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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 14. 28 June 1972

Crime And Punishment

Crime And Punishment

Rob Muldoon has taken up writing plays under the pseudonym of Dostoievsky, and Crime and Punishment, as you might have guessed, is about the National Party's 'law and order' election platform. Scheduled to appear directly after the UTA bombing in Auckland and just before the budget the play is about a longhaired student who killed a moneylender out of a misguided sense of social justice. The moral is that if more students gave themselves up to the police after committing crimes of violence their girlfriends would follow them to Paremoremo without hesitation Unfortunately, Muldoon's realism breaks down here since he seems to have forgotten prisoners' wives are only admitted to Paremoremo for twenty minutes a week. On the whole, however, Crime and Punishment is a profound spiritual drama, permeated with nostalgia for the social conditions and the police force of nineteenth century Russian Tsarism.

Ross Jolly is brilliant as a conscience-stricken student, mainly because like most students he is incapable of grieving for his crimes for more than two minutes on end. Muldoon fully understands that most students are incapable of deep feeling, and would murder anyone who couldn't understand a simple differential equation to help the advance of human knowledge. He understands also that they would get worried afterwards if the police stood a chance of arresting them. Raskolnikoff, Muldoon's student, could very easily be a '16-year old sheetmetal worker, especially if few Frenchies had been inside the UTA office when it was petrol-bombed. Nola Millar who directed the play, must have told Ross Jolly not to try to act but just be himself, and the result is the most successful performance in the play. Sonia, the play's heroine is clearly devised to counter the Creeping threat of Women's Liberation ideas. Not only is Sonia a model of femininity, so much so that she has virtually no personality of her own, but she is a prostitute as well the exact antipode of Kay Goodger. She proves how justified is Muldoons policy of refusing to control rents by proving that evil landlords can drive young women to the highest reaches of self-sacrifice. Acting as a women who has put aside any claim to personality for the sake of Christ, her family and Muldoon is an easy role for a humble actress unused to putting herself forward. Jacqui Dunn succeeds to admiration. Muldoon has shown insight in realising femininity and prostitution are not opposed, but complementary ideas.

Most of the other actors in the play group together as mobs to mock the nobility of individual courage, like the students outside the PBEC conference, or stand stock still in ceremonial attitudes like the Black Rod whenever other actors are at the front of the stage. Nola Millar has shown great insight into the author's view of the people, whom he regards, like Burke, as either a mob or a group of witless spectators of the real action.

This is why Ian Watkin as Chief of Police emerges as the play's only real strong man. In terms of the play's philosophy he represents the Old Testament principle of law against Sonia as the New Testament principle of faith - or putting it another way, if everybody at university joined the Christian Union Muldoon wouldn't need a police force. Until the coming of Christ, or Muldoon, however, the Police Chief must issue commandments like Jehovah. Watt as Porfiri Petrovich, Chief of Police plays a dapper urbane man with a Pepsodent smile, very like David Thomson after a dinner party who presumes people are guilty until they are proven innocent. It all goes to show that your friendly local policeman could have stepped right out of the Book of Exodus.

Well, crime doesn't pay, and the murderer in the end marches off to his life sentence, saved by the tears of a good woman. If every New Zealand girl was like [unclear: the] prison would be full to overflowing. New Theatre has helped prove that Russia before the revolution and Muldoon before the deluge are very much alike, but it is a rather ambitious project whose full grandeur they have inevitably come short of. For an amateur grouping, it is surprising that they have made any creation of Muldoon's or Dostoievski's Actable. And, given the standards of New Zealand theatre, one must be grateful.

— Owen Gager