Show How Hall Manipulates tension and conflict in the Long, Short and the Tall

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LMB        Susie Willmott (U10)

Show How Hall Manipulates tension and conflict in the Long, Short and the Tall

The Long and The Short and The Tall by Willis Hall is written about a war in the Malaysian jungle, seen through the eyes of seven soldiers within a group.  Throughout the play, tension rises and lowers while the men talk and brawl, but when they capture a Japanese prisoner, tension reaches its peak.  Simple brawls become wars in themselves, the members’ conflicting views on what to do with the prisoner gradually turn the members against each other, and all the while the Japanese close in.  So, how does Hall manipulate the tension and conflict within The Long, The Short And The Tall?  

        The characters are the main instruments or, implements Hall cleverly uses to create tension.  The characters are seven soldiers of different ranks, different backgrounds and different views plus a Japanese soldier who, unknowingly, emphasises these British soldiers’ individual differences to a new level when he is captured.  One way Hall creates obvious differences between the characters from the start, is by his extremely stereotypical characterisation.  The soldiers consist of a Scotsman, a Welshman, a Tynesider and a Cockney, all of whose characters are incredibly stereotypical, and then we also have the traditionally sadistic corporal and an incompetent new recruit.  By using characters such as these, Hall is reinforcing upon the audience, the audience’s own stereotypes, preconceived ideas of these  ‘culturally strong regions’.  The result is that the characters seem a lot more real than if they all spoke perfect English.  The characters are able to calm the audience’s sense of tension by the soldiers talking about their families, for example,

‘SMITH: It’s all right.  Bit of a garden, not much, but it’s all

right.  Better than nothing.’ (Act one)

By talking about their families and homes, the audience forgets that the group are in a terrifying war situation.  The tension of the story in itself has gone and the audience’s minds become preoccupied with the soldier’s homes and smaller problems.  

As well as being able to reduced tension, Willis Hall can create it; one of these ways is through the group’s radio.  Even in the most relaxed scene in The Long and the Short and the Tall, Willis Hall always has slight tension existing in the background with Whitaker:

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‘WHITAKER: Blue patrol to Red Leader…Blue patrol

calling Red Leader…Are you receiving me?…are you

receiving me?…Come in, Red Leader, come in Red


This creates a feeling of insecurity in the audience, it causes them to think that Blue Patrol may be stranded and by keeping this suspense in the background of scenes, Hall controls the amount of tension within the audience; the more times Whitaker calls Red Leader with no reply, the more anxious the audience become.

        The Character of Bamforth is also another excellent way Willis Hall manipulates tension in his play.  Bamforth is a character ...

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