Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 7. May 1, 1952
A Drama of Drama
A Drama of Drama
Sir,—As a general rule, an actor has not the right of reply to a newspaper critic, asking for criticism as he does, by appearing on stage.. I would like to make it clear that i write not as a member of the cast of The Rivals, but as A member of the Drama Club pleading for a higher standard of criticism. Actors are keenly interested in their reviews, as authoritative opinions on their performances, and are entitled to valid and worthwhile Press notices. It is the practice in England and on the Continent that the dramatic critic is not per se the dictator of half a column. Categorial statements of opinion by authorities on theatre, such as J. C. Trewin, or in this country, W. J. Mountjoy, Jnr. or Frederick Farley, are to be accepted. But I feel very strongly that, in justice to our actors, your reviewer, in Salient of March 27, should reveal either the wide theatrical experience and knowledge that enables him to make strong criticisms without explaining his reasons, or the reasons themselves. For, example, I refute the statement that the cast were restricted by the director's conception of their characterisation, and in particular, that Anne Flannery languished too much.
Such an observation as this last, should spring only from a sound understanding and experience of the play, if not backed up with good reasons has your critic seen this particular character on the stage before ? Your anonymous authority mentions how easy it is to pick a play to pieces—and proceeds happily to do so. I earnestly hope he knows this is not his simple function. Constructive advice, from a non-technical, spectator's viewpoint should not include relatively unimportant observations upon an elevated eyebrow, a precarious wig or a slamming door—valid criticisms, perhaps, but not to the exclusion of such canons of criticism as meaning, form, expression, movement, timing, setting, dressing, production, audibility, characterisation, realism and so on. I am inclined to feel, also, that one member of the cast whose performance was entirely neglected, warranted mention above the "notables" prcsent in the audience. And that reference to Coriolanus and Lucrece, which implied that The Rivals does not constitute serious dramatic art, betrays your critic's ignorance of the purpose of the theatre. Sorry to be scathing but it is high time amateur actors were accorded the standard of criticism they deserve.—Yours cheerfully.
[As the Editor I must also lay claim to the dramatic (?) criticism—my name was omitted for space reasons. Experience as a critic?—constant theatre going and constant reading of my critic's bible—the works of James Agate. My view that the director may have directed a little too much has since been confirmed by a member of the cast. As to. The Rivals—has Mr. Treadwell seen it on the stage? I did not mean to imply that The Rivals is not dramatic art but I did mean to imply that it is not serious . . . in the sense that Corialanus is I agree that the dramatic criticism in our dailies is low and should be raised.]