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A Popular Vision: The Arts and the Left in New Zealand 1930-1950

R.A.K. Mason and the People's Theatre

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R.A.K. Mason and the People's Theatre

R.A.K. Mason is widely regarded as New Zealand's 'first wholly original, unmistakably gifted poet'.1 He was the first of the 'new generation' of poets who heralded the literary renaissance of the 1930s. In the 1945 A Book of New Zealand Verse Curnow described the final lines of Mason's 'Sonnet of Brotherhood'— 'here in this far-pitched perilous hostile place. . . fixed at the friendless outer edge of space'—as the most explicit statement in the poetry of this period of the New Zealander's unique sense of isolation. Thus he identified Mason as 'the first among New Zealand poets'2 not only in being the first of a literary generation, but in giving expression to the central theme of the literary nationalism of this period. In the poem 'Be Swift O Sun' he found evidence of 'the distinctively native-born character of Mason's poetry. . . . the outreaching of the spirit is from one side of the globe to the other. . . . this is the most explicit admission by Mason that he inhabits a Pacific island.'3

Of the 'Phoenix group' Mason was also the most strongly influenced by the left-wing intellectual climate of these years. The commonly accepted story is that Mason's political commitment drew him away from poetry into politics, and to an extent this is true. Most of his poetry was written in the 1920s, and is contained in the volumes In the Manner of Men (1923), The Beggar (1924), Penny Broadsheet (1925) and No New Thing Poems, 1924-29 (1934). The 1936 volume End of Day contained only five poems, and his next and final volume of poetry did not appear until 1941. The 30s and 40s saw Mason occupied primarily in political and trade union work. He joined the Communist Party in the early 1930s, wrote regularly for the Workers' Weekly and the People's Voice and was editor of In Print, which replaced the banned Peoples Voice between 1941 and 1943. He was an executive member of the Auckland Builders' and General Labourers' Union, page 174 editor of its journal Challenge from 1944 to 1948 and editor of Congress News for the New Zealand Trade Union Congress in 1950. He was also active in the consumers' cooperative movement as secretary of the Metropolitan Co-operative Alliance formed in Auckland in 1937.4

From the mid 1930s Mason sought to synthesise his political and literary interests, principally in the medium of theatre. Mason is a curious absence from the catalogue of the Progressive Publishing Society. For just as the PPS can be seen as a practical experiment in creating a popular, progressive New Zealand culture, and brings together the left-wing and nationalist cultural themes of this period, Mason holds a central place in both of these movements. And like the PPS he too had a vision of a popular New Zealand culture.

The outspoken political voice first heard in Mason's two issues of Phoenix magazine in 1933 was expressed in a few poems from the 1930s such as 'Youth at the Dance', In Manus Tuas Domine' and 'Stoic Overthrow', in the 'Prelude' to This Dark Will Lighten from 1941 and the later 'Sonnet to MacArthur's Eyes' (1950). The poet signalled this change when he told Frank Sargeson some time in the early 1930s that 'he would find it impossible to stand up in public and defend the poetry he had written', and in his often-quoted comment to Denis Glover in 1937, that he hoped 'to bring my artistic feelings into line with my intellectual knowledge' and 'to publish some reasonably decent proletarian stuff.6 Criticism of Mason's work has focused on his early poetry in the consensus that 'his best poetry was all written before 1930', before his 'retreat into Marxism' and the inferior political verse of the 1930s.7 Thus J.E. Weir prefers the 'hesitating and humble explorations of human nature' which characterised his earlier work to his 'rebel's posturing'; 'Mason is always at his worst when he is asserting the validity of a single position against others'.8 The themes of atheism and Marxism are elements 'that a biographer [not a literary critic] would seek in Mason's verse' (W. S. Broughton).8 His later, dramatic writing was 'full of Marxist rhetoric and strident slogans' (R. E. Harley).9 As an assessment of literary value this judgement of the qualitative change in Mason's writing is valid; Mason did write better poetry in his earlier years. The consistendy pejorative tone, however, is less so.'C. K. Stead's assessment of Mason's apparent abandonment of poetry, his 'silence since about 1940', as 'the failure of a gift'10 makes explicit the critical assumptions involved. It reveals a prejudice against rationality, a conception of literature as drawing from instinct and expressive of essential, universal values. And it is unwilling to accept the conscious decision made by Mason: his rejection of lyric poetry as a medium inappropriate to the political and social role he envisaged for art.

In the preface to his verse drama script China (1943), Mason questioned the distinction between poetry and politics which the critical judgements quoted above maintain:

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If our poets studied dramatic needs, then not only would that art perhaps benefit, but also it might act as a cross-fertilising agent on poetry: which— despite Verlaine and even possibly at the cost of a slight rash of 'O, Liberty's— could profit by a little rhetoric with its resulting comprehensibility.

