Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, No. 25. October 8, 1968
Drama — Nothing Reproachable
In the opening dream sequence of Inadmissible Evidence Bill Maitland a middle-aged and mediocre lawyer is accussed … The nature of the accusation is not clear, but this is a dream and Maintland is accusing himself of personal failure. Here his mediocrity, his inability to make a decision, to fully understand the technocracy he lives in (he talks of it glibly but doesn't understand it) and the facile nature of his love affairs are all hinted at. The dream comes to an end with Maitland asking if he will be allowed the last word at his trial—a question the judge doesn't answer but which adds to the tragedy of the play's final moments.
The play follows from the dream sequence to demonstrate the Failings of Bill Maitland. We see his incompetence in his work and in conducting his love life. His conversations with others have been reduced to crude sexual banter and anguished appeals to what might have been. As a man Maitland has been reduced through his own folly and inability to cope with his world to a rude physical slate. His mind is not as quick as it was and his body survives on pills. In the second act his nymphomaniac secretary admits she can survive on an illusion of love: "I love you" appeases her guilt. Maitland attempts to survive on illusion but the illusion of love and of competence is frail and as it breaks so breaks the man.
In grasping at the straws of his life he loses his ability to communicate with others. He talks to himself; his colleagues and clients act as spurs to his thought but he does not reply to them, rather he continues the declension of his failures. He does not really hear these people, but an occasional word or phrase from them begins an introspective train of thought for him. This is excellently realised in this production when Maitland is talking to various clients who are seeking divorces. Their sexual and emotional problems recall his. Just as the clients are wrapped in their thoughts so he is in his. A pattern is formed of separate conversations moving across each other thus revealing this other problem of failure to communicate. Later when Maitland makes phone calls to his wife and mistress something similar happens—he stops talking into the phone and talks at it; the conversations become monologue. When he meets his daughter he does not allow her to reply to him and the accusations he directs at her are really directed to himself.
Just as Maitland can give no answer to the female clients who seek divorces, so he can provide no answer to his own failure and incompetence as a man. He is bewildered by his predicament and this is mirrored in an intelligently written scene where he interviews Maples, a homesexual client, accused of importuning.
Maples is a man who did not become aware of his homosexuality until after marriage and the discovery of his sexual inclination has placed him in a position he can neither understand nor cope with. His arrest for importuning has brought his dilemma to a head.
It is Tony Isaac's interpretation of Maples that struck me as the one flaw; while his performance is excellent 1 could not help thinking his Maples was too "queer". If the mirror image of Maitland's situation is to be maintained then it is essential that we see Maples as an "ordinary" man who did not find himself to be homosexual until after his marriage
At the play's end Maitland has lost everything: his self-respect, his daughter, his mistress, his wife, his business. Maples was unable to change his sexual nature and he did not want to. For Maitland it is too late to change. The inevitably of his last action, the fact that there is no last valid word he can offer to his mistress or his wife that can in any way diminish his failure to cope with his world, is an indictment that extends far beyond this lawyer.
This play would have been 2½ hours of tedium if the actor playing Bill Maitland had not been one of considerable strength. Downstage are fortunate that Ray Henwood has the strength the part demands.
William Austin's accomplishment in producing this complex play in such an intelligible form is considerable.
Arianthe Garland as "the other woman" reveals her ability as a dramatic actress. To each of her characters she brought an understanding and she was able to support and work with Mr Henwood making the most of their scenes together.