THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK
Music & Lyrics by Mike BATT
Produced by Mike BATT
|WHAT IS A SNARK? by Mike Batt
The Hunting Of The Snark is an epic poem, described by Carroll as "An Agony in Eight Fits". It tells the story of the quest for the snark by a crew of unlikely characters whose names all begin, for some unexplained reason with the letter "B". They are, The Bellman, The Boots, The Bonnett Maker, The Barrister, The Baker, The Banker, The Billiard Marker, The Beaver, The Butcher, and The Broker.
Whether the Snark is a mythical beast or some more intangible ideal, Carroll insisted that there was no conscious double meaning to the poem, but intellectuals and philosophers have argued for years over the intricate symbolism and imagery.
Lewis Carrol always maintained that it was pure nonsense, but others have surmised over the years (including during Carroll's lifetime) that there is some grand plan to it all, and that there is a deliberate allegorical layer which you can find if you look. (...)
Whether consciously or unconsciously, Carrol has left a wealth of clues and hints with which we can feed our own imagination to dig as deeply as we wish, creating our own interpretation, or merely enjoy the poem as a clever and delightful piece of silliness. (...)
The events in the original poem are really quite simple. The characters are already on the boat, at sea, when we meet them; they arrive at the island, chase the Snark, hear that it could be a Boojum and then the Baker finds one, disappears and that's the end. Of course, a lot of witty stuff happens in between, but that's about the plot. My biggest task was to open this out and create a storyline which would hold as the "book" for a stage musical. There didn't seem to be any conflict. There were no baddies (...)
So I found my conflict and tension within the characters. The Bellman had to be the key to it. I saw him as a brave, positive character, but someone who had no time for other people's thoughts, and who did not stop to think. You often meet people like him; if he were a tightrope walker, he'd never look down, and therefore never fall off. If he were talking thorugh the jungle, he'd never look at the floor for snakes and there would therefore never be any.
The Baker struck me as being his exact opposite. Very sensitive and intelligently mindful of danger, although not a weak individual by any means. (...) This tension is what I wanted in order to develop the relationship between those two characters and bring out a few of my own (quite deliberate) little plotted ideas about tolerance of each other's beliefs (...)
I identify with the Bellmann when he says all that stuff about trying as hard as your can to get out and go somewhere, or do something. I agree with his attitude to danger (ignore it). But I'm also the Baker, constantly aware of the pitfalls. (...)
So, since Lewis Carroll invites us to make what we like of his poem, I have. (...) I want the audience to decide. To me, it's a piece about courage, tolerance and the constant need to have something to look for. Is a satisfied person happy? Is it more satisfying to be still looking?
(Source: Theatre programme - excerpts)
NOTE: The audio excerpt is taken from the BBC programme Children in Need (November 1991).
Last modified: 16-May-2013