Later he again explicitly rejected the idea that poetry should be private, introspective, and by implication apolitical:

There are, of course, those who insist on judging all forms of expression in verse by principles applicable to poetry intended for printing only and who fail to consider that any such expression may be intended for any other purpose. . . . For my own part, I cannot agree with this, nor, indeed, tolerate those Jeremiahs of poetry who, often with protestations of regret, prophesy a continual narrowing in theme and purpose until ultimately nothing shall be left save a wisp to blow away with the wind. . . . On the contrary, I still consider that poetry should break the charmed circle to seek its ancient allies of music, drama and oratory."

It was in theatre, and in particular verse drama, an integration of poetic and dramatic forms, that Mason sought a cultural form consistent with his political ideals. The theatre was a public, dynamic, participatory art form, and thus inherently a social and political practice:

The drama, more than any other art, calls for popular stimulation, for cooperation between artists, technicians, audience and the whole community, perpetually re-creating a centre of energy, which is at once a recipient and source of social stimulus.12

From 1936 to 1939, Mason put his creative energies into the People's Theatre.

The event which sparked the formation of the People's Theatre was a production of Waiting for Lefty by the Auckland WEA Dramatic Club, in October 1936—the first production of this play in New Zealand. The WEA Dramatic Club had already made its mark in theatrical circles with the choice of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard far its 1932 annual production, followed the next year by Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, and Toller's Masses and Man in 1934. The club was founded in 1929, and joined in 1932 by producer Arnold Goodwin, the director of design and applied art at Elam School of Art and formerly producer with the Auckland Little Theatre Society. Goodwin had come to New Zealand just before the first world war, having trained and worked as an artist in London, Paris and New York and with theatrical experience gained with the Birmingham Repertory Society. From 1918 he worked as a commercial artist in Auckland before being appointed director at Elam in 1935.

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He was to be a major influence in Auckland theatre for many years, as a member of the Auckland Drama Council and with his Goodwin Marionette Theatre as well as with the WEA Dramatic Club.13 The WEA club enjoyed a membership of around 100 in the late 1930s and the 1940s.

The club was disbanded after a fire in the WEA's Symonds Street premises in 1949, and was not re-established until some time in the 1950s (with a completely different character), but before then it had produced a series of contemporary and progressive plays which were, for the New Zealand drama world of the 1930S-1940S, quite revolutionary. Its repertoire included many of the most popular plays and major playwrights of the international left theatre in this period: Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock, O'Neill's The Hairy Ape, The Insect Play by the brothers Capek, Chekhov's The Seagull, Odets' Golden Boy, Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and The Moon is Down; Bury the Dead by Irvine Shaw, The Beautiful People by William Saroyan and the Russian play Distant Point (Afinogenov). It was also notable for its production of New Zealand plays: R.A.K. Mason's dramatic monologue Squire Speaks (performed in 1938), and two plays by former Auckland University College drama student J.A.S. Coppard: Cartoon (1939), his only full-length play, a satire on 'the shams of our present-day systems and sacred institutions',14 and 'Machine Song', an expressionist-style one-act play which used repetitive dialogue, a sparse stage set and complicated lighting to evoke the tedium of work on a factory production line.

Waiting for Lefty was the most politically radical of the WEA's productions. But the motivation and policy of the group was less political than cultural. Its programme represented a reaction against the conservative theatrical culture offered by Auckland's amateur dramatic societies—a monotonous diet of British West End comedy and drawing room drama, relieved only by the occasional Shakespeare—which was representative of amateur theatre in New Zealand. Since the late 1920s New Zealand had supported a thriving amateur dramatic movement, and in the 30s and 40s scores of provincial and suburban groups took part in the regional competitions held annually by the New Zealand branch of the British Drama League. This organisation, formed in 1932, provided the cultural as well as institutional framework for New Zealand amateur drama, before the establishment in 1945 of the New Zealand Drama Council. The development of the amateur movement followed the depression and the arrival of the 'Talkies' in 1928, which together brought to an end the era of the large professional touring companies from Britain and America. Since the 1880s these companies had toured New Zealand as part of the Australian entertainment circuit, and their departure left a large hole in the cultural life of the country which local initiative was forced to fill. By the end of the 1930s every reasonable-sized town supported an amateur dramatic society, and 'Cockney page 177 maids crossed a hundred New Zealand stages as the curtain rose on a timbered cottage in Berks or Bucks.'15

