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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 9, No. 12. September 25, 1946

Film and Stage—Salient Reviews "A New Life"

Film and Stage—Salient Reviews "A New Life"

All life springs from life. As a result of a night club romance, a son is born to Edith, wife of Robert Cleghorne, heir to millions. The conflict of ideologies arising from the incompatibility of the Cleghorne way of life compared with Edith's, is the theme of the play "A New Life," by Elmer Rice, recently presented by Unity Theatre. The cast is to be congratulated on their polished performance. They played to disgustingly empty houses, but even on the last night, when all their enthusiasm must have vanished, were still able to transform a mediocre play into a delightful and memorable entertainment.

All the action takes place in the maternity hospital at East River, New York. The cold steely-blue of the background completely caught the hospital atmosphere. Tubular steel furniture would have completed the ultra-modern set-up. We doubt whether in a good maternity hospital babies would be trundled indiscriminately through the public waiting room. Minor points, however. The whole trip was well brought off and the succession of pregnant women, harassed husbands, comfortable and uncomfortable visitors crowned by the very American Cleghorne Snr. completed the effect.

The moral was gather doubtful. We presume that when Mr. Rice wrote the play, he had some definite aim in mind. However, in pandering to the American public, he has watered down the fundamental socialist theme, making it acceptable even to the Van-derbilts and their kind. The result is that a lot of time is wasted in talking around the subject without getting down to the point.

Bruce Mason as Robert Cleghorne was presentable, though somewhat insignificant as a leading man. He was handicapped by his clothes. It is difficult to strut the stage in a heroic manner, when one's sleeves and trousers are a couple of inches too short. He suffered from the limitations of his part. We doubt whether Cleghorne Jnr. is the type on which to found a brave new world. He is too gullible. A man who can swing uncontrollably from the "American way of life" to some idealistic future can hardly provide inspiration for others.

Convincingly pregnant, Patricia Highet, as Edith Cleghorne, played an embarrassing part well. Her acting in critical situations was perfect, and prevented the play from becoming bathetic. Her ideas, growing with the child and her developing mother instinct, were at least consistent, but, like those of most of the characters, vague and intangible.

Molly Beveridge was a perfect Mrs. Cleghorne, with all the spite of an ageing hypochondriac, who treated her "equals" with syrup and sweetness and her "inferiors" with disdain and insult. This ultimate of bourgeois society, had a fitting spouse in John Malcolm Cleghorne, big business magnate with a lot more common sense than his wife, but nevertheless treating her with a healthy respect that was good to see in one so accustomed to his own way, so intolerant of all who dared to oppose him, so loud in his vituperations of the socialist masses. These two provided the chief argument against the capitalist system, and by their efforts rescued the play from virtuous boredom.

Those students who did not see this performance, a fair number judging by attendances, missed something worth while. As entertainment it ranked high. Even the general public, had it gone, would have been well pleased.

M.G.S. and T.A.T.