Overview On Directing A Play English Literature Essay

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4. Imagine that you are directing a production of Roy Williams' Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads. Discuss what themes you would want to bring out in performance and what instructions you would give your cast in order to achieve your vision of the play. 

A director of a play can create many possibilities on stage and off. They are the backbone of the play's success, and the character and theme formation are some of the most important aspects to get right. An audience can experience much more from a play if there is greater interaction, fuller engagement and the opportunity to explore ideas in more depth than ever before.

Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads, is a play first brought to the stage in 2002 at the National Theatre in London. [1] Its topics include some of the most talked about subjects of the 21st Century: racism, football and identity. Aleks Sierz interviews the playwright in 2009, where he comments upon his style, 'Williams's trademark is sizzling dialogue and a streetwise ear for racial conflict; if sometimes his work is a tad didactic, it is usually exciting and always watchable'. [2] To portray these strong and boisterous themes on stage, Williams would have cast his characters perfectly. This would have helped to convey the sense that the themes being shown were relevant and hand-picked from society today. 'Are we really as safe and well as we say we are?' [3] 

The play is set when the Germany vs. England World Cup qualifier game was being aired back on October 7th 2000. Set in real time in a London public house, Williams creates an opportunity to look back on past events. All of the characters are commenting on the game, each other, their opinions and generally behaving like general football hooligans of the time. In the same Sierz interview, Williams comments that, 'much as I love football, it is just a game. Where does all that xenophobia come from? And I already wanted to write a head-on play about the state of the nation that looked at multiculturalism.' Williams wanted to show the audience the 'state' of how racially inappropriate our society can sometimes be. After all, our identities are so valuable. We see the issue splashed across news stories constantly, and it is the limelight that they are getting, which makes a play such as Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads so important.

If I were given the chance to direct a play such as this, I would first look at which are the most important themes and issues that are being brought to surface in the play. For a modern play, the issues raised are very relevant in today's mixed up world. Barry, a character in the play, is a black man with a racist white man's attitude. This is an interesting concept to use on stage, because it will shock and bring to light, that football is an every man's game, whatever race you 'belong' to. Being a multicultural nation, England is fond of football and its thousands of fans, whatever race they are. Williams shows us this setting in a public house, about those who brawl and shout about racism and how football makes people cross boundaries. The majority of the characters are white, except for Barry and his brother who are both black. The sprinkling of black men amongst the white is an example that football can be dominated by more white men. Colin King, author of Offside Racism

Playing the White Man campaigns against the FA to look at why fewer football managers are black. 'He looks at the pressures placed on black players to adopt a culture dominated by white men in sport - in other words, 'to act white' in order to be accepted'. [4] This is a theme that Williams wanted to be highlighted in his play.

The staging would need to be clearly set out, with enough space for the larger cast size (14 in total). This would be done down to the very last detail, so as not to lose intimacy. Steps and platforms would need to be incorporated to prevent partial blocking for the audience. The King George III pub, which is old and Victorian, will look traditional and lively in which people will be embracing the new millennium. Although set among a dreary estate, there will be lots of English flags, red and white banners and face paint galore. Audience members will be sat around small tables as the action unfolds right in front of them, so that they feel that they are watching the match too. Gina and Jimmy prepare this scene down to the last detail. They know that a hoard of football fans are descending on them. Emma Donovan, a set designer for the 'Pilot Theatre's' production of the play at York Theatre Royal [5] described the pub in the play like this: 'It's not lovely; you've got to have the feeling that the carpet is a bit sticky. Inside the pub is a "little England", insulated from the world outside.' If I were to direct this play, that is the feel I would go for, the setting, a pub full of football fans chanting and shouting, and the odd racial banter taking place. The structure of the play echoing the match in real time, means that the audience are with the characters from kick-off to the ever increasing tension, to finally the realisation that England have suffered a fatal blow. This in turn creates tragic consequences for the characters. The last line of the play, 'don't lose yourself' is a poignant reminder of how racial difference can get in the way of modern life, and football. Hatred towards another race gets you nowhere, and with Glen trying to find a positive way of living his life, where he is able to accept himself for who he is, rather than blaming other people. He is lost in trying to find his identity and purpose. The confusion comes from Jimmy, Glen's grandfather who is partially racist. He tries to do what is best for Glen, yet in the times we are in now, his actions would be seen as morally wrong.

I think Williams would want to get across that even though racism is a problem in society, it is one to be challenged and broadcast about in ways that would shock.

Extract from play:

ALAN: The fact is Mark, that the white British are a majority racial group in this country, therefore it belongs to the white British.

MARK: Yer full of shit.

This play, with its strong language throughout, and scenes of violent behaviour does just that. It evokes a sense of hostility toward one another, and Williams toys with the audience' viewpoint by involving many storylines at the same time. There are themes of bullying, sense of belonging and the importance of using language to trigger violence in the play. The audience are completely involved with what is going on at all times, even if the content and issues are shocking.

The cast will be placed at varying points throughout the production, so as to keep the audience's attention on the drama that is ultimately unfolding. Each cast member will be fully instructed how to portray their character traits as succinctly as possible. Alan and Jimmy are the biggest racists in the play and both refer either to 'the coloureds' or the 'asylum seekers / you can't deny it, they're everywhere.' The hurtful and judgemental comments that they make about other races make them seem like irrational and opinionated men. This needs to come across in the theatre. I would instruct the cast to use Williams' portrayal of the characters through his script notes and dialogue. The cast will need to have read around the subject of racism, and its outcomes. The younger characters in the play such as Bad T and Duane need to possess the traits of youthful arrogance so that it is believable and relevant to the times.

Like Emma Donovan's vision in Pilot theatre's production of the play, the colours used for the interior of the pub would resemble the colours at Wembley. Green carpets for the pub would remind you of the green grass at Wembley and the spotlighting would be similar to floodlights. Atmospheric creation is the key element in any dramatic production and to convey an important match like this game at a local pub, is a task which the director should be able to do.

The play itself explores many themes and questions being raised that are important to note in today's society. A world full of racial and religious hatred, gun crime and violence, we forget about what's important to us as people. It is about identity, who you are, and being proud of where you came from. Williams explores how a football game can bring about scenes of anger and White British togetherness that black people can sometimes feel rejected by. In the 21st Century, we are now an advanced, multicultural society, therefore is it not time that we accepted people for whoever they are? Characters such as Alan and Jimmy will always be around, and youths like Bad T and Duane also. As a director of this particular play, you would need to have seen or experienced a kind of racism and difference that is present in society today. Williams got his inspiration for Sing Yer Heart out for the Lads merely by observing what was going on around him. For a play to work, the director needs to capture the vision that the playwright saw when they first put pen to paper.