Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 9, No. 10. August, 7, 1946
TC Present Powerful Play
TC Present Powerful Play
I have been re-reading the review of last year's Training College production and I see that Mr. Hartley's last plea was, "For heaven's sake, pick a decent play next time." Whether "The Petrified Forest" is a "decent" play and what, indeed, Mr. Hartley means by a "decent" play, are, I think, matters of opinion. It is certainly good theatre hut a difficult play to interpret. It is a product of the era of depression and disillusionment following World War I. Here clearly is despair, the dreadful knowledge of the futility of human endeavour and negation of every purpose; the tragedy of individuals "caught in the gale of the world." Only at the end is hope admitted, but hope which, damned by the whole fabric of our lives, can only be transient, unreal, tragic in itself. It is a powerful play, needing, above all. insight and experience.
The general impression given by the production was that of a group of well-rehearsed but uninspired actors. There were several notable exceptions—players who gave life and personality to their roles and sustained the play throughout. As Gramp, John Forster gave a fine performance, a portrait perfect in every detail. Neither Alan Gardiner as Boze, that curiously pathetic-example of American youth, nor Max Garvitch as Duke Mantee could be said to lack inspiration. They were both sincere, careful, studied performances. Betty Arya as Mrs. Chisholm gave a competent and completely satisfying performance.
The characters of Gabby, played by Pat Raven, and Alan Squier, played by Noel Manhire, were the most difficult in the play. In the stage directions Sherwood uses the word "condemned" of Squier. But there was never in Noel Manhire's interpretation that fore-shadowing of disaster so essential to the intelligibility of the role. It was unfortunate, too. that his voice is level and monotonous.
As Gabby. Pat Raven was sincere, direct and poignant and there was a warmth to her voice that was very appealing. But she lacked the restlessness, unsureness and earthiness that the role demanded. I know it's a difficult thing for a woman to swear naturally, but surely constant practice or something would achieve the desired effect.
The kindest thing that can be said about Bob Maguiness as Mr. Chisholm and Harry Evison as Jason, is that they were inadequate. I do not think that either of them had looked with interest or insight at their roles.
The three gangsters. Jackie. Ruby and Pyles. played by Jim Milburn, Lyster Paul and John Hickey. gave performances distinguished by a sense of reality and unity of character. There was. however, a loss of reality in the contrast between the Negro lilt of Pyles' voice and the wellbred accents of Joseph, the chaffeur, played by Monty Clare.
The inexperience of most of the actors showed itself in too sudden climaxes, and in some cases, stiffness of movement and general inaudibility.
The lighting was interesting and imaginative. The sound effects were ingenious and well-timed—and none knows better than I how difficult they are to obtain in the first place. The set was excellent and made the best use possible of the restricted space. The extension of the stage into the audience gave a feeling of Intimacy that was particularly helpful to the play.
Pat Hildreth is much to be commended for the production. The play was never lacking in a sense of unity and the last climax was fast and sustained and carried the audience completely.