Poor Beck, by Joanna Laurens, is a post-apocalyptic retelling of the Greek fable of Myrrha, which is based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Joanna Laurens is an English playwright working for the Royal Shakespeare Company; her work is deeply influenced by both her position within the RSC and the post-colonial society in which she resides. Poor Beck is a true exploration of the boundaries of human existence and love in the most extreme of circumstances. It is a tale of pain and betrayal as well as the hope of humanity and survival. It is a tale of sight, both being able to see what has happened to the characters, and being unable and unwilling to see what is currently happening and what is still to come. In a time of politics and war it is difficult to see what truth is and what is fiction based upon what is told to us by political figures as the head of the population, which is a main theme within Poor Beck. Often times they are told things with proof, and an expert (Poor Beck the character) to support it, that ends up being the population’s ruin when it would be easy to use their common sense to see that these things aren’t going to come to pass, even if they want them to. It is often the want that blinds them from seeing the truth. It is important to emphasize the political themes within Poor Beck, in addition to the humanistic survival and sexual themes, and these can be emphasized by the addition and adaptation of the Greek chorus and the many functions its performance provides as well as the addition to live oboe as opposed to the Greek flute. The Greek chorus’ performance can create a link between the characters’ dialogue and the emotion and drama they are portraying in a way that is visually pleasing to the audience. They can also serve as a populous within the script, make certain spectacle/theatrical devices and effects possible, serve as a character within themselves, as well as serve as a metaphor for some of the primary characters. Instead of trying to recreate a traditional Greek chorus they should be adapted in such a way that it will be applicable to today’s audience, be able to be used in conjunction with current theatrical technology, as well as serve some of the functions of the traditional Greek chorus; this will enable the chorus to be able to grow and become its own unique entity fit for the contemporary stage.
“The most conspicuous element of Greek tragedy, the Chorus, was not a conscious invention of the Greek artistic genius. The Chorus was simply there from the beginning, whenever or wherever the beginning is placed, and it always had to be there, even though its presence might be something of a nuisance. At their best the poets made of it a superb dramatic instrument. With the accompaniment of music and dance, it made possible grand operatic effects that we can scarcely appreciate in reading and never reproduce exactly, since Greek music and choreography is lost. Beyond such effects, the poets made various uses of the Chorus, to relieve, amplify, intensify, or complicate their drama—and to mislead simple readers, who habitually look to it for the “moral” of the tragedy” (Muller, 41). Muller, has it exactly correct, the Poor Beck Chorus was used as a dramatic instrument that creates grand theatrical effects as well as intensifies certain scenes. `The Classical Greek pieces of theatre had certain theatrical devices that they used to attain the affects they wished; such as a Greek chorus. “The Chorus was the bond between the lyric and dramatic elements: having connection with the dramatic plot as the hero’s confidants, and taking part (through their Coryphæus or Leader) in the dialogue of the episodes, while the lyric parts they had wholly to themselves” (Moulton, 65-66). The chorus will still maintain the bond between the lyric and dramatic elements, but they will do so through modern dance (as illustrated in photograph A). For this reason the Greek chorus for Poor Beck was referred to as “the Poor Beck swim team;” for they are not an exact recreation of a Greek chorus, which would be impossible, but a modernized version of one without the use of verbal language, purely physical. This is not an unheard of philosophy for the use of a Greek Chorus: “The centre of all the dancing was the coryphaeus, the leader of the chorus; when two semi-choruses acted separately each had its leader. As was natural, choric dancing flourished mightily in the early days, and went down with lyrical performance in general. Thus Phrynichus congratulated himself on having devised ‘as many figures of the dance as are the billows on the sea under a dread night of storm’. Aeschylus too was a brilliant ballet-master” (Norwood, 78).
Poor Beck is an ideal script for the addition of a chorus for it is based on a Greek myth, is written with a lyrical quality, and does not have large changes in time or location. “Although the poets knew of no rules about the unities of time and place, they usually observed these unities if only because a chorus of townspeople could not readily be moved about; no single tragedy has a wide-ranging action or a protracted development in time” (Muller, 41).