The Visit: Staging devices and their effects
· In the beginning of the play, Durrenmatt employs stage directions to introduce the setting, as well as the mood and atmosphere of the town of Guellen. The directions state that Guellen is a “tumbledown wreck” with “a ramshackle station building” and “a little building with tiled roof and mutilated posters on its windowless walls…” Later on in Act One, another direction states that the hotel The Golden Apostle is “faded, outmoded luxury. Everything threadbare, tattered, dusty and musty and gone to seed.” These portray the town to be run-down, and its atmosphere to be gloomy and somewhat depressing. It also sets the mood for much of the rest of the play by contrasting this downtrodden environment with the ironically all-too-cheerful cast, at least until the last act of the play.
· Other staging directions that do not depict the physical appearance of the town itself also serve to portray the play’s setting. A stage direction states that when they enter, the mayor, schoolmaster, priest and Ill are “all shabbily dressed”. This implies that the citizens of the town do not have enough money to dress properly. The auditory stage direction that states “his speech is drowned by thunder of oncoming train. Squealing brakes. Dumbfounded astonishment on all faces. The five men spring up from bench” reveals the bewilderment at a train actually stopping in Guellen, which is such an unimportant poverty-stricken place. Another example is the stage direction “Guelleners bring in tables, wretched, tattered tablecloths…” further highlighting that everything in Gullen seems to be old and of poor quality.
· The stage directions also depict the change in the appearance of the setting. As mentioned, in the beginning the town is poor and skimpily depicted. However, after the arrival of Clara, the town immediately transforms because the townspeople believe that they have money. A direction states that “there is a construction plan fixed to the wall”, another that the stage is “set for opening as Act One. On wall, however, a new un-torn time table… a great poster depicting brilliant yellow sun…” There are even “a few cranes and a few new roof tops”, emphasizing the development that the town is undergoing.
· A stage direction says that “Claire appears on balcony in background…” She is elevated above the Guelleners, emphasizing her superiority, and making her seem like a divine figure from on high rather than a mere millionaires. A likely candidate for this is Clotho, who spins the web of life and controls the fate of all who live- and is specifically responsible for deciding how and when people are supposed to die.
· Many directions point to Clara riding on her sedan chair, and she is also shown as being located in other areas above the rest of the cast, whether it’s on a balcony or otherwise. This, as well as the fact that she seems to be able to buy anything and everything, shows that she is omnipotent within...