Examine Priestly’s Stagecraft In Act 1 of ‘An Inspector Calls’. How does he use dramatic Techniques To Engage The Interest of An Audience. In ‘An Inspector Calls J.B. Priestley tries to get the point of socialism across; this is the view that we are all responsible for each other. He uses the harshness of the inspector to get his views across, eventually making the Birlings realise that we all have a duty of care towards other people no matter what age.
During Act 1 we get the feeling that things aren’t as they should be. For example, the situation between Sheila and Gerald is not at all what it seems. Gerald says that he has been away for the summer on business, but Sheila suspects that maybe it wasn’t all business as the stage directions state that she speaks in a ‘half serious, half playful tone’. Furthermore, when Sheila is presented with the engagement ring she responds with “is it the one you wanted me to have”, suggesting that Gerald has complete control within the relationship.
Throughout Act 1 Priestley uses dramatic irony to convey Mr. Birling’s arrogance and complacency because within his speeches he mentions that the Titanic is “absolutely unsinkable” and he also mentions that by 1940 the world will have forgotten all “these silly little war scares.” These are especially ironic as the Titanic did sink and just two years after that the First World War started lasting for four years and killing millions.
Another use of dramatic irony occurs when Mr Birling mentions 1940, which is during a Second World War, so the total opposite of what he says will happen. Mr. Birling also relates to how the “Capital versus Labour agitations” will be a thing of the past. This shows even more ignorance as in 1936 the total reverse happened as the Great Depression occurred. This makes the audience feel that Mr. Birling is ignorant, complacent and maybe even an idiot.
From the start of Act 1 we get a feel for Mr. Birling’s character and the way Priestley writes about the other characters lets the audience form their own opinion about them, but by the end of the play the audiences views of most characters will have changed, backing up the view that you should never judge people by appearances alone. The Birlings seem to be a good, honest family but as we learn throughout they are far from that.
This creates tension as the audience wonder what other actions the Birlings could have done to contribute towards Eva Smith’s suicide. For example, during the stage directions at the start of act one we get a sign that things are not as they should be when it mentions that ‘the lighting should be pink and intimate until the inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder.’ This suggests that to start with the lighting expresses the situation that everything is all right and ‘intimate’, but when the inspector arrives the lighting becomes harder symbolising the actions the Birlings have done to contribute towards Eva Smith’s death.
From the moment the Inspector arrives he takes control of the characters. His answers are short and he makes no attempt to develop a conversation that does not involve the inquiry he is conducting. Additionally, he never conducts two lines of inquiry simultaneously, breaking down each member of the Birling household individually because “one person and one line of inquiry at a time. Otherwise there’s a muddle.”
This is shown when he presents the photograph to each of the family members in turn. For example, when he shows the photograph of the girl to Mr. Birling, Eric and Gerald both try to get a glimpse of the photgraph but the Inspector ‘interposes’ himself between the two, continuing his desire for ”one line of inquiry at a time.” This creates suspense and tension because whilst he deals with one member of the Birling household the audience can suspect and imagine what the other members of the family have done to contribute towards Eva Smith’s suicide.