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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 7. May 1, 1952

Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

A Critic Answer Back

Sir.—If is was possible to do so Mr. E. H. Belford in a letter to the Editor which was printed in the last issue exceeded hid usual low level of criticism. I think that the Editor should have exercised his editorial function and refused to print such a travesty of the critic's art. However, in reply to Mr. Belford allow me to make the following six points.

Firstly, Mr Belford has confused criticism of his report with criticism of himself as an individual. I called his criticism "pretentious, childish, and stupid"—not Mr. Belford. Although of course if the report was stupid it is possible if not probable that the critic is stupid also—but I never said do.

Secondly, I definitely did not misquote Mr. Belford's report. I quoted him twice, directly from the "Evening Post," and upon checking I have found my quotations correct in every detail.

Thirdly. I did not attribute Mr. Belford with a high regard for any third-rate poet—indeed I doubt if Mr. Belford would know the difference between a first and a second or third-rate poet. I merely arrived at a farcical conclusion of an example of reasoning based on Mr. Belford's absurd comments as premises.

Fourthly, it was not my intention to use my space criticising the "Post's" review. To use words from Mr. Belford's letter. I "made better use of the considerable space allowed" me by making "a fair job of the review."

Fifthly, although according to Mr. Belford I have not been specific, I quoted and commented on two of Mr. Belford's inane comments, and that despite the fact it was not my primary aim to criticise the "Post's" report.

In conclusion, allow me to point out that poetry readings are not held to provide entertainment for a theatre audience, but for an audience peculiarly and especially equipped culturally for the appreciation of poetry.

—T. H. Hill.

Moans From the Tory Towers

Sir,—Have you ever posted a letter in the mailbox in the main entrance? If so don't be fooled by the notice stating the clearing times as 11.30, 2.30 and 4.30. The person responsible for clearing the box is either too lazy to clear it more than once a day or else if he is now only meant to clear it this often, too lazy to change the notice on the box stating the new clearance time. The box is never cleared Saturday morning.

For good clean sport I suggest you take a stroll around by the incinerator and watch the half dozen rats and other vermin playing in the unburned rubbish—rumour has it that this free entertainment is provided for us because the Biology Department staff object to the smoke.

And then again to raise another ghost of the past—where's the drinking-fountain We have often been promised, the clean towels, soap and toilet paper in the men's lavatory?

—Truscott H.

[To Truscott II a laurel—he smelt a rat and wishes with Salient to nip it in the bud—Ed.]

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.

Paul Treadwell.

[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.]

Eric Brown Portrait

Eric Brown (Canterbury) who put up the fastest time of 2.2 secs, for the Drinking Horn.