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The Eight Moon Journey

Scene By Scene

Act One

Act Two

The Voyage Out
A Lone Aboriginal Australian
Loneliness of Men
An Audition
The Authorities Discuss the Merits of the Theatre
Harry and Duckling Go Rowing
The Women Learn Their Lines
Ralph Clark Tries to Kiss His Dear Wife’s Picture
John Wisehammer and Mary Brenham Exchange Words
The First Rehearsal

Visiting Hours
His Excellency Exhorts Ralph
Harry Brewer Sees the Dead
The Aborigine Muses on the Nature of Dreams
The Second Rehearsal
The Science of Hanging
The Meaning of Plays
Duckling Makes Vows/A Love Scene
The Question of Liz

The Authorities Discuss the Merits of the Theatre

Intention: The scene will begin with a frozen tableau of the officers, like a Hogarth painting with each actor frozen in a fixed Gest. This method will also work as the cast will have to assemble the set and change costume, the result of this will be that some will be ready before others. They will then assemble the tableau piece by piece. When all the actors are in place the scene will burst into life. The actors will, hopefully, have identified the Gests of their characters which will be evident within the scene. The moment of choice when Ralph stands to speak will be emphasised by a sudden silence and slow turning of heads by the other characters, thus highlighting the importance of Ralph’s choice to speak up. The end of the scene when Phillip makes his choice will again be captured by a moment of tableau and specific reactions of individual characters.

Performance Outcome

This scene is a very gestic scene, each officer representing a certain point of view or attitude, as they discuss the nature of crime and punishment alongside the virtues of the proposed play. To establish this I first of all sat the actors in order of rank, the militarily established order of status. Obviously this puts Phillip at the top with Ross second, and Ralph very near the bottom – reflecting his standing amongst the soldiers. I asked the actors to then reflect their comparative levels of status, being lower than the person to their left and higher than the person to their right. This gave them a starting point for the Gest of their character, and moving the actors away from finding a psychological starting point for their character but rather an external, demonstration of character.

The next step was for them to sum up, in their minds what their character’s Gest is, find one line that truly reflects that and add a gesture to it. We went around the group, with each character saying their line and adding a gesture. Once done I then told the actors that, on a scale of 1 – 10 (with 1 being very normal and 10 being exaggerated beyond all belief) their line and gesture was 5. We then repeated each line and gesture cranking the level of exaggeration up one notch each time until by 10 the actors were shouting, jumping up and down and waving their arms about in over exaggerated, absurd distortions of where they began. I went on to explain that they should then reflect upon their character’s Gest and decide how the audience should respond to it, particularly in light of our Grund Gestus – simply should the audience be sympathetic or unsympathetic towards what their character has to say, if they should sympathise then they should be more realistic, unsympathetic then they should be more exaggerated. Once decided they should adapt their gesture and line to an appropriate point on the scale that suits their character’s Gest. This produced really interesting results, and should slant the audience towards the appropriate points of view: Phillip and Ralph.

Once we got moving upon the scene the actors quickly picked up a sense of the energy of discussion and debate, starting from a Hogarth inspired freeze frame, fuelled by simply demonstrating their Gests.

A key moment we established was Ralph’s decision to stand up and be counted. Matt spent time showing a process of deliberation and then finally a choice made when he stands and says ‘Why not?’ The other actors then freeze and turn to look at him, hopefully marking out that moment of choice.

This has proven to be the most challenging scene in the whole play. The disciplines asked of the actors are immense: concentration on cues, while making the bustling noise of their discussion, reacting to other character’s comments, remembering lines, trying to convey Gests and also dealing with very difficult sight lines. Of course, if this is what the actors need to do then they do it – however, this is what highlights the difference between amateur and professional performance. My actors arrive at the theatre at 6.30 after a days work and then have to put in two hours intense work.

As such, the performances so far have yet to see a word-perfect version of this scene. I wouldn’t say that it has been done badly at all, the meaning of the scene has not been lost, but there has been a tentativeness to it: the actors want to make sure they don’t make a mistake and if they do are concerned with not letting it go off the rails and take a prompt.

I should take the blame for sight lines. Although you can argue that the dynamics of the scene are interesting, the fact is there are more seats than I anticipated in rehearsal and so some members of the audience will be aware of their difficulties in seeing during most of the scene.


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