J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls

J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls

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J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls
The first task we did for Sheila was to improvise a scene of when she
went to the shop to buy a dress, and was laughed at by Eva, resulting
in Eva getting the sack for Sheila's complaints. This was done in a
naturalistic way, trying to be as realistic as possible. The second
task we did was to make up, in groups, five freeze frames showing the
event that had occurred in the shop. For example; 1) Mrs Birling and
Sheila entering the shop 2) Them being shown where the dresses are
kept by Eva 3) Sheila wearing the dress she's chosen, with everyone
looking concerned, apart from Eva who is laughing

4) Sheila and Mrs Birling shouting at Eva, and finally 5) The manager
of the shop sacking Eva. The third task we did was for two groups to
join up and while one group acted out the incident in the shop, as
they had at first, the other group acted out what their thoughts and
feelings would be doing and saying. This could be done at the same
time, as most groups chose to do, or as one group did, acted out
twice; once for what really happened, and then again with the only the
real feelings being shown, but with the same effect to what they would
have actually said. This was done as a non-naturalistic rehearsed
improvisation, including thought taps and tableaux. All of these tasks
helped me to understand Sheila's character better as in the play it
shows her as a caring and thoughtful person whereas in the tasks we
did she is shown to be jealous with an angry temper.

For Gerald, we got into groups of 5 and improvised the three key
scenes of Gerald and Daisy's relationship 1) Gerald rescuing Daisy
from Joe in the pub, 2) Gerald giving Daisy his friend's flat for the
summer, and 3) Gerald dumping Daisy as the summer nears to its end.

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The five characters were Gerald, Daisy, a waiter, Joe and a Narrator.
By doing this task, it made me understand that although Gerald may
have had a few feelings towards Daisy, he regarded her as a bit of fun
on the side which he could dump at the end of the summer, for Sheila.
It also showed me that Daisy probably did have strong feelings for
Gerald, and was happy about meeting him, but that she was not
surprised by being dumped at the end of the summer.

For Eric's story we performed four tableaux of the story between Eric
and Daisy. The four tableaux were:

1) Daisy struggling to keep away from Eric

2) Daisy frightened and Eric forcing himself upon her

3) Daisy telling Eric she's pregnant

4) Eric giving stolen money to Daisy and her refusing.

From this activity I learnt that Eric was a bit of a failure. He
practically raped Daisy, and made her pregnant, then offered her money
which he had stolen from his father. This does not shine a good light
on him, and shows what he is really like, as the play does not show
this side of him. It shows him to be a sweet boy, concerned for the
poor dead girl, until his part in the story is revealed.

For Mrs Birling's story, we started by doing five tableaux by
ourselves, of Eva getting ready to go to the committee to ask for
help. The five tableaux I did was of her getting dressed, brushing her
hair, practising her speech, walking to the committee and her about to
open the door of the committee hall. After that we did the same thing
but an improvisation. I did the same idea, but just linked my freeze
frames up by acting them. The last thing we did for Mrs Birling was
showing Eva going in front of the committee of women to ask for help,
and being turned down. We had to show the different characters of the
women of the committee, from Mrs Birling being quite harsh and unkind,
to the ladies who wanted to give their money to everyone and felt
sorry for anyone. They were all rehearsed improvisations, done in a
natural and very realistic way. From doing the tasks for Mrs Birling
it helped me to understand how life would have been for women of the
time. Life for the working class women would have been very hard as it
was hard to find a job, and the jobs had very bad pay for the long
hours and hard work. One of the only things that working women could
do if they were in trouble was to go to see a committee and ask if
they could have some money. This is what Eva did and she did not get a
good response. Some of the women in the committee would have felt
sorry for her and would have wanted to give her money, but others,
like Mrs Birling, would not have wanted to part with their precious
money and give it to a girl who had lied to them. This knowledge helps
me to understand the play as throughout Mrs Birling maintains the
attitude of not having done anything wrong, which is fair enough as
she was just doing her job.

The section of after the play we got into groups of 5 and improvised
what could have happened after the phone call to say an Inspector was
coming to question them about the death of a young girl, which was
just after the inspector had left. Most of the groups used the idea of
the family of the house and Gerald discussing what had happened and
what was going to happen, ending with the real Inspector arriving.
This was done in a realistic fashion, like the play had been, in a
rehearsed improvisation. We kept the different characters with the
same thoughts and feelings that they had had in the rest of the play
but carried on the conversation about the Inspector and whether he was
a phoney. We kept the play very realistic as that is what the rest of
the play had been like, so then it would fit on like an extra scene.
All the characters had different attitudes towards the death.

Mr Birling: He refused to accept any of the responsibility towards
Eva's death. He continued to ignore the disgraceful things his family
had done throughout, and when it was revealed that the Inspector might
not be who he really was, was pleased to act as if nothing had

Mrs Birling: She had the same outlook on the situation as her husband,
and was determined that she had not affected Eva's life, though she
was shocked about Eric's part in the story.

Sheila: At the beginning she was cheerful but when she found out about
the death she was indisputably upset and willingly admitted that she
acted wrongly. She was trying to persuade the others to tell the truth
and admit to what they had done.


Gerald: He didn't really care about had happened and was only worried
about what would happen to his reputation.

The last section we did was Eva's story. The first thing we did for
her was a hot-seat of Mr Birling just after he had sacked Eva from his
factory. One person sat in the middle of the room while the rest of
the class, and Mrs Curtis, aimed questions at her along the lines of
why he had sacked Eva. This was unrehearsed, and conducted like an
interview so was quite realistic. We then did an essence machine, in
groups of 5, following Eva's dismissal from the shop for laughing at
Sheila. It was done unnaturalistically and was rehearsed. Then we did
an individual thought tap for Eva when Gerald left her. Mrs Curtis
asked some people questions about what they felt and thought and they
had to answer from Daisy's view. This was done in an interview
fashion, and realistically but was not rehearsed. The fourth thing we
did for Eva was a thought tunnel with all the women of the committee
giving their thoughts of Eva. The thoughts ranged from feeling sorry
for her and wanting to help her to Mrs Birling being angry at her for
using her name, and not feeling the slightest bit sorry for her. The
next thing was everybody got into pairs, with one three, and performed
a unrehearsed improvisation of Eva discussing her problems after Eric
left her. In most groups, Eva told her friend all of her problems,
including the pregnancy. In some groups, Eva told her friend the
information with no persuasion, but in some groups Eva needed to be
pushed by her friend. Finally, the whole class got into three big
groups and within our groups we had to do a reduced version of Eva's
entire story including Mr Birling sacking her, Sheila getting her
sacked, her affair with Gerald, her getting pregnant by Eric and Mrs
Birling not giving any help. They were done unnaturalistically so they
could not actually happen as characters and scenes were merged
together and linked off each other.
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