The first scene is probably the most important scene of all, as it tells us about the nature of the characters and their attitudes. The first words of the play that are stage directions play a big part. The quote the stage represents a comfortless flat . . . . . the street outside. Jazz music this tell us about the time in which they lived which was post war Britain from the jazz music. Jazz music is associated with the blues that was music about being down on your luck which was popular at these times.
Mentioning that they lived in Manchester also gave a feeling of their surroundings. In Manchester at this time of the play there would have been few people of other ethnic origins as opposed to 1 in 20 British citizens being African, Asian or Caribbean origin in the 1990s. Also in that day and age it was only a tiny minority of the population on which were single parents. This would be the most important scene because it gave us an idea of what Helen and Jo are like. It tells us what there attitudes are and what sort of relationship they have.
Helen reacts differently to Helen at the first impressions of the flat. While Helen is making the flat sounding a lot better than it actually is to make her feel a little bit better so she doesnt feel like a failure, Deep down inside she knows she is. Helen about the flat when she says Whats wrong with this place? . . . . . Anyway it will do for us. Jo hates the flat and expresss her feelings when she expresss to her mother I dont like it which are also the first words Jo, says in the play. Also Jo keeps pointing out faults to the flat like the roofs leaking and I bet itll smell trying to persuade Helen that the flat she had taken was a dump. You could say that Jo is pessimist and Helen is an optimist when it comes to attitudes to the flat. The setting of the flat is very depressing and greatly affects the characters of the play and brings them down.
From the descriptions of the characters there are all the things people dont want to live near such as the gasworks, the slaughterhouse, tenements and a cemetery. Also when they arrive in the flat its raining which I think reflects how the characters are feeling and how low they are at the time. In the time Jo and Helen moved into the flat it was post war Britain and everything was being spent on buildings that needed restoring from the bombing during the wars. This meant that very little money was being spent to improve the condition of housing. The state of the flat affects Jo and Helen causing tension and most arguments nearly always start from living conditions of their flat. The flat also represents the chain of their life. They move from one run old flat to another that we find out when Jo says, Every place we find is the same which shows they are in a cycle they cannot break.
Jo and Helen are mother and daughter, but as a reader its more of a sister relationship. Helen isnt a supportive mother and puts Jo down when she can which we find out when she says The way she bangs about! I tell you, my heads coming off. In the play there is one part where Helen offers to pay for Jo to go to Art School. Even though she says Have you ever . . . youll soon learn I dont think she means it and follow through with promises.
They talk to one and other like they have no respect for each other. Jo doesnt show respect to her mother because she sees no reason to, after all, what has Helen ever done for Jo? Helen also doesnt care for Jo, as she never shows any affection to Jo at all when Jo says, Youve certainly never been affectionate with me. If Jo and Helen werent mother and daughter I think they wouldnt want to know each other if they had the choice. Its almost as if they had been forced together.
The most likely subject to cause arguments is the state of the flat and how they actually treat each other. Also Shelagh Delaney uses humour, as in the form of sarcasm which relieves the tension of the atmosphere of the play and gives a little bit of light relief which Helen expresses when she says Why, have we run out of cemetery space? . . . When were gone. There is also a lot of jealousy between Jo and Helen. Jo is jealous of Helens men because she always shows affection to them rather than her. Also Jo once said I used to like one of them fancy men which also shows jealousy because Helen was hanging round him and never noticed Jo. Helen is jealous of Jo because she is young.
When they first enter the flat Jo is a lot more organised than Helen and takes over the mother role because straight away she looks for sufficient heating God! Its freezing! Isnt their ant sort of fire anywhere, Helen? Also she puts a scarf round the light as a lampshade to make the room feel better with a softer light.
To these characters the audience would feel tension as soon as they had walked through the door. But Shelagh Delaney tries to relax the mood with added sarcasm.
When Peter enters he is presented as a brash car salesman, cigar in mouth, and from his dialogue we find he is a very selfish self-centred man. He doesnt care about anyones feelings when he says, Why dont you go home to your father? . . . Too bad to Jo that is a very sensitive issue to her, because of the fact she doesnt even know who her father is. He also tries to drag her to the pub knowing full well she that wasnt feeling well.
When Peter is present she always she always wants to be there to get her mothers attention as a way of being spiteful to her. Helen acts as if Peter is an unwanted presence and tries to push him away at every advance he makes on her. But in the end she quite likes him as we find out when she says, Well, you certainly liberate something in me. And I dont think its maternal instincts either.
The relationships in the first scene are very clear between Jo and Helen as we find out from the first time there is introduced. They fight as soon as they walk through the door of the flat.
They both hate each other but in the end they care for each other. The relationship between Helen and Peter isnt that clear as it mentions little history, but from what Helen says hes not very nice person. We do find out that Helen had tried to escape from Peter when she says, How did you find my address. Its also clear that Jo doesnt like Peter as she tries to ruin Helens relationship with Peter. Also we know that Peter isnt interested in Jo and we find this out as Peter doesnt show any consideration to Jos feelings.