Discuss How You Would Direct Two Key Scenes in Whose Life Is It Anyway?

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Discuss How You Would Direct Two Key Scenes in Whose Life Is It Anyway?

There is a range of deep, complicated moral and ethical themes in this play. The playwright causes the audience to emotionally contribute strong views on what is right and wrong, within the course of the staging. Because Brian Clarke handpicked such a controversial ethical issue as this, he caused his audience to express strong personal beliefs as well as playing a technique of the 'defence and prosecution' (two sides), whereby Clarke keeps the substance and pace in the play to quell his audience's thirst for action. There is a direct consequence to this- this resides in the fact that opposing judgments are not ignored, thereby keeping the spice and momentum going.

To actually stage the play would be also take an original approach due to Ken Harrison's paralysis, where he must be kept on-stage throughout the play (because the director must try to impress realism). As a result of paralysis from the neck-down, Ken is unable to express his emotions and temper through effective body language and thus his ability to relate with the audience is terribly hindered. However, facial expression and his tone of voice remain at his disposal. In a director's sense, Ken must preside good control over these features to compensate his lack of body language, and successfully implement these to an effective end. His staging should come at all the critical moments in the play, so the audience may see the situation from his view, and not begin to ignore his, physically inactive, role.

As for Ken's awkward physical posture through the staging, he must remain on the stage laying on a bed or propped up on a rest by Nurses. To suit Ken's sentiments, the director should emphasise dark shades often to assist Ken is conveying his gloomy feelings. There could be stage-effects, such as the casting of lights on the bed railings to give a shadow of prison bars, in the way of influencing the audience.

Almost every scene is played in Ken's room except for a few which are centralised in Dr. Emerson's office and in the Sister's room. Therefore, it would be convenient to base Ken in the middle of the stage and have all the other rooms around his. The mechanics of the staging are such that for the audience to view Ken's room, it must have a maximum of three walls.

Clarke includes an element in the play where there are Nurses spoon-feeding Ken. This is there to symbolise Ken's growing dependence on Nurses, carers and machinery for his survival and used in plain contrast with Ken's obvious intellect and sharp wit. The underlining fact is that he can longer act or react upon any conclusions he may arrive at in a physical manner. The liberal sexual innuendo that scurries throughout the play comes from Ken. It draws attention to his sex-life- and his inability to engage in it. Coming form another character it would seem normal wit, but from Ken it's contemplated in a different way and causes the audience to absorb Ken's views in a contrasting sense to others' opinions.

I have chosen to analyse two key sections of the play, I believe hold a lot of importance to Ken's character, feelings and relations with other characters.

I chose the first section- the 'Mrs Boyle' section- because is an integral part of the play where Ken really unveils his emotions and complex personality. He illustrates his vibrant frustration and narrows down his criticisms about the attitude of the medical profession as well as lashing out on the situation that has besieged him. This section, is therefore, very unique, in that sense, because it goes a long way to portray these feelings in a clear, explicit sense (where Ken directly confronts Mrs. Boyle up to which his physical state can handle). I believe, any director that would want to focus on Ken's character and his reactions to this situation should emphasise this section in a subtle manner, but also examine the dynamics and tweak them for maximum effect on stage.

Mrs. Boyle's instigates the scene in a professional manner, which automatically cues Ken's cynical sarcasm and brusque temperament. Clarke promptly fashions this atmosphere to clue the audience, in suspense, on the developing tension. This is more clearly indicated in the first two lines, as Mrs. Boyle enters with a cheerful 'Good morning' which is followed by Ken's 'Morning'. Clarke is providing a signal for direction here. This would arise from Ken's tone, shifting from Mrs. Boyle's glad greeting to his grouchy, one-word reply.

Ken's dismissive sarcasm continues through the opening of the scene as he says, 'And you've come to cheer me up?' At this point, I believe the playwright intended the actor to convey this question in a provocative, disdain manner. His expressive tone needs to reflect the way Ken wants to challenge Mrs. Boyle's professionalism. This gives a clear suggestion of Ken's intention to unsettle Mrs. Boyle's professional behaviour and draw out an unprofessional reaction. My point is further exposed throughout the scene.

During this part of the play, Ken struggles to dismantle the fence of professionalism between him and the medical staff. He feels that if he is to get acknowledged as something more than just a patient- a person- he must adopt a personal crusade of sarcasm against the doctors and Nurses to shake their beliefs, so that they will be subdued into understanding his position. But Mrs. Boyle tolerates Ken's incisive probing and offers a polite (professional) reaction, 'I wouldn't put it like that.'

Clarke hints on Ken's growing frustration at Mrs. Boyle because, she is not subduing her professionalism even when he insultingly depicts one of her colleagues, Dr. Emerson, as Dr. FranKenstein. This line is supposed to be communicated with force and emotion, because it is designed to express Ken's disgust at the treatment he received with the tranquilliser- at the hands of Emerson. He tries to convey Emerson's arrogance using this powerful portrayal as Dr. FranKenstein. Ken is also partly agitated so much because Mrs. Boyle offers a calm, professional (and not an equally offensive) reaction to his statement, 'Dr. Emerson is a first-rate physician'. I would presume that her response would be delivered in a composed yet aloof expression. By doing this, she can illustrate that Ken's emotional outburst are all part of her job and she can take it in her stride. Her actor should try to deliver the line with a sense of condescendence on Ken- to provoke him into a reaction- thereby allowing the scene to develop and returning the insult indirectly. This is an example of how Clark uses dual-purpose language.

Her next remark further enrages Ken, but he tries to withhold his emotions, although slowly a combination of his frustration and Mrs. Boyle's patronisation force him to explode at the climax of the scene.

Then she hastily changes the subject of their conversation to something less personal, which Ken is always trying to manoeuvre on, by commenting on the change in décor. This opens a wide gap as well as conflict in their desired aims. Ken's actor would continue to converse in a dismal, rhetoric tone by replying, 'Have they? ...I'd hate to be the thing that ruins the décor.' All the while, Mrs. Boyle maintains her cheerful tone and continues on with her comments. Her aim would be to unbalance Ken's emotional pressure on herself and so cling-on to her professional conduct.

Mrs. Boyle attempts to break their deadlock, and try to interact with Ken in her 'social worker' manner by questioning him, 'What makes you say that? You don't ruin anything.' This line should be delivered in a sympathetic tone and slower pace- to signal the change in subject- and the actor should lean forward or move closer to Ken to disclose Mrs. Boyle's genuine inquisition.
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Ken reacts to her sympathy with a sincere apology but quickly reverses to his agenda, in the third sentence, 'I'm sorry. That was a bit...whining. Well don't let me stop you.' Ken realises that he was slipping towards Mrs. Boyle's aim, so he offers no pause between his apology and his comeback.

Mrs. Boyle replies in an attempt to gain some knowledge on what Ken thinks she is here to do in an effort to work around him by asking, 'Doing what?' Ken does not yield to her efforts, but instead offers his blithe humour to ...

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