Composers and their stage works 

Serjeant Musgrave's Dance

An Unhistorical Parable

John Arden

Drama - 3 acts - (produced 1959)

Towards the end of the last century, four soldiers serving in the colonies are sickened by the violent reprisals against innocent civilians for the death of their comrade, Billy HIcks. They desert and under the leadership of Sjt Musgrave return to Billy's home town, a northern mining community in the grip of a coal strike and cut off by the winter snow.

The soldiers intend to show Billy's skeleton and convince people that the colonial wars and its attendant repression is wrong. But after a ;ack of sympathy towards them by the striking miners and the accidental death of one of their number, Sparky, who tried to run away with Billy's old girlfriend Annie, the soldiers attempt to kill five times five townsfolk with their Gatling gun as a lesson and a warning.

They fight among themselves, another is killed , and at the last moment the dragoons arrive in time to prevent a massacre. The two remaining soldiers, Musgrave and the pacifist Attercliffe, are arrested. Innkeeper Mrs Hitchcock visits them in jail and sums up the play's anti violence message ... 'you can't cure the pox with further whoring.'


  • Pte Sparky
  • Pte Hurst
  • Pte Attercliffe
  • Budgeon, a bargee
  • Sjt Musgrave
  • The Parson
  • Mrs Hitchcock
  • Annie
  • The Constable
  • The Major
  • A slow collier
  • A pugnacious collier
  • Walsh, an earnest collier
  • A trooper of the Dragoons
  • An officer of the Dragoons