Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 14. July 24, 1952
Drama Club One-Act Play
Drama Club One-Act Play
On Friday and Saturday, July 4 and 5, the Drama Club presented four one-act plays This writer went to see them on the Friday and was, on the whole, favourably impressed, in spite of one or two adverse criticisms which could be made. The standard of acting, presentation and production and the plays themselves, improved as the evening progressed.
The first play of the evening was entitled "The Man Born to be Hanged" (Richard Hughes). The kindest remark to make about the play itself is that it is "corny" in the extreme. The plot (as thick as they make em) included a devil may-care, good-for-nothing part-time tramp, Bill (Alan Durward), a thoroughly dominated travelling company, Davey (John Treadwell), "Mr. Spencer" (Ross Gil. bertson), and Nell, the long-abandoned wife of Bily].
The play was highly melodramtic and should have been produced as such, with the most supave and large-scale effects, aiming, without any beating about the bush, at a thorough sipne-chill. "The Man Born to be Hanged" as presented by the Drama Club did not "come off." The atmosphere was wrong, and the facilities quite inadequate. The fault lay more in the original choice of the play, rather than in the production of the acting.
As far as the latter is concerned, Alan Durward is to be complimented on his success in getting across something in the way of the hard-bitten savage delight the type he portrayed takes in their own particular view of Life (in this case, with a capital "L"). Jocelyn Pyne deserves mention for her occasionally most convincing, and always natural attempt at dialect, in her interpretation of Nell. Dialetc in general, the "common touch," was another weak point which let the play down badly. On the whole, not a success. That is not to say that G. P. Monaghan did not do his best with it, as producer. But, as we have already said, the choice of this particular play was surprising, and surely unwise.
The second play made us feel a good deal more hopeful. A slight thing in itself. "A Marriage Has Been Arranged" is a dialogue between a society lady and a rough adventurer, ending in an implicit engagement, and requires a great deal of artistry if it is not to be regrettably funny in the wrong way. Gavin Yates, as Harrison Crockstead, and Anne Flannery as Lady Aline de Vaux made an excellent job of this trifle of "Varivaud-age." Written by Alfred Stuer. "A Marriage Has Been Arranged" again has an aid of a slightly fusty period, but what a difference in presentation! The scene is intended to represent an ante-room to a ballroom, and was most convincingly presented; a special word of praise is due to Garth Young, who was responsible for the background music. This was excellent, having juts the right quality of distance unci dissociation—a very difficult thing to achieve in the Little Theatre. The only two criticisms we have to make are, firstly, that Gavin Yates make-up was horrible—unless perhaps he was suffering from malaria?: and, secondly, that he could with advantage have checked a slight tendency to savour a little too much his own undeniably delightful repartee. The lapse in make-up was, by the way, an exception; Anne Flannery gave a near perfect performance, having an air of maturity and presence indispensable to such a part.
The thing that most detracted from "A Marriage Has Been Arranged" was a number of guffaws from persons who do not really deserve to remain anonymous, which arose from the back of the hall on various occasions, presumably in appreciation of purely personal jokes. This sort of thing is quite inexcusable, being extremely distracting to the audience, most unfair to the actors, and in the worst taste. Moreover, the persons concerned (two of them) should know better than to make such a public exhibition of themselves.
The same thing spoilt the third play, also. But in spite of it, "The Cardinal's Learning" was the best of the four plays. Gerard Monaghan, as Cardinal Wolsey, gave a quiet performance, but in our opinion, the most outstanding of the evening. In a part where he was obviously at ease, he never faltered, never dropped the thread of his interpretation, and gave the most constantly maintained performance". The play altogether was very well produced and acted. The cast was well chosen. Besides Wolsey, there were Henry (Ian Rich), and Catherine (Maryann Turner), the couple keeping the Inn where the action takes place, Anne Brancote, the serving-maid (very much involved with Henry), in which part Janetta Nicol distinguished herself, and Colin, the "Old Retainer" of the Inn. played by Rodney Westmoreland, again competently, and Cavendish, played by Peter Andrews, who was slightly immature for the part, but nevertheless gave a creditable performance. Catherine, as the injured wife, could possibly have gained a little more sympathy from the audience by not being quite so shrewish—but then, what woman in her position, whose husband infinitely preferred a cheap serving wench, would not feel a little shrewish? Ian Free, the producer, must have taken a considerable amount of trouble to have attained such a high continuous level, even with the help of such a competent cast.
Lastly on the programme was what the cinema advertisements refer to as a "rollicking farce," entitled "High Tea."
Everyone enjoyed themselves, cast and audience, and any shortcomings in the production were more than made up for by the entertainment value of the piece. We received the impression that a little more rehearsal would have been a good thing, and some of the cast would have done well to have had something more than a nodding acquaintance with their lines. In particular, we noticed where the telephone rang at one stage, and the person concerned had to be spurred into answering it by several despairing "Hallo ! ! !" 's from the prompt corner. Ian Rich as Grandpa gave an excellent performance, and got his full quota of laughs. Jocelyn Pyne was a moat authentic Miss Peaslake and Elaine Casserley as Phil was the perfect harrassed housewife with an incompetent husband and two children—until the fun starts, of course. Altogether a hilarions half-hour of good clean (in places!) fun, which sent us home with a very pleasant after taste.
Finally, some remarks on the general stage technique of the evening The Black curtains used on the stage for the first three plays were extremely effective, and the lighting all through was handled in a very satisfying way, being adequate and obtrusive. Sound effects, except for that pistol shot and a most unconvincing telephone, were good, as also was the gramophone. In passing, wo might observe that the Repertoy could learn a thing or two about gramophone technique from the V.U.C. Drama Club.