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An Inspector Calls - All Acts (1,2,3) - J. B. Priestley (Lyrics)

The dining room of a fairly large suburban house, belonging to a prosperous manufacturer. It has good solid furniture of the period. The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and homelike. (If a realistic set is used, then it should be swung back, as it was in the production at the New Theatre. By doing this, you can have the dining-table centre downstage during Act One, when it is needed there, and then, swinging back, can reveal the fireplace for Act Two, and then for Act Three can show a small table with a telephone on it, downstage of fireplace. By this time the dining-table and its chairs have moved well upstage. Producers who wish to avoid this tricky business, which involves two re-settings of the scene and some very accurate adjustments of the extra flats necessary would be well advised to dispense of an ordinary realistic set, if only because the dining table becomes a nuisance. The lighting should be pink and intimate until the Inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder.)

At the rise of the curtain, the four Birlings and Gerald are seated at the table, with Arthur Birling at one end, his wife at the other, Eric downstage, and Sheila and Gerald seated upstage. Edna, the parlourmaid, is just clearing the table, which has no cloth, of dessert plates and champagne glasses, etc., and replacing them with a decanter of port, cigar box, and cigarettes. Port glasses are already on the table. All five are in the evening dress of the period, the men in tails and white ties, not dinner jackets. Arthur Birling is a heavy-looking, rather portentous looking man in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech. His wife is about fifty, a rather cold woman and her husband's social superior. Sheila is a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited. Gerald Croft is an attractive chap about thirty, rather too manly to be a dandy but very much the easy well-bred man about town. Eric is in his early twenties, not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive. At the moment they have all had a good dinner, are celebrating a special occasion, and are pleased with themselves.

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An Inspector Calls - All Acts (1,2,3) - J. B. Priestley (Lyrics)

The dining room of a fairly large suburban house, belonging to a prosperous manufacturer. It has good solid furniture of the period. The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not cosy and homelike. (If a realistic set is used, then it should be swung back, as it was in the production at the New Theatre. By doing this, you can have the dining-table centre downstage during Act One, when it is needed there, and then, swinging back, can reveal the fireplace for Act Two, and then for Act Three can show a small table with a telephone on it, downstage of fireplace. By this time the dining-table and its chairs have moved well upstage. Producers who wish to avoid this tricky business, which involves two re-settings of the scene and some very accurate adjustments of the extra flats necessary would be well advised to dispense of an ordinary realistic set, if only because the dining table becomes a nuisance. The lighting should be pink and intimate until the Inspector arrives, and then it should be brighter and harder.)

At the rise of the curtain, the four Birlings and Gerald are seated at the table, with Arthur Birling at one end, his wife at the other, Eric downstage, and Sheila and Gerald seated upstage. Edna, the parlourmaid, is just clearing the table, which has no cloth, of dessert plates and champagne glasses, etc., and replacing them with a decanter of port, cigar box, and cigarettes. Port glasses are already on the table. All five are in the evening dress of the period, the men in tails and white ties, not dinner jackets. Arthur Birling is a heavy-looking, rather portentous looking man in his middle fifties with fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech. His wife is about fifty, a rather cold woman and her husband's social superior. Sheila is a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and rather excited. Gerald Croft is an attractive chap about thirty, rather too manly to be a dandy but very much the easy well-bred man about town. Eric is in his early twenties, not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive. At the moment they have all had a good dinner, are celebrating a special occasion, and are pleased with themselves.

Act One

Arthur Birling: Giving us the port, Edna? That’s right. ( he pushes it towards Eric.) You ought to like this port, Gerald, as a matter of fact, Finchley told me it's exactly the same port your father gets from him.

Gerald: Then it'll be all right. The governor prides himself on being a good judge of a port. I don’t pretend to know much about it.

Sheila: (gaily, possessively) I should jolly well think not, Gerald, I'd hate you to know all about port – like one of these purple-faced old men.
Arthur Birling: here, I’m not a purple-faced old man.


Sheila Birling: no, not yet. But then you don't know all about port – do you?

Birling: (noticing that his wife has not taken any) Now then, Sybil, you must a take a little tonight. Special occasion, y'know, eh?

