Reflective Journal Task 5
With close reference to specific examples from the text, think about the speech strategies employed by the characters in your chosen play. Would you consider them to be polyvocal and/or multivocal? Why or why not?
It is important to make a distinction between scripts and what we would term performance writing, which is itself emerging as an important dramaturgical category. Although the ‘language playwrights’ experiment with form, they still work within a narrative structure – in other words, the language still works to tell a story in the traditional sense. Performance writing operates as quite a broad category which crosses into other disciplines such as art; it is basically
any writing that is intended to be performed. So, in a way, a playscript – or what is often called ‘dramatic writing’ operates as a particular type of performance writing, in which performers engage in mimesis to tell a story
(even if the narrative isn’t always crystal clear!). However, it is important to remember that traditional scripts are just a subset of performance writing, and there are many other forms (including non-mimetic speech) that writing for performance can encompass.
Although there are always a lot of grey areas – or what we might call ‘liminal space’ – between categories in performance studies, we can look at some common features that identify ‘language playwrights’. One of these is the
representation of many voices and points of views within a play; this means that there is no dominant single protagonist. This is known as ‘polyvocality’.
In addition, a character may not have a singular speech style; s/he may change speech strategies according to the situation s/he is in. This is known as a ‘multivocal’ character (Castagno, 2001, 17).
Castagno points out that in real life ‘people change mode, style and level of speech to fit each situation’ (2001, 18); therefore (and continuing from our discussion on the ‘unnatural’ nature of speech in theatre in Unit 2), naturalistic
and realistic styles of drama, which generally hold that a character should have a consistency of speech throughout, are not as good a mirror of life as they purport!