The BBC's adaptation of An Inspector Calls may have been as 'subtle as a sledgehammer' 1 in its political motives, with the Inspector's well known 'fire and blood and anguish' speech echoeing the general public's feeling of dismay at the treatment of the refugee crisis. However many reviewers missed the mark with, what I felt, was the most interesting directorial decision of the adaptation.
Notably in JB Priestley's play, Eva is an absent character. The audience never see the photo of her, nor is her existence verified - the ambigious nature of the 'plot twist' within the original play, although making her existence probable, does not clarify her definate being, nor her dealings with every member of the family. Eva is often therefore interpretted as a representative of the working class, more a figment matyr than an identifiable person. Therefore it was a very strategic decision by the BBC to give Eva a clear identity - her painful death is played out in gory detail. By viewing her direct dealings with the Birling family and her horrific death, the BBC went beyond Priestley's original focus and did not spare its middle class audience. We were not confined to our comforting dining rooms, allowed the hope that we were not to blame for Eva's death, nor that the invisible mass of Eva's or refugees were suffering seperately to our existance.
Simply by seeing Eva in hospital, tube in throat whilst convulsing and wretching poison, the audience were not spared her agony, much as in reality we are not spared the agony of the photo of a poor child's death in the media. Priestley's original message of social responsibility may sit deep within many of us, but fortunately the BBC showed the reality of the anguish suffered for those whom still dare to view the majority as nameless and faceless, separate to our own existence.
"But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and a chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives and what we think and say and do. We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught in fire and blood and anguish. Good night."
An Inspector Calls
1. An Inspector Calls, BBC One, review