the play ...
"THE BRIDGE" PLAY PROJECT
an initiative of Church and Peace European network of Christian peace churches groups and organisations
THE BRIDGE - a Play with Music in Two Acts
Time and place
The play opens with a mimed 'dumb-show' depicting an encounter between a poor family - father, mother and child - and a rich couple. The five actors are masked, the masks representing their respective social characters and rõles. To accompany the mime a singer sings "The Ballad of Rich and Poor".
Act I scene 1
The Ironmaster, a wealthy manufacturer, is overseeing the construction by his company and foundry of an iron bridge, designed to be built across a great river and to open up the wilderness beyond to development. The opening of the bridge will mark the overlord's, Earl Sigismond's, jubilee. A breakdown in the machinery necessitates the Ironmaster's approaching a gypsy, a skilled iron-worker, to repair the damage, if the bridge is to be completed in time for the jubilee. Gypsy Jon, the gypsy smith, asks in return for a resting-place for his family, so that they can celebrate his daughter's coming wedding, which is to take place on the same day. The Ironmaster reluctantly agrees, and is invited to attend the wedding celebrations.
Act I scene 2
The gypsy's wife and her daughter are preparing for the wedding. Her present from her future husband, a jewelled bracelet, is admired by both. The daughter sings as her mother sews. Suddenly they hear a 'final warning' from the authorities to vacate the site on which they have been camping. Their distress is terminated by the arrival of Gypsy Jon with the news of the new site. As the Act ends we hear the machines starting up again.
The Act opens with sounds of the celebrations accompanying the official opening of the bridge by the Earl. We see the bridge (a projected picture). This gives way to the wedding celebrations, with the six principal characters and a group of (gypsy) children. There are speeches by Gypsy Jon, the Ironmaster, his wife and Tomas, the bridegroom. The Ironmaster's wife presents a jewelled necklace to the bride; we gather that a matching bracelet had been stolen, and discover that the likely thief was the bridegroom and that Sonja, the daughter, is wearing it. The speeches are followed by songs and later by dancing, in which even the Ironmaster is obliged to take part. The music gets faster, the dance wilder, and the Ironmaster loses his footing and falls to the ground in an undignified manner. He is angry and discomfited. As he rises he dislodges the gypsy player's violin, and in a fit of anger smashes it. During the horrified silence that follows he orders the gypsies off his land and leaves. The gypsy family respond with resignation, and the Act closes with a view of the iron bridge, with a procession of travellers / refugees crossing over it. Accompanying this is "The Song of the Refugees".
The actors, with the dumb-show masks on display separately, line up to recite the closing words, which aim to stress our common humanity and our need for sharing and 'bridge-building'.