Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Student's Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 3. March 19 1968
[Review of The Night of the Ding Dong]
Based on a "Russian scare" in Adelaide in the 1870's The Night of the Ding Dong which is currently running at Unity's Aro Street theatre concerns a Colonel and Legislative Councillor (William Juliff) who supports a permanent military force in preference to free education and welfare projects. His daughter (Elidabeth Coulter) is in love with a teacher (Brent Whitwell) whose ideas run counter to the Colonel's. The play opens with the teacher asking the Colonel for his daughters hand. Predictably the two argue (the argument is one of the funnier moments in the play) and the Colonel refuses.
A Russian gunship is sighted off the coast and the Colonel leaps into action. The teacher was obviously wrong and everyone gets the military idea. On the night of the Regimental ball the signal is given that the Russians are attacking and the Colonel, his son Thaddeus (Alistair Douglas) and the teacher rush off to defend the colony. Of course it's all a mistake and next morning the Colonel learns that in his absence an emergency Legislative Council meeting was called and the Free Education Bill was passed He is left a broken man and his daughter is left in the arms of her lover.
There are several funny moments and in some respects the play is relevant to the contemporary scene — the matter of political priority (defence as opposed to education), the stupdity of war, and the faulty logic of politicians. But there are tedious passages which destroy some of the plays effectiveness.
Unfortunately there is a tendency on the part of most of the east to ''turn off" their characterisation when they are not actually speaking and this gives the production an uneven finish. Alistair Douglas is the only actor who seems to make an effort to remain constantly in character.
The production should be commended for its successful avoidance of the total melodrama the script could allow and also for the adoption of Victorian posturing which helps maintain the sense of period.
Bunty Norman excells as the Colonel's mother and William Juliff is obviously at home in the part of the blundering Colonel. Of the supporting actors Charles Krinkel as citizen Kelp was suitably uncouth and Annette, Thaddeus's lady friend, (Sarah Delahunty) suitably vacant.
In all it's well worth the journey on the number 7 bus Up Aro Street.