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Thank you for accepting the role of Sheila Birling in our theatre company's version of John B Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls'. I have

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Introduction

Directing Sheila Dear Miss Charlotte Harrison, Thank you for accepting the role of Sheila Birling in our theatre company's version of John B Priestley's 'An Inspector Calls'. I have enclosed the entire script to help you prepare for the role. Also, in this letter you will find some notes that I have done for you to help you play the character and also give you a little background information about when the play is set. Your costume will obviously be a dress typical of the time - 1912. It might be an evening gown, as the play is set at a celebratory dinner, so you must be dressed up and looking nice in an expensive-looking dress. I would suggest a dress in a pastel pink colour, if possible, to emphasise that at the beginning of the play Sheila is extremely innocent, as she has been shielded from unpleasant aspects of life. The play is set in the summer of 1912, in an industrial city called Brumley. This was in the Edwardian age, a few years before the First World War and in the same year as the Titanic sank. Mr. Birling refers to both of these incidents in the play, so they are relevant. Around 1912, there was a clear division between the middle class and the lower class. There were so many rules in society, telling you how to behave. The middle class also had a lot more freedom and many more luxuries than lower class people did. Society was very hypocritical in 1912. Eric mentions that the 'respectable' men that his father knows are actually paying lower class prostitutes for their services. However, they would never dream of talking to these lower class people normally - so they had many secrets. At this time, women had no equal rights - they were overpowered by the men. Middle class women in particular were thought of as not being able to handle certain aspects of life, such as prostitution and politics. ...read more.

Middle

Although she calls off the engagement with Gerald, she actually mentions that she respects him more than ever before. This is because Gerald rescued Eva from Joe Meggarty, when most people in the middle class would have simply ignored her. Also, Gerald gave Eva money and a place to stay simply out of the kindness of his heart - he never had the set idea of making Eva his 'mistress'. Gerald gave Eva some hope and happiness, which Sheila believes may have helped her get over her sacking a little, and making Sheila feel slightly better about herself and Eva. Sheila feels that she and Gerald will have to get to know each other again, starting their relationship from scratch, because they 'are not the same people who sat down to dinner here'. This is the reason she is calling off the engagement. She handles the whole situation very calmly, showing she has matured and she is ready to forgive Gerald as she did something just as bad to Eva, as well. Sheila is appalled by her mother's callousness and heartless attitude. Mrs. Birling is talking about Eva like she is a worthless, insignificant person, using phrases such as, 'a girl of that sort', indicating that Eva is below her and does not matter. Mrs. Birling openly admits that she was prejudiced against Eva's case because Eva called herself Mrs. Birling. Even though she was the last of the Birling family to see Eva, she still believes that she had nothing to do with Eva committing suicide. Sheila is very angry with her mother for how she handled Eva's case and the fact that Mrs. Birling seems unchanged after hearing the Inspector's accusations. Mrs. Birling shows no remorse, even after hearing that now, because of her, Eva is lying with ' a burnt-out inside on a slab' - she is just freely blaming someone else and is determined not to feel guilty, believing that she did nothing wrong. ...read more.

Conclusion

Her stage directions are only described as 'eagerly' when she is agreeing with Eric about how the Inspector made her feel, maybe in the hope that it will change her parents' attitudes to the whole situation. Sheila has learnt from the experience, but her parents have not and she is very angry about it. Sheila is the character telling the audience how people should behave if they had done any of the things that the Birling family did - she is a character of dramatic significance. I think that the most important things in Act One to remember, are the fact that Sheila is obviously spoilt, materialistic, playful and innocent, because she has been shielded from what really goes on in the world. In Act Two, the most important points to remember about Sheila are that she is beginning to understand the whole situation - how Eric was involved with Eva and questioning whether the Inspector is actually a proper police inspector. In addition we see how ashamed she feels about how her family are handling their involvement with Eva and how guilty she feels about firing Eva from Milwards. In Act Three, I believe that remembering how passionately Sheila feels about it not mattering whether the Inspector was real, and Eva did not really commit suicide is important. She is disappointed with her parents at how lightly they are taking the situation and constantly shows this. She has completely changed and matured from how she was at the beginning of the play. I hope that these notes have helped you understand the character better, and have given you tips on how to play Sheila Birling. I trust that you will come to the first rehearsal well prepared to act the part and hope that you enjoy the experience of performing in this play. Yours sincerely, Catherine J. Paxton (Director) Mrs, Jordan's comments: a considered and perceptive evaluation of character, themes and ideas, showing analytical and interpretive skill throughout. ?? ?? ?? ?? Katie Paxton Twentieth-Century Drama Coursework, first draft ...read more.

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