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An inspector calls Oxford theater studies students

On Friday, November 22, theater studies students went to see “An Inspector Calls” a play written by English dramatist J. B. Priestley at the Oxford Playhouse. Most of us had no prior knowledge about the play. Judging by the name, I expected it to be an action-play; a comedy where an inspector solves crimes. Though the inspector in this play was in a way “solving” a crime, the tone of the play is much more serious and more political than I expected. The play was written in 1945 right after the Second World War, and it is set in 1912, right before the First World War. It was written to show the importance of everyone working together as “one body,” to think about the impact of their actions of others and learn from our mistakes. I think this is a good moment in time to run the play production, especially given our current world situation as well as the political situation in both the US and UK.

The play starts with the inspector who visits a rich family during an engagement party, telling them about a young girl, Eva Smith, who had committed suicide earlier that evening. Throughout the play we learn about how all the members of the family one by one crossed paths with Eva Smith and treated her in such a way that it eventually led to her taking her own life.

Most of the interactions between the characters took place outside, in a dark, gritty and wet street, with the rich family’s house placed above the ground in the background above the poor families below. This showed the stark contrast in standard of living for the upper and lower classes in British society at the time the play was set.

Towards the end of the play, the inspector delivered a powerful speech. Up to that point we had been watching the whole family slowly realizing what they have done and how their actions have affected this young girl. Especially the two younger siblings, Sheila and Eric, completely changed their attitude at the end. The inspector’s speech turns that same attitude towards us, the audience, forcing us as well to rethink how we treat others around us, because like he says, there are many Eva Smiths out there.

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