Serjeant Musgrave's Dance: An Unhistorical Parable

Serjeant Musgrave's Dance: An Unhistorical Parable

Serjeant Musgrave's Dance: An Unhistorical Parable

Serjeant Musgrave's Dance: An Unhistorical Parable

Excerpt

This is a realistic, but not a naturalistic, play. Therefore the design of the scenes and costumes must be in some sense stylised. The paintings of L. S. Lowry might suggest a suitable mood. Scenery must be sparing -- only those pieces of architecture, furniture, and properties actually used in the action need be present: and they should be thoroughly realistic, so that the audience sees a selection from the details of everyday life rather than a generalised impression of the whole of it. A similar rule should also govern the direction and the acting. If this is done, the obvious difficulties, caused by the mixture of verse, prose, and song in the play, will be considerably lessened.

The exact date of the play is deliberately not given. In the London production, the details of costume covered approximately the years between 1860 and 1880. For instance, the soldiers wore the scarlet tunics and spiked helmets characteristic of the later (or 'Kipling') epoch, while the Constable was dressed in tall hat and tail coat as an early Peeler -- his role in the play suggesting a rather primitive type of police organisation.

The songs should be sung to folk-song airs. There are many available tunes which equally well suit the various songs -- perhaps these are as good as any:

Sparky's song (Act One, Scene 1): 'Six Jolly Wee Miners' -- Scottish.

Sparky's song and chorus (Act Two, Scene 2): 'Blow away the Morning Dew' -- English.

Sparky's song (Act Two, Scene 3): 'The Black Horse' -- Irish.

Attercliffe's song (Act Three, Scene 2): First three stanza -- 'John Barleycorn' -- English Air. Final stanza -- 'John Barleycorn' -- Irish Air.

Musgrave's song (Act Three, Scene 1) proved in production to be more satisfactory if the words were spoken against a background of drum rolls and recorded music.

The characters perhaps need a few notes of description:

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