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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 Question of Liz

Intention: This is a highly charged scene, there is a lot of tension in the scene in that the audience may now have sympathy with Liz and so may be ‘rooting’ for her. It is crucial then that we don’t lose the opportunity to show the audience why Liz chooses to speak out. There is enjoyment in the scene for the audience in wondering what Liz will do. Here is an example of my cowardice as a director – of course, if this were a completely Brechtian production the titles wouldn’t just tell the audience what the scene was about but would tell them what happens before they see it. I am not going to go that far, I think the audience will be capable of enjoying the tension and seeing why Liz makes her decision, as long we are aware of how we can make that moment stand out. Phillip’s line about the derision she will suffer will be critical. Somehow there needs to be a sense that Liz now acknowledges there is something worth living for that allows her to take that step. The staging is difficult for this scene; I intend to have Phillip and Collins upstage centre, with Ross and Ralph at downstage corners creating the corners of a triangle. Liz will stand centre stage looking out at the audience. This is not a natural position to take as she will not be looking at Phillip when he speaks to her. I may move Phillip on occasion to make this seem more ‘normal’, and I may have Liz glance at different speakers. But the position is important because she is being pulled by different perspectives: Ross’ hate bred of contempt for the convicts; Ralph’s new found tolerance of the convicts and the hope embodied by the play; Collins’ desire to see even handed justice prevail; and Phillip’s persistence in the idea that the convicts can be shown the way to redemption through truth and humane treatment.

Performance Outcome

The Question of LizFor me this is the key scene of the play, it concludes Liz’s redemption and acceptance that there is something worth living for and in order to have it she has to break her own code of honour and speak. In terms of our Grund Gestus, all elements of what we want to tackle in this play are bound up within this one scene. Thus it is staged in a similarly Gestic way to The Authorities… in that upstage centre are Phillip and Collins, Collins stage right reflecting his overriding concern that the balance of law be re-established through the successful application of due process – seeing justice done is what he wants. Stage left is Phillip, wanting justice to prevail but more so that all the hopes he has pinned on the play can be saved through the redemption of Liz and having a convict embrace the correct moral stance through their own free choice. At the downstage right corner sits Ross, positioning himself firmly in the camp of old English morality and a sense of justice fuelled by class, social positioning and the established order: a soldier is good and right while a convict is wrong. While in the downstage left corner sits Ralph. His stance has changed: he wants Liz to live, not only for the good of the play but because he wants her to live. He has seen her change, he has seen the goodness within her and believes she can be redeemed, thus redeeming himself.

This staging is awkward in that it recognises the unreal nature of theatre. Most of this scene requires each actor to face front, thus not always looking at the character that lines are addressed to. Graeme, as Ross, suffers most here because he is mostly speaking to Collins and Phillip upstage, whereas they both speak downstage and Ralph usually speaks across to centre stage to Liz. When Liz is brought on she stands centrally looking at the audience rather than at Phillip. This is specifically because I don’t want the audience to miss anything that any of the actors do. A thrust staging would best suit this scene, but that is not the way I have gone.

As we rehearsed the scene I put a rope boundary around Ross and Ralph, preventing them from leaving their small area and forcing Graeme and Matt to contain the energy of their gestures within a smaller space. Again the idea is to try to show the audience the polarisation of their Gests by creating areas of the stage that those Gests occupy, thus Liz is placed between them when she enters.

Also, it is a moment of choice for Liz. Therefore I used a tough Brechtian exercise to show the actors that the scene is shaped by what the characters do, that they could make other choices and that it is not fixed purely because the playwright has written it that way. From Liz’s entrance through to her first line, quite a short section of the scene, I asked each actor to consider the significance of what they say then, before speaking their line they say ‘Instead of saying “an alternative line”, he/she said “actual line”’. So, for instance taking Collin’s line:

‘It is the accused who must speak.’

The actor could say:

‘Instead of saying “Liz must speak or she will die” he said “It is the accused who must speak”’

‘Instead of saying “the future of the colony lies in the truth being spoken” he said “It is the accused who must speak.”’

‘Instead of saying “Shut up Ralph, she must save herself and so save us all” he said “It is the accused that must speak”

The difficulty of this exercise is that Brecht’s own plays were written in such a way that this exercise, and the alternative lines that characters could say, become more clear cut. At first the actors struggled to understand what was expected of them, and then they grappled with the difficulty of finding an alternative line. This frustrated the actors and I felt a bit guilty making them do this at quarter to ten on a Monday night. However, for me, I felt the actors grasped the importance of the scene and that it is the actions of their characters that shape its outcome; the fact that, taking another option could change the outcome. This fed into the moment that Liz chooses to speak – Leasa was able to fill the pause before speaking with a whole host of alternative things she could say, including not speaking at all. I also asked the other actors to suggest things she could say, giving Leasa other options to think about.

The exercise also took the wind out of the actors’ sails; their frustration was based upon the fact they couldn’t get their teeth into such a meaty scene. Therefore, when we ran it through again, the knowledge of the outcome of the scene created a clearer sense of demonstration of the scene rather than a passionate and emotional performance.

This scene is a strong scene in our performance – when the lines are right! The first few performances wobbled on the lines, making it a bit edgy to watch and be in. When they finally got it right the balance of stage positioning and the work of the actors I think hit the nail on the head in this scene.


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