Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 10. 1965.
Becket Play a Climax
Becket Play a Climax
Downstage Return Season
Becket's Happy Days is one of the Downstage climaxes.
My single objection in a long performance was to the sandhill in which Winnie was buried, but so good was the performance, and so brilliant the play that after a short time I gave up my deep suspicion of that most unmoundlike hump of yellow canvas to watch Pat Evison's acting with unalloyed admiration.
It was a tour de force. To survive, alone, eighty minutes on stage with audience intact is no mean feat. Buried in a sandhill, in a waste in the middle of nowhere, it's even harder. Pat Evison was, however, more than equal to the task. Her acting was immaculate: everything she did—the sudden re-focusing of the gaze, the pause in the middle of a meaningless phrase—was done with precision; each gesture was measured and significant. In the second act, where only her head showed above the engulfing sand, she indicated movement and emotion with face and voice alone. She was sensitive to all the echoes and horrible undercurrents of the drama, keeping the nastiness present just below the surface. She always made the audience laugh, and always made it an uncomfortable experience.
To avoid noticing that she is smothered in sand, Winnie smothers herself in triviality, and in fragments of the culture of the past. But awareness creeps through the defences of volubility and her inexhaustible bag and resolves itself in the nightmare of the mouse. This was chilling but, one felt afterwards, perfectly controlled. It was a professional performance without lapses.
Ron Lynn (Willie) grunted adequately, and that, after all, was all that was asked of him. The play, produced by Martyn Sanderson, begins a second short season on August 6.
The Waters Of Silence, by Vercours, is a very much lesser play—an interesting example of what the French Resistance, in their more enlightened moments, thought about the Germans, but scarcely cataclysmic. From the tragicomedy of the human situation, with its antics, terror and self-deception, it is a comfortable, if not an exciting transition to the story of a German officer in wartime France. Bruce Mason, who adapted the story, was the officer; the other two characters lived invisibly just two feet in front of the stage. Mr. Mason, acting most ably, sustained their absence, as well as a Prussian accent that would have done credit to any of the German crew in "Sink the Bismark." More, he caught that right amount of sentimental idealism which Recognition of the Truth, like an avenging angel, must crush from him at the end of the play.
A Great Drama of the 'Uman Spirit, you may say. Yet this, I think, is to miss the point. The play was generated by the fear of being swallowed up and smothered by an alien power, The author does not always share the sentimentality of his character—indeed, this is frequently what he objects to—and where he does offend, he nevertheless keeps the motivating fear. It is the French reaction to the Germans far more than the behaviour of this one German that is interesting.