Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How does the staging of stolen help represent the characters' feelings of isolation and dislocation

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Jane Harrison intentionally uses minimal props and sets combined with short scenes, to help represent the characters feelings of isolation and dislocation and emphasis the significance of each individual prop. The stark set compliments the varied presentation of language, silences and actions of the five characters through the play. Strong contrasts exist between dislocation and hope, loss and discovery as well as defeat and survival. The lack of different characters reflects their lack of contrast with the outside world. The feelings which evolved from the traumatic experiences of the stolen generation are communicated to the audience through not only dialogue and actions but also sounds and smells. This enables the audience to be drawn into the story and become active in the understanding of the characters feelings rather than being dislocated from the message and story of the time of the stolen generation.


The use of only a few simple props shows the emptiness of the characters lives in the children’s home and allows Harrison to emphasis the significance of each prop. Jimmy’s bed head indicates his dislocation as it draws a connection between the childrens home and a prison where his bed is turned to face the audience, so that its bars are visible. The bars of the bed switch between representations of the bed in the children’s home and the prison cell, where after giving up hope of a better life, he dies tragically, isolated from his family. The effect of the character’s dislocation from their families is clearly shown in Ruby. Ruby’s desire for a nurturing environment is evident in her interactions with her doll. She speaks to the doll ‘Ruby’ as a mother, projecting on to the doll the care and love she herself longs for. Ruby’s deprivation of a loving, nurturing mother is reflected in the way, she in turn, throws away her doll. Ruby’s isolation and inability to speak about the abuse inflicted upon her, causes her to withdraw into herself, making it increasingly impossible for her to interact with others.


The absence of a reassuring adult voice to offer explanation or comfort to the children, largely contributes to the children’s feelings of isolation and dislocation. The white figures are never completely understood and are only represented by offstage voices. An interesting stylistic feature of Stolen is its economical use of language and its emphasis on gesture and facial expression. Silence is as important as speech in communicating meaning of extremely intense emotions of dislocation and isolation. As in Shirley’s scene ‘it rained the day’ the stage direction indicates ‘her grief cannot be expressed in words’. Instead her feelings of dislocation are communicated through her body language and her actions of clinging onto her baby’s tiny jumper. The minimal use of Aboriginal language in Stolen, reflects the fact that, in the children’s home the children are forbidden to use Aboriginal words.


Anne’s white parents appear as dark shadows when represented by ‘shadows falling onto a Venetian blind or a white sheet’ while a bright spotlight illuminates Anne.


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This dramatic use of lighting makes the white parents’ behaviour obscure and remote and represents symbolically, how Anne is whitened by not being told about her aboriginal mother.


Stolen’s short scenes and quick transitions between scenes, with few obvious causal links between them, generate a sense of incoherence. This dramatises and communicates Aboriginal experiences of white expression and makes the audience active participants, in the experience of dislocation. The Audiences senses are directly involved through the playing of music and more confronting, the use of phenol in the two ‘cleaning routines’. This pungent smell bridges the gap between actors and audience, lessening the white audiences potentially comfortable, sense of distance, from the events played out on stage. The repetitive clicking sound of Shirley’s knitting needles in ‘Shirley knits for her family’ suggests the persistence of her love for her family and also her continuing isolation from them.


Through the absence of extended dialogue or narrative, simple gestures, minimal props and creative lighting, Harrison is able to communicate an intense, sense of isolation and dislocation felt by the five characters. Their isolation from love and dislocation from familiar surroundings are represented effectively using creative resources of theatre such as sounds and smells. Silence and darkness are repeatedly used to effectively communicate the characters’ feelings of loss and defeat.





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