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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 Second Rehearsal

Intention: The stage space has already been established in the previous rehearsal scene. One of the biggest challenges of this scene is the fact it is one of the few where all of the cast are on stage. The use of space is crucial, especially in conveying the shifts in status between the convicts and Ross and Ralph and Ross. During rehearsals I will establish the levels of humiliation that the Convicts experience.

Performance Outcome

This is a key scene for a number of reasons. This is the point that, if they have not done so already, the sympathies of the audience must swing towards the convicts. This is important if we are to successfully convey our Grund Gestus. Up until now the audience has heard arguments on both sides of the debate. The convicts are not seen as necessarily good people and Ross, although patently a vicious character, has a valid point of view. Yet from ‘Visiting Hours’, where we hear Liz’s story and the stories of Wisehammer, Caesar and Arscott, the audience are getting more information that may shift their point of view. This is followed by ‘His Excellency Exhorts Ralph’ where we hear Phillip’s intellectual reasoning behind his hopes for the convicts’ redemption and finally ‘Harry Brewer Sees the Dead’ which emphasises the guilt felt by those ordered to carry out the execution of fellow human beings. So, structurally, the only thing remaining to do in order to move audience sympathy to the convicts is to undermine Ross’ point of view. In this scene his argument is nullified by his sadism, bringing the audience to question whether his attitude is based upon hatred or some sense of superiority or the need for revenge.

During the rehearsal of this scene I used an interesting exercise I picked up recently. Each actor was given a piece of paper on a piece of string which they hung around their necks. On the paper was their name. This paper represented their level of self respect, self esteem - their humanity at this point in the play. They could then tear off some of that paper to represent how much of those qualities they had at the start of the scene. As the paper diminishes the actor must then show that in their physical portrayal of the character. They were then instructed to go through the scene and at any point they felt their character was diminishing another character in any way, taking away any of their self respect, self esteem or humanity, they could tear off a strip of paper. Of course Graeme, as Ross, spent the scene tearing strips off all of the characters except Campbell: he specifically did this when humiliating Sideway, Dabby and Mary, but also when belittling Ralph and finally when he orders Arscott’s punishment. I was keen to see what other characters would do. Matt, as Ralph, wanted to tear strips off Graeme’s sheet on behalf of other characters, which he wasn’t allowed to do, maybe indicating Ralph’s awareness of the power of the convict’s to resist Ross in their own way, something of which they maybe are not aware. He had a moment to take some of Ross’ paper when trying to stop Sideway from stepping forward. Craig, as Sideway, when starting to act the scene from ‘The Recruiting Officer’ began to gather the bits of paper that Ross had thrown on the floor, indicating his sense of Sideway trying to regain a sense of self esteem but not seeing it as an opportunity to strike back and take some of Ross’ paper, which is how I saw it.

Again it has proved tricky to orchestrate the action in our space, but we have managed to emphasise the key moments. Ross occupies space downstage right, making sure there is a sense that he isn’t going anywhere. Then when he calls Sideway out they are in a position centre stage. Sideway will pull up his shirt, exposing scars but his back will naturally be to the actors so the audience will only see what they can see from their particular positions. Ross pushes Sideway to the ground and when he’s finished with him he will push him to the floor with his foot – a slight V-Effekt as, although wearing the officer’s jacket, Graeme will not be wearing boots but bare feet like every body else. He then moves stage left calling out Dabby and stands right next to Ralph as he humiliates her, ensuring Ralph is very much a spectator but unable to act. Finally he summons Mary to her feet near the boxes that the convicts sit on, leaving the downstage centre free.

While Ross is humiliating Dabby and Mary, Sideway is presented with a moment of choice: look after himself or step in, act as it were, and prevent further humiliation for Mary. Craig has to act through the thought processes before stepping forward, without any guarantee that the audience will be watching him as they will probably be watching Ross. Once he starts Liz, in another step along the road to redemption, opts not to look after number one but to join Sideway. This is their way of fighting back at Ross. At the end of the scene Brendan, as Campbell, exits behind the curtain and beats a chair with a length of rope to create the sounds of Arscott’s punishment, while screaming with pain. This will have a greater affect upon the scene than a sound effect. The scene ends with Liz falling to the floor in the position in which she starts ‘The Science of Hanging’.

One more moment that we hope to flag up in this quick moving scene is the moment of choice Ralph has when he agrees to let Caesar be part of the play, acknowledging the convicts desire to protect Caesar as one of their own kind.

This scene is key because, as His Excellency Exhorts Ralph sets up the humanitarian argument of Phillip, this scene undermines Ross’ argument through the demonstration of his sadism. Thus the key, effective moments are when he humiliates Sideway, Dabby and Mary. Followed by the punishment of Arscott off stage. This sound is created practically – a length of rope beating against a plastic covered chair – and it goes right through the audience, creating a stomach churning sound. Graeme really does this scene well.


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