Sheila: Yes, go on, mummy. You must drink our health.

Mrs Birling : (smiling) Very well, then. Just a little, thank you. (to Edna, who is about to go, with tray.) all right, Edna. I'll ring from the drawing room when we want coffee. Probably in about half an hour.

Edna: (going) Yes, ma'am.

Edna goes out. They now have all the glasses filled. Birling beams at them and clearly relaxes.

Birling: Well, well – this is very nice. Very nice. Good dinner too, Sybil. Tell cook from me.


Gerald: (politely) Absolutely first class.

Mrs Birling: (reproachfully) Arthur, you're not supposed to say such things-

Birling: Oh – come, come – I’m treating Gerald like one of the family. And I'm sure he won't object.

Sheila: (with mocking aggressiveness) Go on, Gerald – just you object!

Gerald: (smiling) Wouldn't dream of it. In fact, I insist upon being one of the family now. I've been trying long enough, haven't I? (as she does not reply, with more insistence.) Haven't I? You know I have.
Mrs Birling: (smiling) Of course she does.

Sheila: (half serious, half playful) Yes – except for all last summer, when you never came near me, and I wondered what had happened to you.

Gerald: And I’ve told you – I was awfully busy at the works all that time.



Sheila: (same tone as before) Yes, that's what you say.

Mrs Birling: Now, Sheila, don't tease him. When you're married you'll realize that men with important work to do sometimes have to spend nearly all their time and energy on their business. You'll have to get used to that, just as I had.

Sheila: I don't believe I will. (half playful, half serious, to Gerald.) So you be careful.

Gerald: Oh – I will, I will.

Eric suddenly guffaws. His parents look at him.

Sheila: (severely) Now – what's the joke?

Eric: I don't know – really. Suddenly I felt I just had to laugh.



Sheila: You're squiffy.

Eric: I’m not.

Mrs Birling: What an expression, Sheila! Really the things you girls pick up these days!
Eric: If you think that's the best she can do-

Sheila: Don't be an ass, Eric.

Mrs Birling: Now stop it, you two. Arthur, what about this famous toast of yours?

Birling: Yes, of course. (clears his throat.) Well, Gerald, I know you agreed that we should only have this quiet little family party. It's a pity Sir George and – we – Lady Croft can't be with us, but they're abroad and so it can't be helped. As I told you, they sent me a very nice cable – couldn't be nicer. I'm not sorry that we're celebrating quietly like this-


Mrs Birling: Much nicer really.

Gerald: I agree.

Birling: So do I, but it makes speech-making more difficult-

Eric: (not too rudely) Well. Don't do any. We'll drink their health and have done with it.

Birling: No, we won't. It's one of the happiest nights of my life. And one day, I hope, Eric, when you've got a daughter of your own, you'll understand why. Gerald, I’m going to tell you frankly, without any pretences, that your engagement to Sheila means a tremendous lot to me. She'll make you happy, and I’m sure you'll make her happy. You're just the kind of son-in-law I always wanted. Your father and I have been friendly rivals in business for some time now – though crofts limited are both older and bigger than Birling and company – and now you've brought us together, and perhaps we may look forward to the time when Crofts and Birlings are no longer competing but are working together – for lower costs and higher prices.

Gerald: Hear, hear! And I think my father would agree to that.

Mrs Birling: Now, Arthur, I don't think you ought to talk business on an occasion like this.


Sheila: Neither do I. All wrong.

Birling: Quite so, I agree with you. I only mentioned it in passing. What I did want to say was – that Sheila’s a lucky girl – and I think you're a pretty fortunate young man too, Gerald.

Gerald: I know I am – this once anyhow.

Birling: (raising his glass) So here's wishing the pair of you – the very best that life can bring. Gerald and Sheila.

Mrs Birling: (raising her glass, smiling) Yes, Gerald. Yes, Sheila darling. Our congratulations and very best wishes!

Gerald: Thank you.

Mrs Birling: Eric!


Eric: (rather noisily) All the best! She's got a nasty temper sometimes – but she's not bad really. Good old Sheila!

Sheila: Chump! I can't drink to this, can I? When do I drink?

