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Imagine you have been asked to direct J.B. Priestley's "An Inspector Calls". What Instructions would you give to the actor playing the part of Mr Arthur Birling

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Imagine you have been asked to direct J.B. Priestley's "An Inspector Calls" what Instructions would you give to the actor playing the part of Mr Arthur Birling At the opening of the play, Priestley presents a typical Edwardian middle class business family. The arrogance and pomposity of the Birlings is clear immediately as Priestley remarks, "they are all feeling rather pleased with themselves." As the audience are introduced to the play the Birlings are celebrating the engagement of Sheila Birling and Gerald Croft. Mr Birling is a successful businessman who has been active in local politics and has had the honour of being Lord Mayor. He is a magistrate and has hopes of being given a knighthood which will make him socially closer to Sir George and Lady Croft, the parents of his future son in law, Gerald Croft. Mr Birling is self confident, but his more humble upbringing makes him "social outcast" and he enters the group of "noveau riche" the new rich. The way he speaks shows him up; he is not a highly intellectual man of upper-class grace, but a man who still speaks with limited interests and narrow-minded views. Mr Birling is the man of the house, and in the setting of the play, 1912, it was a patriarchal society, where men had more power and were considered more important than women, as even Mrs Birling accepts, "when your married you'll realise that men with important work to do sometimes have to spend nearly all their time and energy on their business." Mr Birling is a bully, he rules by intimidation and self importance. Mr Birling will be dressed appropriately for his daughter's engagement, wearing an expensive tailor-made suit with tie, or a dinner jacket with bow tie. Mr Birling represents the older generation, where he cannot accept responsibility for mistakes he has done. It is a huge failing in him, and ends up in attempting to cover himself up. ...read more.


And to that I say-fiddlesticks! The Germans don't want a war, except some half civilised folks in the Balkans. And war? There's too much at stake these days. Everything to lose and nothing to gain by war." This speech by Mr Birling is too be met by boredom among the others, showing respect but obliviously not interested, after all it is meant to be a light hearted celebration not a debate. He seems very ignorant of the world, he describes the Balkans as "half civilised" a statement of pure ignorance and he looks at the situation with little foresight and simplified. I would advise that Mr Birling has one elbow on the table using his arm to support his head and for his other arm to wave violently across the table to emphasize his argument. His face will look reasonably disgruntled, at having to explain his opinions; however he is still happy and enjoying himself. As a modern day audience we would know that the ship the "Titanic" sank, drowning over one thousand people, however the play was set before the Titanic sailed off, Mr Birling was not incorrect in his statement, as many others would have agreed with him, however Priestley wants us to believe that Birling is a fool when he says; "The Titanic - she sails next week - forty six thousand eight hundred tonnes - forty six thousand eight hundred tonnes - New York in five days - and every luxury - and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable." I would direct Birling to be standing up, perhaps refilling a glass of port, he would be having his back facing his family as he spoke, and then he would turn around and as he said "Unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable" I would have Birling hit a clenched fist to the face of the table, rattling the empty plates. He would appear to be so proud of the ship, perhaps sad he was not on board, he knew the exact weight of the ship, and the audience might assume that he had enquired about it or knew someone who was going on the ship. ...read more.


Mr Birling will then swallow a large amount of his saliva and stumble across to his arm chair where he will stoop into the chair and tilt his head to his side. The audience will be delighted to see Mr Birling looking distressed and wrecked after a celebration turned into a nightmare. The Audience's hatred of Birling grew from when he started in his pompous manor, blaming the poor for being poor and attacking socialist views, however many people in the audience will sympathise with him, they would share many of the views he has however would not admire his grave ignorance. I believe that Mr Birling had some blame over the death of Eva Smith, as he started the chain reaction that ended in Eva Smith's suicide, however he unlike his wife and daughter did not intentionally go out of his way to make her life a misery, he sacked her, because of his principles about labour costs, he as a manager had a right to do so no matter how wrong some may believe he was, He shouldn't not have sacked Eva Smith, as she only wanted a decent living wage. However she did not commit suicide for nearly two years after Birling sacked her, so I would believe it is too long for a man to be blamed for a person's suicide, what is more important is her last weeks before she lost the will to live, as that is what drove her to killing herself. However Mr Birling is still to blame for her death, as everything has a "chain reaction" and he started this. Perhaps more importantly is if Birling had brought his children up differently, would they have reacted to Eva Smith so rudely? If Birling had taught them about the poor and liberals and learnt to respect others would Eva Smith have had to kill herself? Sybil, Birling's wife treated Eva Smith terribly, however she too is bullied by her husband, if she wasn't bullied, would she have reacted differently to Eva Smith in her final days? These are more important questions. Timothy Howard ...read more.

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