Stage set and stage directions

Stewart gives us significant details about the setting and characters’ actions in the stage directions. We note the social conditions of the tenement setting and see the set change as the Morrisons gain a little more money in Act III.

The stage directions also contribute to the characterisation. We see that Maggie when fraught or perturbed runs her fingers through her hair.

As soon as John is reminded of his unemployed status, he loses confidence and we see him drop and slump down in a chair, as if he (or namely his masculinity) has been physically wounded.

Alec is often panicking or being violent towards Isa, while Jenny is described early in the play as having her nose in the air as she fights to be free.

In Act III, irony is created when we are told in the stage directions that the band outside is playing O Come All Ye Faithful, just as Isa enters to pack her case to leave Alec for another man.

Moreover, Maggie’s final words of the play, when she describes her future, are uttered very softly. This implies that if she spoke too loudly it might somehow damage or prevent her dream from coming true.

She is tentative because this has never been her reality – only a whisper of something make-believe from long-ago. These details develop characters and enrich our understanding of the play, so they must not be overlooked.