Gerald: You can drink to me.

Sheila: (quiet and serious now) All right then. I drink to you, Gerald.

//for a moment they look at each other//

Gerald: (quietly) Thank you. And I drink to you – and hope I can make you as happy as you deserve to be.

Shelia: (trying to be light and easy) You be careful – or I’ll start weeping.


Gerald: (smiling) Well, perhaps this will help to stop it. (he produces a ring case.)

Sheila: (excited) Oh – Gerald – you’ve got it – is it the one you wanted me to have?

Gerald: (giving the case to her) Yes – the very one.

Sheila: (taking out the ring) Oh – it's wonderful! Look – mummy – isn't it a beauty? Oh – darling -

(she kisses Gerald hastily.)

Eric: steady the buffs!

Sheila: (who has put the ring on, admiringly) I think it's perfect. Now I really feel engaged.


Mrs Birling: So you ought, darling. It's a lovely ring. Be careful with it.

Sheila: careful! I'll never let it go out of my sight for an instant.

Mrs Birling: (smiling) Well, it came just at the right moment. That was clever of you, Gerald. Now, Arthur, if you've no more to say, I think Sheila and I had better go into the drawing room and leave you men-

Birling: (rather heavily) I just want to say this. (noticing that Sheila is still admiring her ring.) are you listening, Sheila? This concerns you too. And after all, I don't often make speeches at you -

Sheila: I’m sorry, daddy. Actually, I was listening.

//she looks attentive, as they all do. He holds them for a moment before continuing.//

Birling: I’m delighted about this engagement and I hope it won't be too long before you're married. And I want to say this. There's a good deal of silly talk about these days – but – and I speak as a hard-headed businessman, who has to take risks and know what he's about – I say, you can ignore all this silly pessimistic talk. When you marry, you'll be marrying at a very good time. Yes, a very good time – and soon it'll be an even better time. Last month, just because the miners came out on strike, there's a lot of wild talk about possible labour trouble in the near future. Don't worry. We've passed the worst of it. We employers, at last, are coming together to see that our interests – and the interests of capital – are properly protected. And we're in for a time of steadily increasing prosperity.


Gerald: I believe you're right, sir.

Eric: What about war?

Birling: Glad you mentioned it, Eric. I'm coming to that. Just because the Kaiser makes a speech or two, or a few German officers have too much to drink and begin taking nonsense, you'll hear some people say that war's inevitable. And to that I say – fiddlesticks! The Germans don't want war. Nobody wants war, except some half-civilized folks in the Balkans. And why? There's too much at stake these days. Everything to lose and nothing to gain by war.

Eric: Yes, I know – but still -

Birling: Just let me finish, Eric. You've got a lot to learn yet. And I’m taking as a hard-headed, practical man of business. And I say there isn't a chance of war. The world's developing so fast that it'll make war impossible. Look at the progress we're making. In a year or two, we'll have aeroplanes that will be able to go anywhere. And look at the way the automobile's making headway – bigger and faster all the time. And then ships. Why, a friend of mine went over this new liner last week – the Titanic – she sails next week – forty-six thousand eight hundred tons – new york in five days – and every luxury – and unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable. That's what you've got to keep your eye on, facts like that, progress like that – and not a few German officers taking nonsense and a few scaremongers here making a fuss about nothing. Now you three young people, just listen to this – and remember what I’m telling you now. In twenty or thirty year's time – let's say, in 1940 – you may be giving a little party like this – your son or daughter might be getting engaged – and I tell you, by that time you'll be living in a world that'll have forgotten all these capital versus labour agitations and all these silly little war scares. There'll be peace and prosperity and rapid progress everywhere – except of course in Russia, which will always be behindhand naturally.

Mrs Birling: Arthur!

// has Mrs Birling shows signs of interrupting.//


Birling: Yes, my dear, I know – I’m talking too much. But you youngsters just remember what I said. We can't let these Bernard Shaws and H.G.Wellses do all the talking. We hard-headed practical business men must say something sometime. And we don't guess – we've had experience - and we know.

Mrs Birling. (rising. The others rise) Yes, of course, dear. Well, don't keep Gerald in here too long. Eric – I want you a minute.

