Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 1, No. 18 August 3, 1938
Since news first filtered through—well over a year ago—many of us have been guessing about "Judgment Day."
Some reports made it a world-beater. From Auckland came the hastily delivered dispatch that, like the Black Sea, it wasn't "all it's cracked up to be." We were eager on Thursday night to watch it present its credentials. Of them later.
First let us congratulate the Training College Drama Club, and Mr. Scott, on the splendid production. "Judgment Day" is a play which demands an almost professional standard both in staging and acting. It could so easily relapse into second-rate pantomime. That they succeeded so well in "putting it across" is all the evidence needed.
Mr. Cowan's set was brilliantly conceived and executed. (He should patent his coat-of-arms just in case New Zealand ever goes Fascist.) If of nothing else, the State Government could be proud of the interior design of its Palace of Justice.
In High Relief.
And now for the cast of 31.
- Cecil O'Halloran
- Margaret Lawson
- Margaret Freeman
- Guy Bliss
- J. McCreary
- D. Feeny
- E. Latham
- K. R. Hutcheson.
[unclear: The and] gesture between Cecil O'Halloran and Guy Bliss, and the way in which they identified themselves with every movement of the story was outstanding. Their sustained acting had a telling effect on the audience.
High marks go to J. McCreary, who played Count Slatarski with an intelligence and emotional exactness that made his part the most memorable of the evening.
Margaret Lawson's spontaneity. Margaret Freeman's hauteur, D. Feeny's deliberateness, E. Latham's bravado, and K. Hutcheson's sincerity were also not easily forgotten.
Most of the effects were well contrived—the explosion especially. But the judges were only spot-lighted from the armpits down—after all, their faces are their most important parts, at least on the stage. And sometimes the crowd was vociferous in a trifle too realistic a way—mainly on the second night.
About the revolver. Our condolences. We know them of old. If it did nothing else it proved in a final manner that the revolver is an instrument of reaction and decay.
And now the play itself. It was, of course, based very directly on the Reichstag Fire Trial. George Khitov in the play representing George Dimitrov; General Rakovski representing General Goering; and Kurt Schneider representing Van der Lubbe.
The story of the three months' struggle at Leipzig is well known. In the words of Dimitrov: "All the corruption of German Fascism with its judges, defence attorneys, prosecuting attorney, policemen, police commissars and all other police officials was exposed at the trial."
Treated by a mind of real depth and integrity, the Reichstag Fire Trial could have been the subject of a tremendous play: instead, Elmer Rice has a flashy though highly competent melodrama. Comnetent in the technical sense. Elmer Rice is an experienced dramatist—entrance, exit, situation climax—everything is well lubricated.
St. Audry's Fair.
In structure the play was sentimental. The division between justice and oppression was made on the familiar black and white formula. Most of the characters were turned in to well-worn types—so that often they lost objectivity and ceased being human. The diction was polished: the repeated phrase, the editorial simile.
Towards the end—what with attempted suicide, bomb throwings, and bogus monks—the melodrama very nearly became pantomime—and any personal identification with the plot was foregone in the interests of self-respect. The staginess and the make-believe broke through. One began to think of Robin Hood and grease paint.
Even though Elmer Rice sacrificed truth for melodrama—he could have avoided such a heavy poultice.
Still, it was well worth the seeing; understandable and entertaining.