(Patricia) Ann Jellicoe Bamber Gascoigne - Essay

Bamber Gascoigne

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Knack provides a fascinating comparison with Play with a Tiger…. Both plays are written by women, both of whom can be described as 'new wave' dramatists; and both are about sexual callousness. Yet the two plays could hardly be more different. In Play with a Tiger Doris Lessing has a story to tell about one particular love affair and the pain of it. She wants to tell it naturalistically, but she also wants her play to have the clear markings of wider 'significance.'… We have to know the exact relationships between the minor and major characters—where did they meet, how long ago, why are they here now? We have to know in detail what is causing the representative noises in the street. Even the dramatic pool of orange light has to be explained (it comes from the street lamp shining through the window when the interior lights are off)….

Ann Jellicoe is a more instinctive playwright. In The Knack she also wants to write a play of general significance, but she decides for this reason to make its whole tone general, almost abstract. But since she doesn't want her play to seem arty or expressionistic—as it would if presented, say, on three stilted rostra of differing heights and one kidney-shaped podium—she, too, makes her naturalistic excuses. But she makes them briefly and economically at the very beginning of the play and then never needs to return to them. Her permanent setting is a bare room,...

(The entire section is 560 words.)