// she and Sheila and Eric go out. Birling and Gerald sit down again.//

Birling: Cigar?

Gerald: No, thanks. Can't really enjoy them.

Birling: (taking one himself) Ah, you don't know what you're missing. I like a good cigar. (indicating decanter.) help yourself.

Gerald: Thank you.


// Birling lights his cigar and Gerald, who had lit a cigarette, helps himself to port, then pushes the decanter to Birling.//

Birling: Thanks. (confidentially.) by the way, there's something I’d like to mention – in strict confidence – while we're by ourselves. I have an idea that your mother – lady croft – while she doesn't object to my girl – feels you might have done better for yourself socially - // Gerald, rather embarrassed, begins to murmur some dissent, but Birling checks him.// No, Gerald, that's all right. Don't blame her. She comes from an old country family – landed people and so forth – and so it's only natural. But what I wanted to say is – there's a fair chance that I might find my way into the next honours list. Just a knighthood, of course.

Gerald: Oh – I say – congratulations!

Birling: Thanks, but it's a bit too early for that. So don't say anything. But I’ve had a hint or two. You see, I was Lord Mayor here two years ago when royalty visited us. And I’ve always been regarded as a sound useful party man. So – well – I gather there's a very good chance of a knighthood – so long as we behave ourselves, don't get into the police court or start a scandal – eh? ( laughs complacently.)

Gerald: (laughs) You seem to be a nice well-behaved family -

Birling: We think we are -

Gerald: So if that's the only obstacle, sir, I think you might as well accept my congratulations now.


Birling: No, no, I couldn't do that. And don't say anything yet.

Gerald: Not even to my mother? I know she'd be delighted.

Birling: Well, when she comes back, you might drop a hint to her. And you can promise her that we'll try to keep out of trouble during the next few months.

//they both laugh. Eric enters//

Eric: What's the joke? Started telling stories?

Birling: No. Want another glass of port?

Eric: (sitting down) Yes, please. (takes decanter and helps himself.) mother says we mustn't stay too long. But I don't think it matters. I left'em talking about clothes again. You'd think a girl had never any clothes before she gets married. Women are potty about 'em.


Birling: Yes, but you've got to remember, my boy, that clothes mean something quite different to a woman. Not just something to wear – and not only something to make 'em look prettier – but – well, a sort of sign or token of their self-respect.

Gerald: That's true.

Eric: (eagerly) Yes, I remember – (but he checks himself.)

Inspector: (very plainly) I said yes – I do understand her. And she's right.

Mrs Birling: that – I consider – is a trifle impertinent, Inspector. // Sheila gives short hysterical laugh// Now, what is it, Sheila?

Sheila: I don't know. Perhaps it's because impertinent is such a silly word.

Mrs Birling: in any case--


Sheila: but, mother, do stop before it's too late.

Mrs Birling: if you mean that the Inspector will take offence-

inspector: (cutting in, calmly) no, no. I never take offence.

Mrs Birling: I'm glad to hear it. Though I must add that it seems to me that we have more reason for taking offence.

Inspector: let's leave offence out of it, shall we?

Gerald: I think we'd better.

Sheila: so do I.


Mrs Birling: (rebuking them) I'm talking to the inspector now if you don't mind. (to the inspector, rather grandly.) I realize that you may have to conduct some sort of inquiry, but I must say that so far you seem to be conducting in a rather peculiar and offensive manner. You know of course that my husband was lord mayor only two years ago and that he's still a magistrate--

Gerald: (cutting, rather impatiently) Mrs Birling, the inspector knows all that. And I don't think it's a very good idea to remind him--

Sheila: (cutting in) It's crazy. Stop it, please, mother.

Inspector: (imperturbable) Yes. Now, what about Mr Birling?

Mrs Birling: He's coming back in a moment. He's just talking to my son, Eric, who seems to be in an excitable silly mood.

Inspector: What's the matter with him?

Mrs Birling: Eric? Oh – I'm afraid he may have had rather too much to drink tonight. We were having a little celebration here--


inspector: (cutting in) isn't he used to drinking?

Mrs Birling: No, of course not. He's only a boy.

