Swansong - Christopher Bruce

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Swansong Christopher Bruce, 1987
Subject Matter ­ A prisoner (potentially political) is interrogated by two guards. They
try different methods of gaining the information including torture (represented in an
abstract way) The prisoner eventually dies and his spirit leaves his body at the end
Form ­ Narrative
Structure ­ Episodic ­There are different sections which show different aspects of the
same theme. The prisoner is interrogated by the guards and eventually becomes weaker
as their tactics become more sinister or violent. These scenes are interspersed with three
solos by the prisoner ­ the first shows him having hope and wishing for freedom, the
second is more of a struggle as he is weakened by the torture and the third solo is when
his spirit dances towards the light. Can also say that this structure is rondo ­ ABCDCEC
Movement ­ Contemporary, Tap and Vaudeville influences.
Dancers ­ Portray characters ­ one male prisoner, two male guards (although these
genders have been changed in later productions)
Costume ­ Demonstrative of character ­ Prisoner; everyday clothes (blue jeans, pink
t-shirt) with black jazz shoes and in one section a red nose (put on by the guards to
humiliate him) Guards ­ Uniform; khaki short sleeved shirts with a breast pocket, khaki
trousers, in one section they also wear caps
Music ­ Specially commissioned for the dance, by Phillip Chambon; direct correlation.
Electronic score with different music for each section appropriate for the
scene/mood/style of the section
Set Design ­ Black Box theatre, single chair used throughout, bare stage
Lighting ­ Light only on the floor, plain white light, one light from the top left diagonal
corner (symbolic of hope/freedom; `light at the end of the tunnel') the light that comes on
during the prisoners solos could be light coming in from a window, changes from bright
to dim according to scene/mood/atmosphere
Section 1- Questions and Answers
Tap Influence (soft shoe)
There is a tap motif which is seen throughout the piece. Initially the prisoner does not
respond to this
Jazz and contemporary influence ­ lifts etc could be seen as manipulation or as trying to
win him over
Strong, sharp movements
Moments of suspension and sustainment ­ accents
Space ­ generally centralized, near the chair
Lighting ­ Dark with a white spotlight to emphasise the chair, which later disperses
Use of sounds e.g. a gunshot? and tapping, electronic sounds and silence
Section 2 ­ Tea for Two
Physical setting ­ the guards put a red nose on the prisoner (humiliation) and wear caps
themselves (friendliness?)
Increasing speed and jazz and tango influence, as well as an increase in complex tap
Manipulation and lifts
Returns to the original tap motif (which the prisoners now responds more to)
Aural setting ­ Increasing tempo and comedy

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Section 3 ­ Prisoner's Solo
More somber mood ­ escapism?
Motifs and images present him as knotted, for example when he crosses his legs over
each other and reaches through them, potentially representing his trapped feelings
More classical/contemporary movement
Soft, flowing movements and sustainment
Repetitive use of contractions and stamps ­ pain and anger
Attitude turns with an upper body spin ­ freedom
Arabesque breaks into an attitude ­ desire for and lack of freedom
Birdlike movements ­ freedom
Use of facial expressions, lack of…read more


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