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Long and the Short and the Tall


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A: Willis Hall Pf: 1958, Nottingham Pb: 1959 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Hut in the Malayan jungle, Second World War C: 8mSeven British soldiers have taken refuge in a primitive hut in the Malayan jungle during the Second World War. They have got separated from their unit and have lost radio contact with their base. During the night they are surprised by a Japanese soldier, who wanders into the hut to have a quiet smoke. They take him prisoner, but realize that they must be much closer to the Japanese lines than they thought. A patrol discovers that the Japanese are advancing around them, so they decide to retreat swiftly and silently. The question is what they should do with their prisoner. At first they intend to bring him back to base for interrogation, but realizing that he might put them in danger, the leader of the patrol Sergeant Mitcham, supported by Corporal Johnstone, decide to kill their prisoner in cold blood. Lance Corporal MacLeish protests against this brutal decision but changes his mind when the soldier is found to have a British cigarette case containing British cigarettes, obviously looted from the bodies of fellow combatants. Only Private Bamforth, an extrovert Cockney who anyway resents Mitcham's heavy discipline, now seeks to protect the unfortunate Japanese soldier. As Mitcham and Johnstone are about to force Bamforth to disarm, Private Whitaker, who has been guarding the prisoner, accidentally shoots him, thus alerting the surrounding Japanese forces.

A: Willis Hall Pf: 1958, Nottingham Pb: 1959 G: Drama in 2 acts S: Hut in the Malayan jungle, Second World War C: 8m

While the British and American cinema kept on replaying the Second World War, and a number of major plays had been written after the First World War, post-war theatre seemed hesitant to choose the Second World War as a setting. Perhaps the scale was too vast, and significantly one of the few important war plays, The Long and the Short and the Tall by Willis Hall, later better known for his radio, television, and film scripts, focuses on one isolated setting and on a clear moral dilemma, for which the War forms a backdrop rather than being an essential component of the drama.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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