The set of this play is under a proscenium arch and as this is a Victorian theatre the curtains rise up instead of going to each side. Especially for this production there is an added bit of stage at the front with twisted, bent floorboards with a trap door in. The bent floorboards represent the damage from bombs as outside is set in the 1940s. At one end of the extra bit of stage there is a phone box, this is used for the characters to use instead of in the house.
At the other end of the stage there is a world war two radio, the little boy uses this to change the mood of the music throughout the play. A cyclorama surrounds the back of the stage, it is a screen at the back which is in a semi-circle and on it clouds are painted, behind it there are lights which change the mood and time of day of the production, this is reflected by the mirrors either side of the cyclorama which add depth to the stage. The main piece of the stage is the house in which the Birlings live it seems to have risen out of the ground, but most of the action does not take place there but on the cobbled street below next to an old-fashioned lamppost. There are holes in the set floor which seem as though bombs have be dropped down and at the back of the stage there is a small house which gives the set some perspective.
Throughout the production the set goes though changes. One of which is the Birlings house tipping over and everything falling out of it, this is symbolic of the crumbling of their firm steady life, this happens when the family finds out that Eric, the son, got Daisy Renton pregnant. After a while the house repositions itself into a upright position, this occurs when Mr. Birling gets off the phone to the nurses station and finds out that no one committed suicide that night and so the house going back symbolizes their life getting back to normal but it will never be the same.
Another change that the set goes though is that it rains. This happens at the very beginning and on and off throughout the play mostly at sad or dramatic times, for example it happens when the inspector leaves which was dramatic because the Birlings were left to pick up the pieces and try to put their life back together and it began to rain. The house and the people in the play are set in 1912, but the street and the silent characters are all set in the 1940s, which is when this play was written. I think that the director did this because he wanted to show that the two times were like a miss-match and so was the family as they all had hidden secrets.
In the play there are unscripted, or silent characters. There are many different types and ages of people such as Edna the maid, a little boy and some adults wearing trench coats. These characters appear throughout the play such as at the very beginning the little children are seen emerging from the trap door, and Edna the maid is on stage the whole time giving blankets and drinks to the Birlings. The director used these characters to symbolize others affected by the Birling family’s actions towards Eva Smith who committed suicide. For example the little boy could represent the unborn child that died because of their actions and Edna could be Eva if she had lived to an old age. In the play Edna seems to be expecting inspector Goole because she has a drink ready for him when he arrives and takes his coat, she does not greet him in anyway and she doesn’t seem surprised at all to see him, which gives the impression that Edna knew he was coming.
Edna doesn’t go into the house because one of the themes of this production is about social class and Edna being a lower class than the Birlings is not allowed into the house. This is an example of social responsibility and the one that Edna has towards her employers. As the inspector asks the Birlings questions Edna has no reactions towards what horrible things they have done and remains nonjudgmental about the Birlings and what they have done, she does her duties like giving them drinks and wrapping them in blankets when they are cold. She does this because it is her social responsibility to do what she is employed to do so she remains within her social class and respects the upper classes.
The little boy pops up throughout the play and is there to remind the audience that there are consequences to actions as he symbolizes the unborn child of Eva Smith. The inspector seems to care about him as he gives him his hat and pats him on the head as though he were his father or some other relation to the boy. He is linked with Goole because Goole is telling the tragic story of Eva Smith and the boy symbolizes what happened because of her death, and because of the actions of the Birling family. Goole seems to be trying to justify the little boys death.
When inspector Goole first appears he grabs the audience’s attention by giving nothing away about who he is and just stands there drinking from the glass that Edna gave him. The audience wonder who this stranger is he just keeps them in suspense. He also interacts with the little boy and you wonder whether they know each other or he is just an urchin off the street who he took pity on and gave an orange to him.
The inspector brings the family on to the street to question them, this had the effect that the Birlings were able to interact with the audience and you were able to feel as though you were part of the action. This also created the impression that the inspector had control over the family and that he is in authority. To all the family members, Mrs. Birling, Shelia Birling, Gerald croft, Mr. Birling, and Eric Birling, the inspector uses different manners to the way he interrogates them. When he speaks to them he has sounds like he is more concerned with morals and what is right and wrong then whether what they did was illegal or not.
This is one of the reasons and hints that you get throughout the play that he is not a normal police officer. Another thing is that the impression the audience gets of him is that he knows everything already but he gives the Birlings a chance to confess and accept that they were wrong this also is not the normal behavior of an inspector. The inspector is abrasive, rude and determined to show that they caused this woman, Eva Smith, to commit suicide, to all of them he is unemotional until the end were he shows his anger at there selfishness. It is thought that the inspector is based upon the authors, J.B Priestly, morals and social principles.
This play has many hidden and obvious messages about morals, caste, and the problems in society its self. As I saw the play the message that got through to me most was, there can be dire consequences from causes that seem meaningless, this message still has relevance to today’s society because people are still the same and we still do things before we think of the consequences and what affect they will have on other people. This message and more, such as social responsibility, still have relevance fifty years after Priestly wrote the play because they are about human nature and that hasn’t changed and never will.