"A Note" from Dusty Hughes--Joe Brook's collaborator

from the CD insert

"Metropolis" was begun in the early summer of 1986. Joe and I worked around the piano in London and then moved on for the summer to a rented house in East Hampton on Long Island.

The first draft was finished in the autumn of that year, but the libretto went through many changes in the following months as we tried to find a style that combined the haunting qualities of the film with something that was boldly theatrical and our own.

Many of the early songs did not survive this process though they may easily find a home elsewhere.

When the composer and his co-author were in different countries, the work continued by whatever means available--letter, telephone, telex, probably even osmosis in time honoured fashion.

The changes went on throughout rehearsals, one of the best songs, "One Of Those Nights" arriving less than two weeks before we opened to previews.

My admiration for Judy Kuhn and the rest of the cast is boundless.

Since Lang's is a vision of the future seen from the perspective of Europe in the twenties, it didn't seem appropriate to blandly copy either the style or the setting of the film. On the other hand, theatrical science fiction has often seemed thin and plastic.

The key to finding a theatrical form seemed to be in the character of the original fable which existed inside the epic. Lang dismissed "Metropolis" as a 'fairy story'. but fairy stories and fables often have a dark and elemental power which translate easily onto the stage. In this case the hidden story is simple and resonant.

The son, growing up without a mother, is repelled by the coldness of his powerful and distant father. The father sees the son only as the inherior of his empire. When the son rebels, he subconsciously chooses the most damaging way to do it, by falling in love with the girl from 'down there' who is herself the spiritual leader of a rebellion against the father.

The father creates the robot woman, the girl's evil double, both to discredit the girl and taunt the son.

The son's attempts to unite the upper world with the lower world seem clumsy and doomed, but the father's action brings about a revolt which leads to the destruction of the city.

So far so good, but here the film and the stage versions moved further apart as our work went on.

In the Lang film there is a 'happy ending' which seems to go against the logic of the story. The father, Jon Frederson, whose actions in the film have been increasingly psychopathic, survives to be reunited with his son and the rebellious girl--and even it seems to bless their union.

The stage libretto imagines a city of the future without mineral or nuclear energy, isolated in an endless winter, probably the last city.

The core of the original story seems to be about 'power' in every sense of the word. The images of power, darkness and light recur throughout the libretto.

Our city of "Metropolis" survives only by harnessing human power to create energy and for this it requires a vast underworld of slaves. In the Lang film they are comatose and subdued. On the stage we try to suggest that the workers have customs and rituals as well as access to small amounts of precious knowledge. Guards and spies are needed to keep them firmly in their place.

As the book developed, I blithely wrote scenes in which lifts (elevators) ded smoothly up and down, or became secret places from which characters could eavesdrop and spy. I never realised that the designer, Ralph Kotai, would take me at my word, nor that he would be given the resources to create the marvels he did.

The machines themselves are not Fritz Lang's surreal beasts, nor the sci-fi plexiglass tubes of the Pompidou Centre--but oldand weighty and three dimensional--as if material from the industrial revolution had been rescued out of necessity from the scrap heap.

So in our newly created world of "Metropolis" when the father's plans are thwarted and most of his worker energy perishes in fire and blood below, it is only logical that he turns what remains of his destructive power on himself and his city. Only the two lovers and a few children from the city below survive to start a new life in the ruins of the old.

Dusty Hughes

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