The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1954]
The year 1949 is important for two things. First because Spike was last published in that year, and secondly because that year saw a change of Government in this country. The latter point is neither vital or significant in itself—indeed, it is an event which has gone unnoticed except by politicians and Extrav. authors: and therein of course is, so to speak, the rub. Nineteen fifty saw a change of major characters in the years capping show.
"Hollandaze"—Extravaganza '50—suffered from a lack of political "meat"—possibly because the current legislators had had the good sense not to legislate before May—possibly because typical student fairness demanded that criticism should not be voiced until there was something to criticise—or possibly it was just because the authors were all Tories anyway. Written by a team including Jeff Stewart, Bill Sheat, Paul Cotton, Richard Rainey and Frank Curtin, and produced by Dave Cohen, it was notable only for the excellent acting of Maureen Ross-Smith and Bill Sheat and the original music of Jeff Stewart; it was the first lull length show to contain only original tunes and while this was an achievement and the music outstanding, it really only served to show that the public prefers tunes that it knows.
"Sidarella" in 1951 was a little better. Containing more political satire than its predecessor it struck a note (or something) in the year of the strike. Written by Con Bollinger, Hec MacNeill and many others, it was again produced by Dave Cohen.
After a gap the following year in which there was no show owing to the Opera House not being available, the Extrav. of 1953 showed that at last things were on the up and up. "Marsqueraid," written by Pat Burns, Gill Lescher and Frank Curtin and extensively re-written by both producer and cast, seemed generally to have been conceded as the best show since 1948 (1948 in turn having been the best since 1945). Despite its relative success artistically (if one may be pardoned an euphemism) it was a failure financially, due in part to the fact that it was staged in June during Coronation week when it had serious competition and in part, too, to the fact that there had been no show the year before to maintain interest. With Jeff Stewart producing and an excellent cast headed by Bill Sheat, Dave Crowe and Jim Hutchison it deserved better things from the Wellington public.
More recently, this years "Pirates of Finance" was an outstanding success—probably the best show since 1945. Written by a team of authors inspired (?) by Jim Hutchison, it was produced by Gavin Yates and Bill Sheat. It was blessed with a cast of universally high quality, with stars too numerous to mention. It played to packed houses and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
One whose efforts over the years cannot be overlooked is Huddy Williamson—the inveterate stage manager, whose unyielding struggles in the wings have guided more shows to sucess than this writer cares to remember.
Note for the Historian: 1953 was the first year in which the show was run for six nights: a laudable practice which was continued this year.page 30
Quite honestly I can't remember anything much about capping days in 1950 and 1952. In 1951 the local authorities banned the procession because of the current strike. Nineteen fifty-one featured the arrival of Sir Lozenge and Lady Oblivion at the Railway Station where they were met by tumultuous cheering crowds and Paul Cotton. Brightly-clothed lackies milled around rolling and unrolling strips of red carpet (two strips each about 2 feet long) in front of the visitors as they made their triumphal passage through the concourse to Al Johnson's waiting Ford T.
Procesh 1952 might have been notable for something but ah 1953! That was a year if ever there was one. Picture if you can the smoking ersatz hole in Lambton Quay carefully fenced off to keep out straying sheep and traffic officers and with a large pipe exuding a rather greasy black smoke: hear the raucous cries of the students playing marbles in the Railway Station concourse and the equally raucous cries of those who tripped over them: see the mysterious foot-prints that appear all over town: follow the inextricable traffic directions painted on various one-way streets: walk across the new pedestrian crossing between the "Duke" and the "George". When you've done all this glance casually at the bank robbery in progress then come and join the crowd at the top of Courtenay Place where, from the top of the Taj Mahal the faithful are being called to prayer and the police brought to despair.
Even Procesh was a little less lewd than usual. All good clean fun, even at the Hospital morgue, where two "attendants" carefully deposited a "corpse" (there were two or three real ones there already).
But for 1954—oh how are the mighty fallen! Not only was the University responsible for a revolution in the City Council [Historians please note: S. Hardy resigned from transport committee when Council refused to uphold his ban on procesh] but indirectly, it appears, for the scrapping of (you supply the word) annual traffic control scheme. These events are too recent in the memory of everyone to require more than a passing mention. If it were not for the possible degenerate or two of 1984 reading this, Cr. Hardy's name would not be mentioned at all. Incidentally if all the 'phone calls abusing Mr. Hardy came from students then not only are students incredibly dense but even the Registrar cannot add. As I understand it the students did not make the mistake of abusing the Councillor. Not they! They rang him up and congratulated him.
I regret that I have not been able to linger over some of the incidents of past years which to me leave a nostalgic memory of days gone forever, but I have sought to set out the major points of note concerning extravs and processions over the last five years.
F. L. Curtin