Inspector: No, he's a young man. And some young men drink far too much.

Sheila: And Eric's one of them.

Mrs Birling: (very sharply) Sheila!

Sheila:(urgently) I don't want to get poor Eric into trouble. He's probably in enough trouble already. But we really must stop these silly pretences. This isn't the time to pretend that Eric isn't used to drinking. He's been steadily drinking too much for the last two years.

Mrs Birling: (staggered) it isn't true. You know him, Gerald -and you're a man – you must know it isn't true.


Inspector:(as Gerald hesitates) Well, Mr Croft?

Gerald: (apologetically, to Mrs Birling) I'm afraid it is, y'know. Actually, I've never seen much of him outside this house – but- well, I have gathered that he does drink pretty hard.

Mrs Birling: (bitterly) And this is the time you choose to tell me.

Sheila: yes, of course, it is. That's what I meant when I talked about building up a wall that's sure to be knocked flat. It makes it all harder to bear.

Mrs Birling: But it's you – and not the inspector here – who's doing it--

Sheila: yes, but don't you see? He hasn't started on you yet.

Mrs Birling: (after a pause, recovering herself) if necessary I shall be glad to answer any questions the inspector wishes to ask me. Though naturally, I don't know anything about this girl.


Inspector: (gravely) we'll see, Mrs Birling.

//enter birling, who closes the door behind him//

Birling: (rather hot, bothered) I've been trying to persuade Eric to go to bed, but he won't. Now he says you told him to stay up. Did you?

Inspector: Yes, I did.

Birling: why?

Inspector: because I shall want to talk to him, Mr Birling.

Birling: I can't see why you should, but if you must, then I suggest you do it now. Have him in and get it over, then let the lad go.


Inspector: no, I can't do that yet. I'm sorry, but he'll have to wait.

Birling: now look here, inspector--

inspector: (cutting in, with authority) he must wait his turn.

Sheila: (to Mrs Birling) you see?

Mrs Birling: no, I don't. And please be quiet, Sheila.

Birling: (angrily) Inspector, I've told you before, I don't like the tone nor the way you're handling this inquiry. And I don't propose to give you much rope.

Inspector: you needn't give me any rope.


Sheila: (rather wildly, with laugh) No, he's giving us the rope – so that we'll hang ourselves.

Birling: (to Mrs Birling) What's the matter with that child?

Mrs Birling: over-excited. And she refuses to go. (with sudden anger, to the inspector.) well, come along – what is it you want to know?

Inspector: (coolly) at the end of January, last year, this girl Eva Smith had to leave Milwards, because Miss Birling compelled them to discharge her, and then she stopped being Eva Smith, looking for a job, and became Daisy Renton, with other ideas. (sharply turning on him.) Mr Croft, when did you first get to know her?

// An exclamation of surprise from Birling and Mrs Birling. //

Gerald: where did you get the idea that I did know her?

Sheila: it's no use, Gerald. You're wasting time.


Inspector: as soon as I mentioned the name Daisy Renton, it was obvious you'd known her. You gave yourself away at once.

Sheila: (bitterly) of course he did.

Inspector: and anyhow I knew already. When and where did you first meet her?

Gerald: all right, if you must have it. I met her first, sometime in March last year, in the stalls bar at the palace. I mean the palace music hall here in Brumley-

Sheila: Well, we didn't think you meant Buckingham palace.

Gerald: (to Sheila) thanks. You're going to be a great help, I can see. You've said your piece, and you're obviously going to hate this, so why on earth don't you leave us to it?

Sheila: nothing would induce me. I want to understand exactly what happens when a man says he's so busy at the works that he can hardly ever find time to come and see the girl he's supposed to be in love with. I wouldn't miss it for worlds--


Inspector: (with authority) yes, Mr Croft – in the stalls bar at the palace variety theatre . . .

Gerald: I happened to look in, one night, after a long dull day, and as the show wasn't very bright, I went down to the bar for a drink. It's a favourite haunt of women of the town--

Mrs Birling: women of the town?

Birling: yes, yes. But I see no point in mentioning the subject – especially - (indicating Sheila.)

Mrs Birling: it would be much better if Sheila didn't listen to this story at all.

