How Does Wertenbaker use visual, aural and spatial elements to create such an effective and consciously theatrical play?

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How Does Wertenbaker use visual, aural and spatial elements to create such an effective and consciously theatrical play?

Wertenbaker uses simple and minimalistic production design and uses her actors as her main resource to convey meaning and character especially as they are playing different gender or changing between convict and officer characters throughout. The few props are used to clarify meaning and are important in their own right along with costumes and set. She uses language and music to communicate with the audience and to create a specific atmosphere.

Wertenbaker uses the movement or gestures of a character to emphasise a point or show character’s relationships. An example of this is Sideway in the first rehearsal, the stage direction “walking sideways, arms held high in a grandiose eighteenth century pose” this reinforces the idea of how uneducated the convicts are, as the audience can see Sideway has never seen a theatre production just has an idea of what it would be like. An example where gesture is used to communicate character’s relationships is in Act 1 scene 7 where Harry and Duckling are rowing, the stage directions for Duckling are “remains morose” and “doesn’t turn around” these are hostile actions as Harry is desperately trying to get her attention “ Why don’t you look Duckling.” The audience can see that their relationship is unstable.

The way Wertenbaker positions her characters on the stage is important in communicating status and character such as in Act 1 scene 11 when Major Ross and Captain Campbell enter, the convicts “slink away and sink down.” This shows that the convicts are afraid of the officers and they try and get as far away as possible from Robbie and become inconspicuous. The beginning scene has important use of positing, the convict are “huddled together in semi-darkness.” This gives an idea of how horrible the conditions were for the convicts during transportation. The officers are on deck above the convicts and in better conditions again showing  status. This idea is kept throughout the play but gradually changes as the production of the convict’s play takes effect .

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Costume is used to communicate character, Governor Arthur Phillip’s costume would be grander and more decorative than the other officers and he has a higher status. The convicts would be wearing similar clothes but all slightly different such as Mary’s which would be covering her and suppressing her femininity because she feels guilty about what happened on the ship “I would have been less of a whore”.  Sideway’s clothes would be over the top to show his flamboyant personality . All the costumes also have to be simple to allow quick costume changes as the actors multi-role.

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