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Baal Play - Review Essay

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Baal is a play that wrestles with the idea of power, how it is constructed and how it is constantly exchanged between different forces. Not only is power a major theme in Baal, but too is the idea of reality, both in the play's narrative and the theatre itself, for the director plays with audience's assumed knowledge of theatre and contradicts it in many ways. Discussed here then will be how the director shows power within the play's narrative through theatrical elements, such as lighting, sound, setting, staging etc, and commands power over the audience in order to highlight and strengthen the exchange of power that appears throughout the play. The play follows the rise of fall of an artist, named Baal, who battles continuously with reality for control, then ultimately loses command over his life, friends, career and sanity. Therefore the two global themes that are presented are power and reality, and dealt with here will be how the director continuously reminds the audience that they are seeing is a play, which forces them to consciously consider what is reality and what isn't in the narrative, which inturn reveals the director's power over the audience and iterates Baal's loss and gain of power over his audience: his followers and friends.

The theme of power is the most evident early on in the piece, as the director employs Baal's placement, his action, the light that he is bathed in and theatrical tricks that force the viewer to compare their experience in the theatre, their reality, to the action that is taking place on stage. Immediately the audience is aware of Baal's importance, for when they enter Baal is seen bathed in an uncomfortable yellow light, tuning his guitar, completely disengaged from the audience. Here two ideas are set up, the first being that Baal is a special creature, for the space he occupies glows in a golden light, making him seem almost angelic and very powerful. The second idea is that the audience is aware that they are watching a play and that the image before them has been constructed to serve a specific purpose, for as Gay McAuley argues, 'spectators in the theatre do... try to make sense of what they see/hear,' meaning if a lighting effect, or any other theatrical act, is so obviously bold, the audience will question its meaning.



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