162: Interior

30 Aug

Maurice Maeterlinck won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911. Interior is a short play he wrote in 1895 and is a lovely example of suspense.

Modern Short Plays

A family sits comfortably in a living room while an old man and a stranger meet in their garden and stare in the windows. As they talk, we become aware that they are there to tell the parents that their daughter is dead. But the thought of interrupting the idyll stops them from moving any closer to the house.

At some point reality will have to break into this happy home. Mourners are heading towards the house bearing the girl’s body.

THE STRANGER: They seem to be happy, and yet there is something – I cannot tell what …

THE OLD MAN: They think themselves beyond the reach of danger. They have closed the doors, and the windows are barred with iron. They have strengthened the walls of the old house; they have shot the bolts of the three oaken doors. They have foreseen everything that can be foreseen …

THE STRANGER: Sooner or later we must tell them. Someone might come and blurt it out abruptly. There was a crowd of peasants in the meadow where we left the dead girl – if one of them were to come and knock at the door …

I liked the fact that we never hear the family inside, that when the old man finally does go inside we don’t hear what he says to them. We just see their reactions and hear the watchers’ commentary from the outside. Grief is always interior. We can only ever guess at the feelings going on inside the room.

I think Interior could be a wonderful multi-media production. Maeterlinck originally wrote it for marionette puppets but I can imagine it being staged with live actors looking in at a screened/animated version of the family. Perhaps…

Interior is no longer in copyright and is freely available in a digitised version.

Cast: 3M, 2F (speaking parts) also 1M, 3F and infant inside the house (non-speaking) and a possible crowd of peasants.

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