An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley

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1 ‘the production at the New Theatre’ – This was the first production of the play in England and took place in 1946 (the actual premiere was a year earlier in the USSR). The former ‘New Theatre’ (now renamed ‘The Noël Coward Theatre’) is in St Martin’s Lane, London.

1 ‘some very accurate adjustments of the extra flats necessary’ – Priestley is writing from his experience of the New Theatre production. ‘Flats’ are wooden frames covered with fabric or board and frequently painted to depict scenery. They would have to be moved as the stage revolves.

1 ‘[…] dispense with an ordinary realistic set.’ – It is worth noting in this context that the play explores the boundaries of theatrical realism.

1 ‘The lighting should be pink and intimate until the INSPECTOR arrives and then it should be brighter and harder.’ – The Inspector shines a light into some of the dark places which the Birlings do not wish to be illuminated.

1 ‘rather provincial in his speech’ – The dinner party is a celebration of Sheila Birling’s engagement to Gerald Croft, who is a little higher up the social ladder than the Birlings. The head of the family’s regional accent emphasises this.

1 ‘a rather cold woman and her husband's social superior.’ – Birling has married above himself and he has, no doubt, encouraged his daughter to do the same.

2 ‘the well-bred young man-about-town’ – Gerald is confirmed as being of a higher social status than the Birlings; the phrase ‘man-about-town’ implies a certain worldliness and sophistication.

2 ‘not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive.’ – Eric initially provides a foil for Gerald, to whom he feels inferior: hence the contradiction of being both ‘shy’ and ‘assertive’.

2 ‘Giving us the port, Edna?’ – Birling’s first words are ‘provincial’. A well-bred man would be more formal with his servants.

2 ‘Finchley told me it's exactly the same port your father gets from him.’ – Birling means to imply that he is the economic (if not social) equal of the Crofts, but it is hardly ‘well-bred’ to mention the wine-merchant both families buy from and the audience (and Gerald) may indeed guess that Birling has, in fact, asked Finchley to provide him with the same port the Crofts generally order.

2 ‘The governor’ – aristocratic slang of the period for ‘father’.

2 ‘I don’t pretend to know much about it.’ – Gerald is being ‘well-bred’. A gentleman never boasts of any particular expertise.

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J. B. Priestley
the Unkindness of Ravens If you have found our critical notes helpful, why not try the first Tower Notes novel, a historical fantasy set in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

Available HERE where you can read the opening chapters.

The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul