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Beyond Conventional Stage Practices: Tempest Vs. Our Country’s Good


In Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Excellent and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, methods consisting of scene titles, a play within a play, self-referencing and music are utilised in order to efficiently convey messages that would not be as extensive using just ‘conventional’ practices. As Our Nation’s Great is frequently categorised as impressive theatre, making use of scene titles and the carrying out of a play, in this case The Recruiting Officer, as a substantial aspect of the plot are both probably the most effective techniques in which to advise the audience of their setting and hence encourage them to believe not only of the play’s action, but rather the moral message it tries to interact. On the contrary, The Tempest may be seen as a ‘play about a play’; the portrayal of this is probably just possible through self-referencing. In addition, both playwrights enhance the illustration of some other core styles utilizing such strategies, such as the power of drama in Our Country’s Excellent which of conflict and consistency in The Tempest.

In different productions of Wertenbaker’s Our Nation’s Good, scene titles have actually been shown before each commences. Not just do these, such as ‘Punishment’ for Act One Scene Three serve as an introduction to the upcoming events, however range the audience from the play itself. One possible ‘consequence’ of theatre is that one may end up being lost in the events happening and as a result not take note of any moral concerns proposed. Not for absolutely nothing does Guv Arthur Phillip state that ‘the Greeks thought that it was a citizen’s task to see a play. It was a sort of work in that it required attention, judgement, perseverance, all social virtues’ in order to safeguard the positive impact of theatre. Hence, Wertenbaker makes use of such scene titles to remind the audience of the ethical message depicted in each scene, a common quality of the category of impressive theatre. For instance, the scene title ‘Punishment’ functions as a springboard for questioning the civility of British society due to its established belief that ‘prison works’ due to the apparent tendency of criminals of being ‘innate’. One might argue that not only does this title reflect British society in the eighteenth century, but likewise the attitudes provided in the 1980s due to Margaret Thatcher’s cutting of jail rehabilitation programmes. The discovery that contemporary British civilisation might in truth not have actually advanced a great deal in regards to penalty is undoubtedly stunning, highlighted by the brief and cutting scene title.

Although not necessarily belonging to the category of Epic Theatre, The Tempest does include strong indications of metatheatre, thus possibly having similar impacts on the audience in regards to motivating them to react attentively to its representation of the world. The most palpable suggestion of this is through Prospero, who probably is a representation of Shakespeare himself. There is a strong emphasis on stories and reviewing the past, specifically when Prospero reveals the factor behind ‘the prince of power’ and Miranda’s inhabiting of such a barren isle. He tells her of ‘this story’ which ‘were most impertinent’, hence referencing theatre and developing in between Prospero, the storyteller, and Shakespeare, the playwright, in between which there is perhaps little difference. The link between Prospero and Shakespeare is enhanced through him purchasing Ariel to ‘go make thyself like a nymph o’th’sea’ and praising him by saying ‘bravely the figure of this shrew hast thou performed, my Ariel’. Prospero has control of his servant, as a playwright has of the fundamental actions carried out by the actors. Furthermore, the reality that Ariel in Act One Scene 2 is ‘undetectable to others, playing and singing’, which would require excellent stage impacts in order to appear credible, creates a sense of efficiency within the play itself. Maybe Shakespeare self-references considerably in this play as a mark of the end of his profession due to it being the last play he wrote alone, however one can not ignore the unavoidable impacts such a method would have on the audience in terms of ethical messages.

The style of reconciliation and redemption is illustrated through the arts in both plays. In many cases in The Tempest music symbolises magnificent harmony and the development of the island’s discordant foundations into those of a more amicable nature. For instance, Ariel singing to assist Ferdinand to Miranda achieves success; ‘This music crept by me upon the waters … I have followed it’, leading to Prospero attaining his objective of resolution via the unity of Miranda and Ferdinand: ‘Spirit, fine spirit, I’ll release thee within 2 days for this’. The contrast between the controlling usage of magic, such as the whipping up of a storm in Act One Scene One and Prospero’s usage of Ariel throughout the play to manage those on the island, with Prospero’s renunciation of his control in Act Five Scene One plainly shows the shift from discordance to civil harmony. Prospero abjures his ‘rough magic’ through breaking his personnel, therefore enabling nature to return to have full supremacy. The production of The Recruiting Officer in Our Country’s Great and the conversation of the merits and drawbacks of allowing convicts to act in a play not only advises the audience that they are watching a play themselves, but also brings core themes to light. From the very first discussing of putting on a play, Midshipman Harry Maker recommends that it would ‘educate the convicts’, suggesting the possibility of redemption via knowledge. Yet, Ralph Clark’s shocked question of ‘who would act in a play’ reveals his assumption that the convicts would be not able to participate due to their ‘inherent criminal propensity’. The convicts’ incomprehension is definitely highlighted during the very first audition; nonetheless, this plain contrast between the convicts’ initial ignorance and behaviour and their increased understanding as the rehearsals progress effectively highlights the power of theatre. At first, convicts such as Meg Long and Dabby Bryant are incredibly repulsive and insensitive, and the female convicts talking freely about sex increases this effect. For instance, Meg stating ‘I’ll play you tight as a virgin’ is certainly troubling to hear, even for the contemporary audience. Furthermore, Dabby Bryant’s line ‘Liz Morden’s going to be hanged’ highlights her insensitivity and lack of good manners. Through only taking their dialogue and behaviour in this scene into account, one would not be incorrect in stating that they were apparently corrupt. However, even after the very first audition, Ralph Clark safeguards theatre by valuing its powerful influence: ‘I asked a few of the found guilty ladies to read me some lines, these ladies who act frequently no much better than animals … stating those well-balanced lines of Mr Farquhar, they seemed to acquire a dignity, they appeared– they appeared to lose a few of their corruption’. Through this single line the redemptive power of theatre is recognised, and its magnitude it increased through Ralph Clark being its offender, an officer who in the beginning did not think in the possibility of informing such second-class residents.

In this first audition of The Hiring Officer, the power of language is likewise resolved. Prior to Mary reading lines from the script, Ralph Clark asks her, ‘You know what a play is?’ in a rather patronising manner. Nevertheless, Mary reciting “Whilst there is life there is hope, Sir” right away develops Clark’s regard for her as he quietens Dabby in order to allow her to continue reading; ‘Shht. She hasn’t completed. Start again, Brenham, that’s good.’ The simple capability of literacy right away separates convict from ‘animal’, and permits them to get power and status through understanding. Wertenbaker also utilises the lines from The Recruiting Officer being recited as a referral to the Our Country’s Good’s primary themes. For example, the line ‘Whilst there is life there is hope’ resonates on the potentiality of growth in their little nest. This is reinforced by Guv Phillip comparing theatre to civilisation, and how ‘it will remind them (the convicts) that there is more to life than criminal offense, penalty’ via the convicts ‘speaking a fine-tuned, literate language and expressing sentiments of a delicacy they are not used to’. He continues to describe the nest as ‘we’, therefore bridging the space between found guilty and officer and highlighting the effect that operating in a group by putting on the play could have on their small society. Placing on a play might offer the convicts with a sense of identity and self-worth, and allow them to satisfy their possible as humans, accomplishments which would not be possible with punishment alone.

Nevertheless, one could argue that not all ramifications of the arts are favorable. Prospero manifests his power in music throughout the play, however is reliant on Ariel to carry out the tunes; it could be therefore seen that the music has a greater magical impact than the magic itself, enhancing its effect on the mind. Its psychological impact is further enhanced by its ability to control, and in Ferdinand’s case, its capacity to encourage him that his father, Alonso, is dead: ‘Full fathom 5 thy daddy lies …’. Thus the encouraging impact of the arts highlighted in Our Nation’s Great is somewhat opposed here, due to the element of deception present. Indeed, perhaps the music or theatre themselves are not the major impacts here, rather those executing them. The arts are extremely subjective and enable substantial scope, for that reason boosting Ariel’s manipulative strength in The Tempest and the high ability for the convicts to be educated through theatre in Our Country’s Excellent.

To conclude, there are close links in between the metatheatrical strategies used by both playwrights in Our Nation’s Good and The Tempest, all of which motivate the audience to consider and review core styles of the plays. Reconciliation and redemption are of excellent significance through the development of a civil community in Our Country’s Good and the fixing of past dispute in The Tempest. Such styles are extremely efficiently detailed by means of strategies including a ‘play within a play’ and self-referencing as they highlight the fictional nature of the plot and therefor remind the audience of underlying moral messages. The arts are also extremely influential, in specific theatre, language and music, as they inform in a holistic manner. The power of music on the mind is heightened through its capability to produce the image of a mystical island through noise alone, and its conjunction with magic: frequently the music acts as a vehicle for magic itself. The concepts highlighted in both plays can be translated to modern-day times, in regards to a civil society being specified as one of social consistency and education rather than technological advances.

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