Dramatic styles

As noted in the Background section, the play uses techniques from a number of theatrical influences.

Brechtian theatre

McGrath uses Brechtian techniques to remind the audience that they are watching a performance and not real characters.

For example, early in The Stag, the conversation of Sellar and Loch pauses. They freeze. A phrase on the fiddle. Two SPEAKERS intervene between them, speak quickly to the audience.

The Speakers fill in the context, giving us background on the characters and their employers.

Soon after, Loch himself breaks out of character:

The coast of Sutherland abounds with many different kinds of fish.(Loch takes off his hat, and speaks directly to the audience.) Believe it or not, Loch and Sellar actually used these words. (Puts hat on again.)

And later, Sellar too acknowledges the audience:

Enter PATRICK SELLAR. He pats the baby the FIRST GIRL is carrying on the head, then walks up to the audience
I am not the cruel man they say I am. I am a business man.
He winks and goes [...]

By stepping in and out of character, the actors are shown to be performers - what they are saying is not real. This helps the audience question what they are saying and who they are saying it too. Do Loch and Sellar believe what they are saying? How much are they too playing different roles for different people?


The play uses elements from pantomime to keep the action energetic and humorous, even when dealing with difficult issues.

For example, the section set in the Red River Valley features audience involvement. In a variation on the traditional pantomime call of "He's behind you", the Sturdy Highlander invites the crowd to shout Walla Walla Wooskie and wave in warning of when a Native American sneaks up to attack him.

When the French Northwest Trader enters, he is described as outrageous. He acts like a pantomime villain, even down to threatening the audience:

Anyone who says walla walla wooskie or the waving of palms will (He makes throat-cutting gesture).

The Trader then goes on to make the point that:

I give them beads, baubles, V.D., diphtheria, influenze, cholera, fire water and all the benefits of civilisation.

McGrath has used the fun elements of panto to steer round to making a serious point, but in a format that is still part of an entertaining night out.