Comparing a television version

The production that I viewed of “An Inspector Calls” was a television version. I occasionally feel that television versions sometimes kill the intentions, to entertain and to stimulate the audience. When I read “An Inspector Calls” I had a version in my head to help me imagine the play in the way that I hope J.B. Priestley would have wanted it to be. But when I watched the television version I felt it didn’t actually give the play justice.

At the beginning of the play, J.B. Priestley gives a very detailed amount of stage settings, lighting and character descriptions. I felt that these were so detailed as Priestley wanted the mood of the first scene to linger throughout the whole play. For example “The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and home like.” I felt that this was actually taken in to account, as the extremely large table was the central point of the beginning. The size of the table showed that although the characters were a family, they weren’t close.

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At the very beginning of the production we were being led through some very grand doors, to show a ‘perfect� family enjoying a family celebration. I liked this technique it made me intrigued to find out what was going on within the family atmosphere. In the production I felt the wealth of the family was portrayed extremely well. The set was very traditional to the early 20th century. The colours and costumes were good ways of showing the wealth of the characters. You could see from the maid clearing the table to the cigars and port that this family were very wealthy.

Throughout the play the characters were portrayed to be pleased with themselves, just as in the stage direction at the beginning. Being so happy and ‘pleased with themselves� made a good cover for the deceit they had each caused. Arthur Birling (Nigel Davenport) is a very proud man who is keen to show off his wealth. In the performance I thought his accent was abit over done. His gestures showed that he was a very proud man.

In the performance it was shown that he was very happy with his daughter Sheila and his business rivals� son, Gerald Croft. At the end of the play I thought about why Birling was so pleased with the engagement. It made me think that he was so comfortable with this as he knows that his business rivals will be part of the family. And this means it will lead to bigger profits, which leads to more wealth. This shows he is a very selfish man to be more concerned with is wealth than his daughter’s happiness. Birling is also very concerned about his social status, especially about his knighthood.

When he discovers that he started the pandemonium with the dead girl, he cannot accept his responsibility. He says, “she’d had a lot to say – far too much- she had to go.” This shows that although Birling had become greedy and has forgot where he came from. He has no respect for the lower class which is why he sacked ‘Eva Smit and “cannot accept responsibility” for her death. I felt that the performance could have made a more dramatic effect of her death. Most of the actors didn’t seem too bothered that someone had died. I feel that death is such an extreme thing that the actors could have showed more emotion.

Margaret Tyzack made a very good job as Sybil Birling. Her cold looks and stern voice made her come across as the vindictive middle aged woman of the performance. The actress made a good job at showing how Mrs Birling thought her family were near to perfect, when actually she couldn’t have been more wrong. This was when she was questioned on her actions of rejecting ‘the girl’s� plea for help from the Brumley Women’s Charity Organisation, the charity that Mrs. Birling happened to be in the seat of. Mrs. Birling was the only character that remained untouched by the inspector’s harsh but true words.

Sheila Birling (Sarah Berger) was shown as a young woman who actually realised what the intentions of Inspector Goole were. I thought she looked a bit young for the part but she played the part well. She could have put more into the scenes where Gerald was concerned though. The actress showed well how Sheila appeared to be the voice of reason within the play. It was as if the director wanted Sheila to be as a dainty character who felt responsible for the death of the girl. Even when Inspector Goole was exposed she seemed concerned over her family’s actions. Unlike the other characters who laughed it off and who seemed more concerned about business and themselves.

Eric (David Sibley) however I thought was the let down of the performance. He looked too old to play the part of Eric. I visioned him as a wealthy bachelor, not a mid 30s chap in a tuxedo. He didn’t put enough into his emotional scenes with his mother. To me it looked as though David Sibley didn’t even try to get into the part of Eric Birling. In Act 3 when Eric finds out that his mother refused the ‘girl any help, I imagined this to be really intense. But it wasn’t. Because of this I felt the performance was let down in a way.

Especially when Eric said “damn you, damn you.” I was hoping that this would be fierce. Instead it was more of a small growl with a tiny bit of a temperament. I also thought that Eric was mysterious. This was not shown very well. To me the Inspector had the most important role of this play. The Inspector was played by Bernard Hepden, and very well indeed. In this play Priestly was using Inspector Goole as a conscience calling to the other characters. This was shown well in the performance through Inspector Goole’s attitude and the other characters responses.

Gerald Croft was also played well by Simon Ward. In the play he appeared to be the perfect gentleman, about to marry into a perfect life with the perfect partner. However as shown in the performance he was also in a web of lies. Simon Ward used a variety of facial gestures to show the character’s part well. Especially when Sheila said ‘He knows everything about the Inspector. On the face of it Gerald appears to regret what happened with he ‘girl. The aim of ‘An Inspector Calls� is to make people more aware of how they treat others. As in ‘every action has a consequence�. The play was written in 1945, yet it was set in 1912. Therefore J. B. Priestley had the benefit of comments about the titanic and how there was no possibility of war.

I liked this cliffhanger ending as the audience gets to decide the ending. It was done well in the play as the characters were shown to be absolutely stunned. Then the titles rolled for the end cue, leaving the viewer with the opportunity to change their ways Over all the production was fairly well done. His views and criticisms did come through in the production. The play was a mystery that made the audience think. It gives you time to change your actions towards others.

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