Form and structure - 'After the Dance'

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After the Dance

Jennie Lea

Form and Structure

‘After the Dance’ is a typical ‘well-made play’. Well-made plays were written around the same time as ‘After the Dance’ and were not unlike the nature of this, Terrence Rattigan’s ‘lost play’. Well-made plays are, as the title of them suggests, well-made and constructed carefully. A well-made play has elements of suspense, intrigue, difficulty and crisis. In most well-made plays, including ‘After the Dance’, at the end of every act the curtain drops, usually signifying the end of a crucial moment. Also part of a well-made play is a secret, which becomes apparent to the audience and then to the main characters. In ‘After the Dance’ the secret that is revealed comes into the second Act and is the shocking truth between Helen and David and their newly found relationship.

Well-made plays begin with Exposition, usually through questions and answers between characters about the events immediately preceding the play. This introduces the audience to the characters and anything that may appear to be vital to the understanding of them and the time the play is set. After exposition comes Complication. This may be something that is un-expected or something that can pose certain problems to the smooth running of the characters’ lives. Finally comes Resolution where the complication is fixed, the problems are solved and the characters are happy. This is usually a happy ending but it is not always the case and sometimes there is a certain uncertainness that can make the audience wonder. Well-made plays are structured in this way to make the audience believe it is real life and not just confined to the space of time between first and final curtain. The route that ‘After the Dance’ follows is also very typical of well-made plays.

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Exposition comes in the first act where we learn about the characters’ pasts and the fact that there was a large party the night before the opening act. This is important to the plot and aids our understanding of the characters. We realise that parties are quite important to these people in their social lives. We also recognise the characters of John and Peter as different generations and with different ideas. This is our first implication of there being a different attitude between the older and younger generations of this time, showing Peter as the younger gentleman here, working studiously ...

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