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How does Alan Bennett maintain the audiences interest in A Lady of Letters?

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Introduction

GCSE Literature Post 1914 Drama How does Alan Bennett maintain the audience's interest in 'A Lady of Letters'? Most plays maintain their audience's interest by including a diverse range of characters and many different scene changes, but A Lady of Letters is not most plays. Written by playwright Alan Bennett, A Lady of Letters portrays only one character - Irene Ruddock. Whereas most plays have the option to, for example, create and develop relationships between the characters, dramatic monologues do not have this option, due to there only being one character. Bennett, however, has the talent and ability to overcome these problems and more. One of his techniques is gradually revealing information about Miss Ruddock, which is vital to the progression of the story. It also makes it feel quite personal to the audience and gives the impression that you are getting to know her, but then, Bennett slips in another technique: making the character change dramatically. Apart from maintaining interest, this strategy should also create it by opening up a new branch of the story for the audience to think about and explore. Also, Bennett does manage to introduce new characters to the story, but in description form rather than in person. Despite the absence of the person, this technique can be used very cleverly. ...read more.

Middle

Also, the audience may find these reasons for writing letters petty and pointless, almost as if Miss Ruddock will write about anything and builds on the fact that she is lonely and isolated. After a visit from the police, Miss Ruddock is put on a suspended sentence, meaning that if she writes anymore letters she will be sent to prison. During her suspended sentence, Miss Ruddock says "New policeman now. Certainly keeps an eye on No.56. In there an hour at a stretch. He wants reporting". Immediately after this the scene changes and we see Miss Ruddock in prison. This obviously implies - but doesn't prove - that she was the person who reported the policeman and should verify the audience's suspicions of her writing inappropriate and cruel letters. Another part of the story that Bennett withholds information about until the dramatic climax is the kiddy over the road. It is a recurring story throughout the play, but to start with it will not be seen as important. The first time the kiddy is mentioned is when Irene says "We've got a new couple moved in opposite. Don't look very promising. The kiddy looks filthy". This is kept very brief and the audience will probably think nothing of it, just like everything else Irene has talked about so far. ...read more.

Conclusion

Despite this, when she does go to prison, Miss Ruddock wears a shirt only buttoned halfway with the sleeves rolled up, she has flesh showing and has her hair down. Her mood has also changed dramatically and she comes across as radiant, friendly and happy. Not only does her clothing reflect her mood, but also the setting and lighting. Before prison, Miss Ruddock sits in her house which has old, dark coloured furniture and only one window, making it quite dark and dingy. This is a sad and depressing environment and reflects Miss Ruddock's mood at this stage. On the other hand, in prison, there is clean, lightly coloured and modern furniture, with windows all along both walls letting bright light flood into the room and again reflecting her mood which is now radiant and happy. Bennett has used this technique effectively and should certainly maintain the audience's interest. In conclusion, Alan Bennett has successfully captured and maintained the interest of the audience with 'A Lady of Letters'. He has given the audience a lot of subjects and characters to think about as they leave the theatre. His mix of relaxed and dramatic scenes, such as the vicar visiting Irene and immediately after the police arriving and the scene ending in a dramatic climax, captivates the audience and keeps them engaged. So, therefore Bennett has succeeded and solved his problem of enthralling viewers with an initially monotonous sounding play by creating a captivating masterpiece. ...read more.

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