They say the end of a play is the most important part, because that’s what the audience remembers as they leave. However, not all productions end with a rousing chorus; there are sombre plays, built up to a strong emotional atmosphere, which would be ruined by the usual troupe of cheery grinning cast members bouncing on for their curtain call. Instead, you need something solemn enough to stun the audience into that pause of total silence before the applause starts – think Bonnie & Clyde’s machine-gun dance of death, for instance.  I recall a production of Cabaret where the final curtain had the yellow-starred cast collapsing, gassed, onto the stage, but maybe that’s a bit OTT for most plays.

Then there are strongly-written plays which just run out of steam at the end. One such was a powerful Red Clydeside drama which had been intended as the first episode of a never-completed three-parter, so just ended abruptly. Another centred on the women left behind during the Great War, where the otherwise strong writing just fizzled out in a very low-key ending.  In both our productions of these, we replaced the conventional curtain call with a fade-out of all stage lighting to a strong coloured cyc, against which was silhouetted a tableau (raising of the red flag Iwo-Jima style for the first one, soldiers grouped as per a war-memorial sculpture for the second). The rest of the cast slowly took up position and only then were the lights raised on them for a solemn bow. A very simple effect, but very powerful and effective in retaining the terrific atmosphere that both these well-crafted plays had built up. The adjudicator’s verdict: “ … beautifully handled with the brass band in the background and the soldiers silhouetted in tableau giving a lovely closing picture”.


Category: Staging

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