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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

Ralph Clark Tries to Kiss His Dear Wife’s Picture

Intention: The tent has already been established in a previous scene so the audience know where they are. Again, we shall see an unsympathetic side of Ralph: his obsession with the sordid character of the women convicts is as much to do with his own sexual frustration and his fear of his desires as any sense of moral outrage. This will require work with the actor playing Ralph. Ketch has a long speech in which the audience’s sympathies will be courted. The key will be to decide upon his relative guilt, whether his story is true or not, and exploring the social point of view he represents. Brecht himself said ‘Food first morals later’, therefore Ketch is a character out of a Brechtian tradition: his sense of self preservation is what motivates him to become hangman, despite being hated for it. Therefore the choice he made and the reasons should be made clear in order to subordinate the audience’s emotional response.

Performance Outcome

Matt and I were in agreement about the anguish that Ralph is experiencing in this scene. He is desperately trying to get through to midnight when he can kiss his wife’s picture. It’s as if by reaching midnight he can ward off temptation – as one of the few officers no to be tempted by the women convicts. Thus much of the dialogue is simply a misdirection of his thoughts away from his sexual desires. We use the space to externalise the shifting feelings he has. At one point Matt runs to the rear of the stage and to the curtains that represent the entrance to the tent, as if to leave, then stops and comments upon the scenes of whoredom in the women’s camp. He also kneels next to his bed caressing the covers while commenting upon the perfume he has put upon the sheets, making an explicit link between his thoughts, the feminine nature of perfume and the bed where he would like to have companionship.

Ketch is an agitated character who has many reasons for seeing Ralph. I asked Graeme, playing Ketch, whether he thought him guilty or innocent, as the character claims, or some degree between. His thoughts were that despite his protestations he is guilty. He may not be the most intelligent character, without the foresight to see how his actions would affect his life, but guilty nonetheless. The key moments for him are to do with his name, to highlight his fear of death having seen it in his crime and also the plight of the hangman. The emotional height for Ketch in the scene is his determination to state his real name, so we worked upon tempering the energy of Graeme’s so that he reaches a vocal height upon ‘James, sir’. We also looked trying to tell his story out front, ashamed to look at Ralph, and trying to engage the audience. Thus when the notions of death and hanging arise the audience can see the point of the scene.

During the scene Ralph doesn’t want to engage with Ketch, using the excuse he is retiring for the night, and so Matt moves from his chair to his bed and back again, seemingly not really interested. When Ketch speaks of the actors he falls to his knees, imploring Ralph, who moves away sensing the play is the reason he is here. But when Ketch speaks so eloquently of the actors, Matt sensed that this is the first step in Ralph’s journey. That Ketch’s desire to redeem himself, to shed the hatred bestowed upon the hangman through the redemption of theatre, strikes some chord in Ralph who only sees the play as an opportunity to further his career.

Matt has done a good job in this scene in conveying the underlying frustration Ralph is experiencing. The constant reference to the whoredom of the women’s camp, following his earlier statement of ‘never’ being tempted, tells me that’s exactly what’s on his mind. We therefore tried to convey the sense of Ketch interrupting an almost sexual act when Ralph finally gets release through kissing his wife’s picture. Ketch is an interesting character to introduce at this point. His story is pitiful, yet he is clearly a guilty party in all of his crimes (or at least we thought so). We thought it the moment that Ralph starts to connect with the potential effect of the play – Ketch’s hope for redemption through being an actor.


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