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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31 Number 16 July 16, 1968

Drama — Whimsy and substance in new drama


Whimsy and substance in new drama

The season of three plays at the New Theatre Club is an example of both the dangers and rewards of presenting comparatively unknown plays with the minimum of facilities.

The first of the two "impromptus" was written by French playwright Rene do Obaldia who says of them "their value lies in their vivacity look rather for a wealth of moments of complicity shared betwen an audience that does not necessarily confuse weight with gravity". There is little fear of such confusion as it had neither weight nor gravity. It was acted with that over-emphasis and arthritic movement peculiar to small-town repertory productions.

The second was of greater value. It attained a rather wry lightness, although this was destroyed by the disconcertingly awkward and exaggerated movement of Terry Trimmer as The Leather Jacket. The costumes, accents and properties strongly reeked of Coronation St. This robbed the play of any vivacity but no doubt encouraged a complicity of response from an audience accustomed to entertainment in this setting.

The total effect of the impromptus was disappointing. Skilful and entertaining dialogues contrasted with some inadequate material and presentation. One was alternatively intrigued and fascinated. The use of a surprise ending in the first impromptu was facile and poorly executed. The second had more substance but the playwright's concern with rounding-off the interlude reduced the earlier ironic quality to trivial whimsicality.

The third play was Olwen Wymark's Lunchtime Concert. After an unsteady start Richard Russell developed his role as an uneasy, uneducated but intense young man into a convincing performance. But the most compelling acting was that of Jeanette Lewis. As a partnership they gave the play the tension it required. A subtle interplay of unspoken understanding is enacted in a compelling world of mutual story-telling. Between them is a curious love of opposites, communicated in a succession of allegories. Alternatively laconic and pouting, verbiose and pathetic, Jeanette Lewis displays an eccentric, tender and inviolable love.

The reveries of this incongruous couple are interrupted by a third person. He is a birdwatcher obsessed with the cruelty of nature's instinctive forces. He abhors the fantasy world of these two—"Neither of you has any respect for the awful power of life." He appears to represent the forces which seek to suppress the freedom of the human instinct.

The play centres on an enactment of the Prometheus myth. The birdwatcher cannot comprehend the spiritual and imaginative powers which free the others. He is bound —literally with the rope he carries, and metaphorically by the fear of the sublimal forces of instinctive behaviour. It is his controlled and conventional behaviour that we eventually see as futureless and pathetic.

The play is effective drama enhanced by compelling and unaffected acting. It suffered from its association with the two impromptus as the audience reacted to it much as if they expected the same facile twists from this apparently equally absurd setting. However Lunch time Concert" was a rewarding culmination to a mixed evening.

The next New Theatre Club production will be Tennessee William's Streetcar Named Desire".