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Commentary for "The May Poles and Their Queen".

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Introduction

Sophie Anne Stott Commentary for "The May Poles and Their Queen". When reading the Greek myth Orpheus, I was immediately struck by the heroism of the central character. Orpheus is the classic male hero, overcoming all obstacles to bring back his beloved Eurydice, only to be eventually thwarted by something even more powerful than his heroism: his own love. Because of the essentially classical, romanticized nature of Orpheus, I felt it would be an ideal source text for a modern-day interpretation. In order to gain a better understanding of the text, I initially adopted, in Stuart Hall's terms, the 'preferred' reading; that is, how the audience are 'meant' to read a text, who they are expected to empathise with and what conclusions they are meant to draw. Applying Greimas's structuralist scheme, I found it easy to identify Orpheus as the 'subject' or, according to Propp's 'spheres of influence', the 'hero'. Orpheus can also be identified as Propp's 'donor' figure through his extraordinary skill at playing the lyre, which provides him with apparently limitless power when it comes to charming the gods of the underworld. The 'sender' would be Eurydice, for dying and subsequently 'sending' Orpheus on his quest to the underworld. ...read more.

Middle

By having Edie backstage, providing the real musical talent, she initially appears a relatively oppressed, marginalised character: always forced to stay in the background: "Yeah. Well, I ain't 'Christian', am I?" There is a sense that Edie has accepted the belief imposed upon her by Christian: that she is simply an accessory to his success. I gave her a distinct Northern accent in order to appear more 'down to earth' than her 'rock star' counterpart, and also to appeal more to the audience as the 'under-dog'. Throughout, Christian is portrayed as the archetypal, vain, male 'rock star'. I attempted to emphasize this vanity linguistically, through his self-obsessed use of language - "You've already got flowers. My flowers. Flowers handpicked by moi" - and also through his obsession with his eyebrows. I felt that by giving this conventionally 'effeminate' concern to both Christian and Al, I could further parody the 'strong' male stereotype associated with Greek myths. One of the key changes that I made to the original text was that in my drama, Edie runs away from Christian as opposed to "Aristaeus". She is also willingly 'bitten' by the snake. By having Edie willingly leave Christian for the 'underworld', this is in keeping with my overall 'feminist' angle of approach, as it now becomes Edie's 'quest' to find her role as a performer. ...read more.

Conclusion

One of the most dramatic changes I made to the original tale was that in my version, Edie chooses to stay in the 'underworld', and it is she, as opposed to Des/Hades, who sends Christian back to the 'upper world' with the dismissive remark "I'm an actress, Chris". By changing the original ending, Edie has found her real existence in the underworld, and to her, it is the upper world which is full of misery. Christian, however becomes a classic picture of male melancholy: "homeless and unable to even strum his guitar." He is an allusion to the current crisis in masculinity, a phenomenon often voiced in the media, his 'traditional role' as the performer taken over by his female counterpart: abandoned for "Keith Harris". Because of this, Christian feels his masculinity has been threatened. This is then made ironic by his final effeminate cry of "My tweezers!" In the final scene, I had Edie "smiling sadistically" as she plucks her eyebrows, indicative of her mocking of Christian, a reversal of the original patriarchal tale. For whereas in the original text, it is the 'hero' Orpheus who 'goes on his quest and fails', in my transformation it is the 'heroine' Edie, who not only sets off on her 'quest' but also succeeds and ultimately, it is she who 'comes out on top'. ...read more.

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