Narrative and structural characteristics of South African one-person musicals
Van der Bijl, Marli
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The purpose of this study was to create a Combined Framework consisting of narrative and structural characteristics identified in concept musicals, cabaret and one-person dramatic shows to facilitate the case studies of three South African one-person musicals. A better understanding of the narrative and structural characteristics in one-person musicals could contribute to a secondary observation that the one-person musical appears to be an amalgamation of the three informing subgenres. Section A served as an introduction to the study. In Section B, research was conducted on the three subgenres of the concept musical (Chapter 2), cabaret (Chapter 3) and the oneperson dramatic show (Chapter 4). The research involved literature studies of the subgenres regarding their historical backgrounds, their affiliation to the revue, which they seemed to resemble in structure, and their association with the modernist techniques utilised by Bertolt Brecht in his Epic Theatre. The background information supplemented further investigations into the narrative and structural characteristics of the three informing subgenres, which was structured around the six elements of drama identified by Aristotle (plot, theme, character, language, music, spectacle). From the literature studies, the Combined Framework was constructed in Chapter 5 to direct the proposed case studies on the selected South African one-person musicals. In Section C, three South African one-person musicals were evaluated for their narrative and structural characteristics using the Combined Framework. They were: Amanda Strydom’s State of the Heart (Chapter 6), Nataniël’s COMBAT (Chapter 7) and Elzabé Zietsman’s Agter Glas (Chapter 8). Section D was devoted to the summary and conclusion of the study. In the literature studies of Section B, it was established that the concept musical, cabaret and one-person dramatic show all indicate a presentational, anti-naturalistic approach to theatre. They aim at intellectual entertainment, engaging in strong socio-political themes and challenging their audiences into critically evaluating society. Techniques used in all three subgenres can often be linked to Brecht’s Epic Theatre and the non-linear construction of all three subgenres also show similarities to the structure of the revue. In the case studies of the three South African one-person musicals in Section C, similar narrative and structural characteristics were observed. The one-person musicals seemed to indicate strong similarites to all of the informing subgenres, which leads to the conclusion that the oneperson musical appears to be an amalgamation of the concept musical, cabaret and oneperson dramatic show. It can be concluded that the Combined Framework demonstrated efficiency in facilitating an evaluation of the narrative and structural characteristics of South African one-person musicals. The three informing subgenres, namely the concept musical, cabaret and the oneperson dramatic show, were also deemed suitable for comparison with each other and oneperson musicals. Characteristics of all three subgenres manifest in the one-person musicals explored, producing a hybrid musical theatre form. The question is raised whether musical theatre in South Africa should be re-evaluated in terms of nomenclature, specifically with regards to the use of the word cabaret to denote one-person musicals. Further academic conversation in the field is welcomed, and the Combined Framework seems to present the potential to facilitate the evaluations of other one-person musicals or musical and musical theatre productions in the broader spectrum of the arts.