Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 9. June 5, 1952
Play Review... — Thespians Play Shaw
Thespians Play Shaw
It was with some decided misgivings that I visited "You Never Can Tell" last week. To often have I found from bitter experience that mediocre Shaw is hell incorporated. However, I was agreeably surprised. On the whole, apart from an occasional sag at the seams, the Thespian's production was adequate and well-knit. Possibly the best feature was the obvious enjoyment that most of the actors were getting out of the whole play, which, to me, is the most important thing of all.
The whole action takes place in the South of England at a fashionable sea-side resort on to which a family called Clarendon has just descended from Madeira. The story is told in a series of amusing, farcial events that tumble upon the audience with bewildering speed and absurdity. Yet the result, if competently presented, is delightful. The Thespian cast definitely did not make the most of the opportunities that are offering in this type of play. Rosemary Larkin as Dolly Clarendon was foremost in contributing a brilliant spark of spontaneity and vivacity to the performance, but she was hampered by having to continually bolster up and generally "carry" a painfully wooden and lifeless Philip Clandon (Tony Courtenay). Likewise Mrs. Clarendon merely "said" her lines in a monotone which was most unconvincing, especially when she became "angry" in a short scene in Act one.
Brian Meads as Valentine, the young dentist, certainly created a convincing character picture. Whether this was the picture that Shaw intended may be open to doubt, but his clear voice, rather awkward height, and his mannerism of pushing forward his head and thin when speaking created a pleasing and consistent character.
Alan Whiteman, playing his usual role, naturally had the part of Fergus Crampton, a crusty conservative, which he performed with his customary aplomb, although he seemed at times to lose the thread of the play, due either to Insufficient knowledge of his lines of lack of concentration.
A refreshing aspect of the play was the excellent clarity of speech of all the members of the cast. With Rosemary Larkin, in particular, it was a veritable joy to watch her open mouth when speaking (a factor that la generally overlooked in the local dramatic societies) and to listen to properly pronounced vowels. Especially this was so of the terrace scene. The shubbery was, through being too elaborate, rather artificial-looking and intruded too much on the audience's attention. I kept for getting the players and thinking. "What awful scenery," The same applies to the set of Mrs. Clarendon's sitting room. Despite the conventions of the period. I still think that alternate six-inch yellow and green vertical striped wallpaper was unnecessary.
The producer Olga Harding had obviously very carefully worked out the actor's movements beforehand and had instilled into their brains just where to move after each phrase or sentence. Unfortunately however, they had learnt the movements too well without duo regard for continuity. Consequently at times they rather resembled numerous Greek mathematicians tracing out complex designs known only to themselves on the floor.
On the whole I enjoyed the performance. One or two points that I have mentioned jolted me a little during the play, but the overall picture was generally calm and unruffled.