Sheila: but you're forgetting I'm supposed to be engaged to the hero of it. Go on, Gerald. You went down to the bar, which is a favourite haunt of the women of the town.

Gerald: I'm glad I amuse you-


Inspector: (sharply) come along Mr Croft. What happened?

Gerald: I didn't propose to stay long down there. I hate those hard-eyed dough-faced women. But then I noticed a girl who looked quite different. She was very pretty – soft brown hair and big dark eyes- (breaks off.) My god!

Inspector: what's the matter?

Gerald: (distressed) sorry – I – well, I've suddenly realized – taken it in properly – that's she's dead--

Inspector: (harshly) yes, she's dead.

Sheila: and probably between us we killed her.

Mrs Birling: (sharply) Sheila, don't talk nonsense.


Sheila: you wait, mother.

Inspector: (to Gerald) go on.

Gerald: she looked young and fresh and charming and altogether out of place down here. And obviously, she wasn't enjoying herself. Old joe meggarty, half-drunk and goggle-eyed, had wedged her into a corner with that obscene fat carcass of his--

Mrs Birling: (cutting in) there's no need to be disgusting. And surely you don't mean Alderman Meggarty?

Gerald: of course I do. He's a notorious womanizer as well as being one of the worst sots and rogues in Brumley--

Inspector: Quite right.

Mrs Birling: (staggered) well, really! Aldermand Meggarty! I must say, we are learning something tonight.


Sheila: (coolly) of course we are. But everybody knows about that horrible old Meggarty. A girl I know had to see him at the town hall one afternoon and she only escaped with a torn blouse--

Birling: ( sharply, shocked) Sheila!

Inspector: (to Gerald) go on, please.

Gerald: the girl saw me looking at her and then gave me a glance that was nothing less than a cry for help. So I went across and told Joe Meggarty some nonsense – that the manager had a message for him or something like that – got him out of the way – and then told the girl that if she didn't want any more of that sort of thing, she'd better let me take her out of there. She agreed at once.

Inspector: where did you go?

Gerald: we went along to the county hotel, which I knew would be quiet at that time of night, and we had a drink or two and talked.

Inspector: did she drink much at the time?


Gerald: no. she only had a port and lemonade – or some such concoction. All she wanted was to talk – a little friendliness – and I gathered that joe meggarty's advances had left her rather shaken – as well they might--

Inspector: she talked about herself?

Gerald: yes. I asked her questions about herself. She told me her name was Daisy Renton, that she'd lost both parents, that she came originally from somewhere outside Brumley. She also told me she'd had a job in one of the works here and had had to leave after a strike. She said something about the shop too, but wouldn't say which it was, and she was deliberately vague about what happened. I couldn't get any exact details from her about herself – just because she felt I was interested and friendly – but at the same time, she wanted to be Daisy Renton – and not Eva Smith. In fact, I heard that name for the first time tonight. What she did let slip – though she didn't mean to – was that she was desperately hard up and at that moment was actually hungry. I made the people at the county find some food for her.

Inspector: and then you decided to keep her – as your mistress?

Mrs Birling: what?

Sheila: of course, mother. It was obvious from the start. Go on,
Gerald. Don't mind mother.

Gerald: (steadily ) I discovered, not that night but two nights later, when we met again – not accidentally this time of course - that in fact she hadn't a penny and was going to be turned out of the miserable back room she had. It happened that a friend of mine, Charlie Brunswick, had gone off to Canada for six months and had let me have the key of a nice little set of rooms he had – in morgan terrace – and had asked me to keep an eye on them for him and use them if I wanted to. So I insisted on Daisy moving into those rooms and I made her take some money to keep her going there. (carefully, to the inspector.) I want you to understand that I didn't install her there so that I could make love to her. I made her go to Morgan Terrace because I was sorry for her, and didn't like the idea of her going back to the Palace bar. I didn't ask for anything in return.
Inspector: I see.

Sheila: yes, but why are you saying that to him? You ought to be saying it to me,

Gerald: I suppose I ought really. I'm sorry, Sheila. Somehow I--

Sheila: (cutting in, as he hesitates) I know. Somehow he makes you.



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