The opening of a one – act play should be such as to ensure a gripping effect through a diversity of means. The form of the one-act play is capable of much greater variety. It may be compact and rigid, but it may also be expansive and flexible. Its choice of theme is unrestricted by convention as its treatment of theme is. It may be realistic, or poetic, or fanciful or humorours, or even horrible. The one-act play also has another advantage; it provides the author scope for making experiments.
Finally, the long play has been linked by Hermon Ould to a voyage of discovery; a one-actor resembles a short-distance travel over a. more or less familiar or chartered route. As the long play proceeds, there are constant surprises.
The uncertainty of the conclusion itself keeps the audience in a state of suspense with the interest never flagging. But the one-actor does not discover but only reveals. In fact, the mood not only conditions the structure but also sets in the type of the one-actor.
The simplest type of the one-actor is the straight play, which tells a story. In these plays, the writer uses the technique of the long-play-character, dialogue and atmosphere in the same way, but with greater economy and concentration on interplay of forces. One of the finest examples of this type is Syngels “The Riders of the Sea’. As we see this play, we are taken through a variety of doubts, speculations, uncertainties, and a close-up view of the climax. The tragic effect is not only made more intense; it is something more than poignant; it is sublime.
The very nature of a one-act play demands concentration. As a result, the heightened emotions of” the one-actor may be poetical or intensely realistic. When it is poetical, it transcends reality and throws over the audience the spell of illusion through the music of words and the deepening sentiments.
Materlink, Lord Dunsany, James Barrie and Osborne, each in his own way, made use of the fantasy as an escape from life into a world of the imagination and fancy The Monkey’s Paw, is difficult for an audience to absorb. Another type is the humorous play. Humour gains in effect if it is brief and pointed Perhaps from the story point of view, the humorous short play has proved to be the greatest success and Barrie, A. N. Milne. Noel Coward and Sregory have demonstrated this.
As a distinct type of the art of play writing, the one-act play has necessarily to fulfill certain emotional conditions. These are more or less common but the variations are as numerous as possible. It, of course, goes without saying that the theme of the one-act play must be simple, homogenous and without diversities and distractions. The dramatic situation must be placed as near the climax as possible.
Secondly, the characters must be few in number. The Greek dramatist, who for the sake of the unities habitually put the action forward close to the climax, restricted the characters to the barest minimum. This means that the characters must be directly involved and significantly contribute to the plot. In a one-actor there is no room for digressions, of flash backs, the line of action must be straight in Cambell, the Kilohomer. Hence the language must be economical; the dialogue must be racy and effective. In a poetic play, where much of effect depends upon building up an atmosphere, greater freedom is allowed to imaginative or emotional elaboration. In short, whatever detracts interest from the immediate issue must be scrupulously avoided.
The emergence of the one-act play was more or less accidental. Though it can never take the place of the drama proper, it has created a specific field for itself. With the democratisation of life, the need will be felt for amateur actors working in the various spheres of life to relieve or diversify the monotony. It is not impossible to visualise changed social conditions when each institution,—not only schools and colleges,—but offices and factories also—will each have their own halls fitted up with a small stage and an adequate auditorium. The one-actor will then come into its own, without any doubt.
Even today, it has shown its utility, specially, in small-improvised shows. Now they are in great demand with the amateur theatrical parties Therefore, it is important that good one-act plays should continue to be written as a distinct and growing art form.