Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 569
The structure of A Chorus of Disapproval exemplifies Ayckbourn’s modernity: the first scene, for instance, is chronologically the last. The play begins with the tail-end of PALOS’s performance of The Beggar’s Opera. From there, the play unfolds like a cinematic flashback. The flashback structure maintains tension throughout the lighthearted ensemble piece: the audience, certain in the knowledge that the opera will be performed successfully, nonetheless fears that calamity will unfold, for after the curtain falls, Guy is abandoned by his fellow cast members.
In the second scene of Act I, Guy auditions by giving a fumbling rendition of the only song he knows, ‘‘All Through the Night.’’ He is shown up by the director, Dafydd, who interrupts him to sing the song in Welsh. Although Guy’s singing is obviously not up to standard, Dafydd immediately accepts him, partly because he is short one actor and partly because he is a warm, generous man.
During the audition, other cast members enter. A quick scene and lighting change follows, and the cast adjourns to a local pub named The Fleece (the name of the tavern suggests that the customers will be ‘‘fleeced’’ or conned out of their money). This pub parallels Peachum’s tavern in The Beggar’s Opera: indeed, the proprietor’s daughter, Bridget, acts rather like Gay’s Lucy, fighting with customers and stealing lovers.
Following this sociable occasion, Dafydd invites Guy home. A brief scene change finds the characters in a pleasant, comfortable living room. Dafydd offers Guy the part of Crook-Fingered Jack. Although it is only a one line part, Guy is thrilled and accepts. Then Dafydd’s neglected wife, Hannah, enters. She is to play Polly Peachum in the Opera. Hannah has suffered in the shadow of her talkative and unobservant husband. Hannah and Guy connect emotionally—he is polite and attentive, which she appreciates, and she is sensitive about his recent loss, which he appreciates.
Another scene change finds PALOS again rehearsing. For all his enthusiasm, Dafydd is a disorganized director: the cast has only rehearsed the first fifteen pages of the script. Amidst the confusion, Guy receives an alluring invitation to dinner from the lascivious Fay, seconded by her reluctant husband, Ian. Jarvis Huntley-Pike, a jovial Northerner, persists in his mistaken assumption that Guy is a Scotsman. Meanwhile, the romantic tension between Guy and Hannah increases. The rehearsal ends with an unexpected boon for Guy: after a cast member drops out, he is promoted to the meatier role of Matt of the Mint.
The next scene is set in Fay and Ian’s house. Guy arrives, assuming that he has been invited to dinner. Fay, however, has other plans. She is amused when Guy’s friend arrives—a seventy-year-old woman whose presence is a considerable shock to Ian. The Hubbards, as well as the Huntley-Pikes, mistakenly think that Guy can help them in their scheme to fleece Guy’s company, BLM.
The last scene of Act I, a rehearsal, is set one month after these initial scenes. Dafydd comments to Guy that ‘‘these dramatics’’ are ‘‘doing you good,’’ and Guy does indeed seem more confident. The Act ends with a song from the Opera. Although the actresses are meant to be focused upon Crispin, who is playing Macheath, they turn to Guy. Their unconscious mistake prefigures the second act’s major development: Guy’s elevation to the role of Macheath.
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