Paratalk or torque?

Suzie Eisfelder
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My new column, with a title that somehow makes sense. From now on until I stop I will be examining a paragraph in whatever detail I choose. This is also a good time for guests to pop in and do their own paragraph.

Today’s paragraph comes from a play. It’s a very special play as it’s been on stage in London since 1952. The author stipulated it couldn’t be published in the United Kingdom until it comes off the stage. I’ve seen the play when we were in London in 2001. They asked us not to reveal the ending to anyone and they say this in every production. It’s called The Mousetrap by Dame Agatha Christie. Knowing it’s lack of publishing history in the UK I jumped when I saw a copy of The Mousetrap & Other Plays in a general store in the back of nowhere somewhere in Australia. It was on the shelf with a handful of other pre-loved books for a whopping great big 50c.

(MOLLIE and CHRISTOPHER exit through the archway R to the kitchen.
GILES frowns, ejaculates something uncomplimentary to Christopher and crosses to the small armchair down R. He picks up the newspaper and stands reading it with deep attention. He jumps as MOLLIE returns to the room and speaks)

Why is this paragraph so special? It’s from a play and play formatting differs from novel formatting in a few key things. As a part of that I need to explain how I’ve changed the formatting a little.

Look at the first line. You’ll see it finishes abruptly. That’s where it finishes in the play and the second and subsequent lines are indented a little. I couldn’t reproduce that in this WordPress format. That’s how they’ve formatted it throughout the play.

I think I’ve spotted a typo in this paragraph. It’s only because I was typing and proofreading for you that I spotted it. It seems that all characters mentioned as on stage in a given paragraph of stage directions have their names capitalised. The second iterance has only initial capitals, I think it’s meant to also be capitalised.

The small caps R means right. It tells the performer which way to exit or move. But the point of view is everything here. I’ve struggled with this for years. It seems that you need to use the performer’s point of view. So right means to go to the right of the stage as seen from the stage looking out towards the audience. I hope that makes sense.

Stage directions are all in italics with the names as stated earlier in capitals but not italicised.

Note the lack of full stop at the end of the paragraph. I’ve checked a few stage directions in this play and they all lack the full stop.

The choice of wording is interesting. I do wonder if the word ‘ejaculates’ would be used in today’s writing. It does seem to have different connotations than that of the early 1960s.

In case you want all the spoilers here’s a copy of the same book I have. You can buy it and read the entire thing if you choose. It is cheaper than flying to London to see it there. And the clicks will make me happy as it’s an affiliate link.

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