Re-read Act 1 Scene 7 of Murmuring Judges. Discuss the effects of Hare’s use of dramatic techniques and stagecraft
In Act 1 Scene 7 of ‘Murmuring Judges, David Hare uses dramatic techniques in a multitude of ways with varying effect on the audience, predominantly to communicate social messages. At the beginning of the scene, Gerard is isolated by the departure of characters and changes in lighting. The fact that “the lights on stage change in silence” symbolises Gerard’s subsequent inauspicious future, because it is as though he is being condemned by the lack of light, and therefore lack of hope. Consequently, the audience perceives Gerard’s plight and sympathises with his solitary, hopeless status.
The stage directions dictate that Barry is in “exactly the same position,” with work “overflowing in front of him. ” Hare’s intended effect is to convey to the audience the excessive bureaucracy faced by the police, which they are receptive to because it is a visually salient feature of Barry’s section of the scene. He is likewise isolated due to that the police station is “empty”, communicating to the audience his marginalisation from the rest of the police force because of his corrupt methods and attitudes.
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The audience grows sympathy for him as a result, because, although he uses unorthodox and illicit ways of solving crime (namely the planting of “Semtex”), he actually succeeds in doing so, whereas other members of the police force tend to enjoy less success. More astute members of the audience will take this into account and thus be more inclined to have some pity for him. Similarly, in Act 1 Scene 1, lighting and staging are both used in synergy to achieve the effect of isolation of characters, a technique evidently common in the play.
For instance, the sudden entrance of the lawyers, “Then suddenly from nowhere they’re all there – the judge, the jury… ” presents them as formidable and majestic hence, in contrast Gerard appears feeble and powerless. Furthermore, Gerard’s being “conspicuously the youngest” builds upon his isolation, portraying him as a naive, somewhat innocent victim of society, therefore inducing sympathy for him from the audience from the very beginning (which is subsequently augmented in the focus scene, as analysed earlier).
Also, Hare’s decision to assign Gerard “an Irish accent” results in the audience’s perception of prejudices in the legal system, since intelligent members of the audience realise that through events such as the wrongful imprisonment of the Birmingham Six, the Irish are likely to be labelled as criminals due to the stereotype of their being terrorists. To a more modern audience, this effect would not be as significant, although it would still be present as there still remain Anglo-Irish tensions. Hare uses the music of ‘Die Zauberfli??te’ by W. A.
Mozart in this scene in order to, primarily, rouse the audience and incite in them an enhanced, emotionally-charged state in which they are thus more attentive to the play and more receptive to Hare’s social messages, particularly those appertaining racial prejudice and social injustice. For example, as Gerard proclaims that, regarding Irina, he “believes in her,” the “Mozart suddenly catches on fire, the violins kicking into the allegro,” so Gerard’s rather heartfelt and poignant admission of his faith in her is met with an elevation in the emotional aspect of the stagecraft.
Moreover, it is ironic that Sir Peter has persuaded Irina to attend an opera composed by a German, when in Act 2 Scene 2 he feigns that “word hadn’t reach” him regarding German law statistics, implying that he is uninterested in non-domestic law issues, however when it comes to leisure, he is perfectly content with non-domestically produced (that is, non-English) music. This is a very subtle and ingenious technique employed by Hare, and it is amplified by that they are in a “Royal Opera House,” because, as an informed audience must realise, the Royal Family has German descendants.
These implicit contradictive nuances reflect the hypocrisies present within the judiciary system, so, in particular, this use of setting is important in conveying subtle social commentaries critiquing the corrupt British legal system. Hare elevates Irina’s status by having her use the imperative verb “Take” in an instruction to Sir Peter. This establishes her temporary power over him. In addition, Sir Peter “hesitates” twice, and this is visible to the audience, so they notice the fact that he is rendered very uncomfortable to Irina’s subversion of traditional patriarchal power dynamics.
Both the 1990’s and contemporary audiences notice this as gender inequality is still present today. In Act 2 Scene 8, a split stage is also used, indicating that there is misunderstanding and convoluted miscommunication between the legal institutions, since the speech merges together in dissonance, reflecting disharmony between public, the police and the judiciary, one of the main ideas Hare sought to convey through ‘Murmuring Judges’.