inspector Calls" is a play he wrote to put forward his views on what he saw as the flaws in Britain's capitalist society in the first half of the twentieth century. The play is set in 1912, where the public is clearly divided into classes: working, upper and middle, with each having its own place in society. "An Inspector Calls" is centered on one particular family, the Birlings. J.B Priestley generally wanted his characters to be as real as possible, so he provided them with a clearly recognisable social background. The Birlings are a very superficial middle class family. He uses The Birlings to get across a very important message, which the Birlings do not learn from. ...read more.

Middle

Before a character speaks there are words such as 'thoughtfully,' and 'slowly,' these are stage directions, and are very important as they help the audience to understand the theme and character of "An Inspector Calls". Priestley's description of Inspector Goole as creating 'an impression of massiveness, solidity and purpose' is a key characteristic, helping to explain his otherwise surprising ability to dominate the arrogant and hypocritical Birlings and Gerald. On several occasions, the Inspector is described as 'cutting through massively', or 'taking charge massively'; reiterating his dominance and forcefulness. He is also described as 'cutting in, calmly' or 'cutting in with authority'. Stage directions such as these help the Inspector to show his personality to the audience, and to keep the play moving forward at a quick pace; he refuses to let the Birlings to distract him from his inquiry. Just before his final speech he is described as 'taking charge masterfully.' All these stage directions help the audience to understand the Inspector is a very dominating character. He is in control; he is not intimidated by the family. The inspector often has stage directions that inform him to speak 'sternly,' 'severely,' 'very deliberately.' This shows he is in emotional control of himself, while in contrast the Birlings often speak 'miserably,' 'bitterly,' 'wildly.' They are much less in control of their emotions. The stage directions give a helpful indication of how different characters respond to the Inspector's interrogation, and how they regard him as a character. ...read more.

Conclusion

They are not affected at all; it shows how superficial they really are. The stage directions through out the play help the audience to understand the characters, and in the end 'they stare guiltily and dumbfounded,' they have not learnt, except for Sheila and Eric. I think Priestley has great control over the audience and getting his opinions of theme and character across. The stage directions help to enhance the audience's understanding of the characters and their emotions. They reflect the characters' different responses to the news of their role in Eva's death. It adds to the plays dramatic impact. Priestley has great control over time in the play. His timing of entrances and exits is crucial for example; the Inspector arrives immediately after Birling has told Gerald about his impending knighthood about how 'a man has to look after himself and his own.' The unity of time and place is achieved by the events all taking place in the dining room and the action running continuously through all three acts. Even when there is a break between acts where an interval might be placed, the start of the next act takes us to the same point in time at which the audience had left the action. Each part fits together and helps to complete the jigsaw of events and involvements. As the pattern develops the audience is able to predict what will happen next. In conclusion I think that Priestley's instructions for staging add to the audience's understanding of theme and character in "An Inspector Calls" extremely well. John Boynton Priestley leads the characters and the audience from a state of ignorance to a state of knowledge. ...read more.

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