I am writing you this letter because I feel it will help you in your acting career to play the part of Sheila in “An Inspector Calls”. I enclose notes on the play and how I feel your character should be performed.
This play is set on an evening in early April 1912. We join the Birlings celebrating your characters engagement to Gerald croft (the son of Sir George croft.)
The Birlings are a relatively affluent family who live in the industrial town of Brumley in the midlands. Their celebration is interrupted by Edna, the parlour maid. She announces the arrival of inspector Goole. The inspector has brought some unfortunate news of the suicide death earlier that day of a desperate young woman, Eva Smith / Daisy Renton.
As the inspector carries on through the investigation, we find out how each of the Birlings was involved with the young woman and may have caused her death.
The moral that JBP was trying to convey to the audience is that there are millions of Eva Smiths still in the world and that we are all responsible for each other.
Sheila is the daughter of Mr & Mrs Birling. She is a young, attractive woman who has just been engaged. She is very pleased with her life at the start of the play. But little does she know that her happiness is soon going to be destroyed just like her faith in her family. Her reaction to the tragedy is one of the few hopeful things to come out of the play; she is genuinely upset about the death of Eva Smith. She is very concerned by the girl’s suicide and thinks her father’s behaviour was unacceptable, she also willingly agrees that she treated her badly but didn’t mean any harm.
She had gone into a shop in a bad mood and was trying on a dress and thought she looked awful in it. Eva smith had smiled and Sheila thought she was laughing at her. So got angry so told the manager that Eva had been cheeky and insolent and that she must be sacked, or she would close the Birlings account with their store.
This left Eva without a job and in desperate need for money. A helpless Eva cannot find another job so turns to prostitution.
In act 2 Sheila breaks off her engagement with Gerald after hearing his story, she couldn’t believe that Eva had turned to prostitution to earn a living after getting sacked from the store. But what shocked her most was that Gerald could act so low towards a woman.
She is also appalled by her mother’s lack of sympathy towards Eva and that she had refused to help her when she went to the Brumley Women’s Charity Organisation.
She was pregnant and single and at first lied that her husband had deserted her. She called herself Mrs Birling, which the real Mrs Birling thought was total rudeness and since she didn’t believe her she used her power to have Eva’s plea for help turned down.
Sheila later discovers that her little brother Eric was also involved in the enquiry.
He had picked up Eva one night while he was drunk and forced her to let him into her room. But after a couple of meetings and finding out that she was pregnant he offered to marry her but she refused because she knew that they did not love each other and did not want Eric to feel sympathetic towards her. Eric had stolen some money from his father’s office for Eva but she didn’t accept it when she found out it was stolen.
As Eva’s story unfolds, Sheila realises that she’s stuck in the middle and is partly to blame. However she still is persistent that it’s not her fault. After a while of watching the inspector Sheila becomes suspicious of him. She realises that he is not a real inspector and is playing with all their heads.
As he goes around to each one of them he shows them each one of them, he shows them each a photograph but only one person can see it at a time; so he could be changing the photo every time.
Even though she realises that the inspector may not be real. She knows that there are many people like Eva Smith/Daisy Renton out there who are compressed under so many problems that they just break down.
The character of Sheila changes throughout the play. In the beginning she acts very selfless and childish but as the play goes on she learns how to be more mature, this makes her parents treat her more like an adult and not a child.