Using the detailed opening stage directions and the introduction of Goole on page 11 as your starting point, discuss how a director might develop the use of settings and characterisation to bring out the plays key themes. The playwright’s stage directions suggest Priestley’s interpretations of the play. Priestley’s emphasis is characterisation and this is shown within his stage directions. Priestley’s stage directions are pescriptive and detailed. This shows that he is very concerned about the response and perceptions of his audience.
Similarly, the directions for the entrance of Inspector Goole are quite specific. In this essay, I will examine Priestley’s first set of stage directions, which advise the director’s setting for Act One. The furniture should be chosen to appear, “solid”, “substantial”, and, “heavily comfortable”, showing Arthur Birling’s quality yet possibly vulgar and questionable taste and even views. Priestley’s stage directions are so pescriptive he even mentions the lighting. Before the Inspector enters, the lighting is, “pink and intimate”, suggesting a warm, pleasant atmosphere appropriate for a close family gathering. The light the suddenly changes to, “bright and hard”, as the Inspector enters, suggesting in a visual metaphor, the brutal, uncompromising way Inspector Goole throws light on the familiys sordid secrets.Order now
However, if I were the director I would put the Inspector slightly in the shadows, to symbolise his mysterious character. I would also put light on each member of the family so the audience could see their shock and to emphasis the metaphor. Next, the arrangement of the people around the table shows Arthur and Sybil Birling’s superiority within the family as they both sit at each end of the table as the most important people do. To emphasise their authority, I would seat them in a majestic, thick wooden chairs, different to the other family members chairs.
Additionally, the audience can automatically distinguish that the family are celebration as the males are wearing, “tails and white ties”, and there are also, “champagne glasses”, being cleared away. Wealth again is a theme here. This scene gives the impression of a happy and united family looking forward to the future with a degree of confidence. However, in retrospect, there are a number of hints that not all is what it seems, but these are not particularly obvious until later in the play.
Character is also important within a play. The director must make the actor visually represent the actor as well as performing the Priestley’s message through their character. Priestley expresses the wish for a, “portentous”, Birling. He is a pompous, sandimonius character. As a director, this would encourage me to instruct the actor to project an ominous, domineering presence. The audience should see Birling as intimidating and a bit of a bully as his name would suggest. He must also appear wealthy and of importance.
Next, Sybil Birling is presented to be a disdainful, haughty character. She is also a little snobbish although she married below her own social status. To reflect this, I would instruct the actor to speak properly, pronouncing all words correctly. I would dress her in expensive clothes and fine jewellery to echo her social class. She must also be strong and determined. Priestley asks for Sheila to be, “very pleased with life and rather excited”. Sheila is the spoilt child within the family; she is slightly smug with this.
To represent her character I would ask the actor to be giggly and over-affectionate to her fian Gerald. She is extremely excitable and girly. Gerald is described as, “easy well-bred young man-about-town”. He should be portrayed as self-satisfied and quite crafty. He would be an attractive man and appear to have great respect for Arthur Birling. To show this I would instruct the actor to be attentive to everything that Birling says.