Eric is a young man, who is presented to have low confidence and low self-esteem from ubiquitous bullying from his father. He should be pale in the face and I would instruct the actor to make no eye contact with the other characters. Eric must be portrayed as reclusive, however when he does speak he is sharp and bitter. Finally, the detailed descriptions for Inspector Goole feature later in Act One. Priestley expresses the wish for a character of, “massiveness, solidity and purposefulness”.
To show this I would instruct the actor to always stand to show his superiority over the family. He should make a lot of meaningful eye contact. Goole is unfavourable and cool towards the family and is clearly spoken. He has no respect for class, which is shown, in his dress, which is, “a plain, darkish suit”, which sets him apart from the Birling’. Goole projects a ghost-like presence, emphasised by his name, which has ghostly connotations.
Although characterisation and setting are important variables within a play, they do not communicate the plays theme as well as the dialogue. Throughout the play social responsibility seems to be the key theme. Furthermore, to show how I as a director would use the script to develop the theme, I will focus on the main protagonists, Birling and Goole. To begin with, during Act One Birling tells Gerald and Eric that the Titanic is, “unsinkable”. This shows Birling believes in business and industrial progress before people. The actor would be instructed to speak and appear as triumphant and completely dedicated to what he believes in. Priestley is showing how unprepared capitalist such as Birling are more responsible for conflict and suffering than anyone, because of their ignorance and narrow-mindedness.
Next, later in Act One, Birling discusses how young men are not worked as hard as they used to be, with Eric and Gerald. He says, “A man has to make his own way – has to look after himself”. This portrays that Birling puts himself before anyone else. To represent this I would tell the actor to appear smug and self-satisfied. He should also speak in a knowledgeable and authoritative manner. In Act Two, Birling is the first to fall under Goole’s investigation. Birling says, “Possibly. But you were not asked to come her to talk to me about my responsibilities”. It is evident that Birling is uncomfortable with Goole’s presence in his household and the way he has stepped in on his family’s’ celebration.
Personally, I would ask the actor to stand up during this line and make direct eye contact with Goole. He should appear slightly distressed yet trying to keep his posture. He should sound stern and whist speaking he ought to point his finger at Goole. In contrast to Birling, Goole remains calm throughout the investigation. During Act One, Goole is interrogating Birling about sacking Eva Smith. Goole says “But after all it’s better to ask for the earth than take it”. The plays theme is apparent within this line. Whilst saying this line, Goole should appear wise so he his perceived as knowledgeable and slightly superior.
Later in the play, in Act Two, Goole and Birling are sharing another conversation. During this Goole says, ” Public men, Mr Birling have responsibilities as well as privileges”. Goole is directly addressing Birling here, indicating he does not agree with Birling’s views. Consequently, Goole should appear slightly supercilious and have an authoritative manner. He should also speak with sincerity, making eye contact with Birling.
Finally, Goole’s last speech includes the line, “And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish”. Priestley’s message of social responsibility is heard most clearly here than anywhere else within the play. To emphasis this Goole must speak with conviction. I would instruct the actor to speak the words, “fire and blood and anguish”, looking at each member of the family as he says it. He must seem omnipotent.
In conclusion, the play has been performed using four variables; characterisation, setting, dialogue and stage directions. The director can change these as they wish to communicate their own interpretations of the play and Priestley’s views. As I have shown in this essay, Priestley’s stage directions assist the development of the director’s interpretations. Influential media is used to portray different moods and enigmatic juxtaposition of characters is vital. However, the play’s success is judged by the audiences response to Priestleys message of social responsibility: if we do not look after the weak and the poor then society will sink, as the Titanic did.