Thank you for your letter concerning the direction of my play “An Inspector Calls”. Firstly, in order for you to fully understand the play and its workings, I must explain the moral, which I believe fits the play: what goes around comes around. In these times, the upper classes hold the greatest influence, although they have the least responsibility. This should not be the case, but when one is in this position it becomes easy to make huge differences to other peoples lives just by small, selfish actions. Such is the case with the Birling family and Eva Smith.
Onto the Inspector and his possible portrayal, or non-portrayal. What I mean by this is that the Inspector need not be portrayed at all, as he is, in essence, an embodiment of the character’s conscience and a conscience is something that cannot be escaped from. He could appear as the questions are being asked because the characters own consciences create the answers and his presence would only add slightly to the huge amount of tension and excitement created by the answers alone. It is only a suggestion but do, by all means use it as a guideline.
I recently saw a production of “An Inspector Calls” at the Royal Garrick Theatre and I was impressed by the use of imagination in it and it dramatic delivery. In the opening, the house was in one corner of the stage, radiating light, glamour and prestige out onto the grim, grey street. Conversations about the war, the miner’s strike and the Titanic are going on in the house, but little emphasis is placed on these and they are muffled out. Instead the street is emphasized, possible because of the imminent arrival of the Inspector.
A lot of emphasis is placed on the Inspector, possibly because he is the only character who is moving. A small child is playing in the street and a sad sense of neglect hangs over the whole set. The fact that the child has found some happiness in this desolate, uninviting environment adds a tinge of positivity to the atmosphere. In almost an insult to the street is the house, in its own little fairytale world, facing out onto the gloomy street. The Inspector enters from the left of the stage, and offers the child and orange, which he accepts gladly.
The fact that the Inspector has an orange, a particularly exotic fruit, shows that he is not local and has traveled. He then makes his way up a flight of steps, where he is greeted by Edna the maid, who takes his suitcase from him. Edna, being a working class person is, in effect inviting him to represent her class in the soon to be courtroom of the Birling house. As he reaches the house, it bursts open, giving an almost voyeuristic effect. Also it gives the effect that their privacy and innocence has been invaded and they are now as vulnerable as the lower classes out on the street.
He then enters the house. Once inside the house the Inspector creates immediate shockwaves the moment he introduces himself. It seems as though the family have been anticipating his arrival, (which would make sense if he is to embody their consciences) and choose to dampen the effect by idly gossiping amongst themselves The directors use of lighting, I thought was very clever as it showed the great diversity between good and evil, rich and poor and upper and lower class.