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'You cannot be happy when you are surrounded by people who are unhappy' [J.B. Priestley]. How would an audience respond to 'An Inspector Calls' in performance?

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Introduction

2nd February 2002 Anthony Seymour 'You cannot be happy when you are surrounded by people who are unhappy' [J.B. Priestley]. How would an audience respond to 'An Inspector Calls' in performance? 'An Inspector Calls' is a typical play of the late 19th/early 20th century period. It explores in depth what hides behind the respectable front of a middle class family. This type of play was most probably written originally for the working class. I do not think it would have gone down very well with the middle class because the play uncovers the unpleasant truths of combining too much money with lots of free time. This results in controversial behaviour consisting of drunkenness, adultery and theft which are all portrayed in 'An Inspector Calls'. An audience would enjoy 'An Inspector Calls' because seeing the elite of society having their reputation and live's disgraced would fill them with gratification that money and power does not always bring happiness. It would also make the audience be grateful for what they have, even if it is just a simple, honest life. Generally, people watching this play in theatre would probably feel sorrow for the family and especially characters like Sheila and Eric who were obviously very shaken up by the whole ordeal. ...read more.

Middle

I think the audience would be quick to pick up the mystical twist, however I feel the end is extremely unpredictable. This is a good style to use in writing and shows J.B. Priestley's skill in stagecraft because as the play progresses the audience will probably feel that what is to come is rather predictable, until the Birlings discover the inspector had disappeared. This part is extremely effective because it would leave the twist in the audience's mind long after the curtain falls. Birling's ambition to be a respected social role model, a prosperous businessman and to finally receive a knighthood for all of his hard work on behalf of the local council drives him to all extremes. His hopes for his business is to keep the wages he is paying his employees as low as possible so that he can hold competitive prices and gain as much profit as possible. Unfortunately Eva Smith was a strong willed young lady whom stood up for her rights and revolted against Birling's preposterous wages. This was not wise and due to Birling's headstrong outlook on life he refused her proposal for higher wages and had her sacked with the attitude that many women would give their right arm for her job. ...read more.

Conclusion

So the audience would be able to immerse themselves into the play more easily. The play seems to suggest that the lower classes will never succeed when coming up against bigger fish. This refers to how Eva Smith was treated by all the members in the Birling family and Gerald Croft. She was sacked due to Birling and Sheila. She was used by Eric and turned away in her hour of need by Mrs. Birling. Gerald also used her for his mistress and even though he had sincere feelings for her, she still knew they could never continue their relationship due to the circumstances so this also contributed to messing up her life. Once the audience had seen the way Eva Smith had been treated they would have felt very bitter towards the Birlings and Gerald and incredibly sorry for Eva Smith who had had her life torn apart. This would have made the audience feel sad for Eva and maybe for Sheila and Eric who had recognized what they had done wrong and shown genuine guilt because of it. The end of the play where most of the characters were either feeling sorry for themselves or miserable about what they had done would reflect on the audience and they would also feel quite upset by the whole scenario. This backs up J.B. Priestley's statement 'You cannot be happy when you are surrounded by people who are unhappy.' ...read more.

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