James Saunders   |   bibliography

The Old Man Who Liked Cats  -  by James Saunders (date?)

setting: the old man's bedroom, his house, and the house of his widowed daughter and grandson

time: several days or weeks

published by Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1997
(Playforms - seven scripts for secondary drama - James Saunders and Robin Rook)
ISBN-10: 0521588588
ISBN-13: 978-0521588584
also contains Alas Poor Fred + Dog Accident

"Bertold Brecht (1898-1956) was one of the most important influences on the drama of this century. He wrote his plays not just to tell a story about a group of characters but, above all, to draw attention to the society in which they lived. Their actions were portayed as a reaction to their social environment. It could be said that Society was the main character in his plays.

Because the audience is asked to make judgements on the characters and their society and not just to take them at face value, various means are introduced for keeping the audience at 'arm's length' so its judgement is not clouded with sympathy. This is called the 'alienation effect'. The audience must always be made aware that it is watching a play, which then becomes a kind of parable or moral tale. The intention is to instruct, not just to entertain. Characters talk directly to the audience and are often representative of types: the Businessman, the Soldier, the Mother. The language is kept simple and direct. Songs interrupt the action; placards make announcements and film-clips illustrate points, showing that what is seen in the play is essentiall relevant to the way people live.

The term 'epic theatre' is used to describe this kind of play. As in Shakespeare's plays, the action can cover a number of years and the scenes can be quite short and range over any number of locations, using minimum scenery. Perhaps you can see similarities with morality plays and even with melodramas, although in the latter, characters are never 'explained' by the society in which they live. Some of these techniques will reappear in the fantasy play.

Can you suggest where captions or songs could be added to The Old Man Who Liked Cats to tell the audience how it should react to what is happening? Perhaps you could invent some examples."

(from Playforms - Cambridge University Press 1997)

James Saunders   |   bibliography

comments to: weed@wussu.com
revised 4 February 2007
URL: http://www.jamessaunders.org/jsoldman.htm