The dramatic scene in Auckland was only a slight improvement on this picture. The principal amateur societies in Auckland were the Grafton Shakespeare and Dramatic Club, which had a respectable history dating back to 1912, the Little Theatre Society and the Auckland Repertory Theatre. The Litde Theatre was founded in 1925, and was described by A.R.D. Fairburn in 1926 as 'a sort of refuge for the half-baked intellectuals . . . of Remuerah. You know, the imitation English.'16 It soon 'strangled itself with a dress-shirt', and disappeared from the scene in 1938.17 Auckland Repertory Theatre was a more promising development. Formed in 1937 by disgrunded members of the Grafton group, it held itself aloof from the tyranny of the box office and the glamorous image of the Little Theatre. Its more adventurous productions in the 1930s and 1940s included Auden and Isherwood's anti-imperialist play The Ascent of F6, The Moon in the Yellow River by Denis Johnston (an Irish 'problem play') and Coppard's 'Sordid Story', another expressionist work. However, Rattigan, Sheriff and 'off-Broadway' plays were more representative of its repertoire.

In this context of theatrical mediocrity a play like O'Neill's The Hairy Ape was controversial, and gained for the WEA Dramatic Club a reputation for being innovative or radical. Commented the WEA's annual report for that year:

the resulting arguments in the drawing room and at the street corner have not come as a complete surprise. Quite inevitably some people did not 'like' the play. Others could not see what it was all about. Others again, including some experienced critics, regarded it as the best W.E.A. production to date.18

The WEA club benefited not only from Arnold Goodwin's innovative choice of plays but from his skills as an artist as well, for it also made its mark with high technical standards. The Insect Play (1938) was described by Frank Sargeson in Tomorrow as 'a stunning production'.19 (Sargeson then went on, however, to criticise the play itself, which presents the insect world as an allegory of human society, and Goodwin's choice of plays which allowed him 'to get busy with his coloured lights.' 'It's the spoken word that attracts me most in plays', wrote Sargeson. 'When I do my theatrical shopping I'd rather buy something decent in brown paper than something near-shoddy in cellophane and coloured ribbon.' He cited O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock or Strindberg's The Father as more to his liking.20 )

The People's Theatre was formed with a more specific objective than its progenitor: the production of radical political theatre of the Lefty kind. Mason had been engaged by WEA director N. M. Richmond to organise trade union audiences for the WEA's production of Lefty in October 1936. Under a block page 178 booking scheme unions were offered a minimum of 25 tickets at 1/- each (half the normal price) over four performances. At least 13 unions, and the Young Communist League, took advantage of the offer. The Labour Party and university Labour Club were also approached and about 150 tickets were sold at the Otahuhu railway workshops.

Reviews of the production were generally favourable and audience response enthusiastic. One reviewer saw it as an example of 'what a powerful factor the stage can be in education, industrial, social and cultural'.21 Of the 307 responses to a questionnaire distributed to the audience, between 91 and 94 per cent rated the performance as Very good' or 'excellent', felt that such plays would 'assist in workers' education' and wanted to see more plays of this kind, and 87 per cent expressed an interest in being involved in further productions.22 On the strength of this interest a public meeting was held at the WEA hall on 31 October, attracting an attendance of 'over 100'.23 The meeting was chaired by F. Craig, secretary of the Auckland Timber Workers' Union (and a member of the first committee of the Progressive Book Society), and addressed by Mason, Lefty producer Arnold Goodwin and representatives of the WEA and the trade union movement. Out of this meeting the People's Theatre was formed.

The constitution of the People's Theatre stated as its object:

a mass development of the Theatre to its highest social level: for a theatre dedicated to the struggle against all forms of reaction, such as war, fascism, censorship, and other interferences with democratic rights.24

As its name implies the People's Theatre was conceived as both political theatre and popular theatre: a cultural organisation which would be 'owned and controlled by the people'.25 It was defined variously as a workers' theatre, 'formed for the purpose of giving a dramatic rendering of the struggle of the workers for their rights', and in the less specific discourse of the Popular Front, as in the programme notes for its first production:

This constitution allows for the ownership and control of the organisation by the people of New Zealand (i.e., the workers, farmers, artisans, small shopkeepers, intellectuals, unemployed and professional men), on the broadest and most democratic mass-basis.26

Primarily, however, it was seen as a working class theatre. The advertisement for the inaugural meeting expressed its aim as

encouraging the production of plays with a special working class interest, focusing the efforts of dramatic groups in trade unions and other working class organisations, providing a clearing house of information and expert guidance for such groups, [and] encouraging the writing of plays by such groups.27

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A second, irregular meeting on 3 November, convened by Mason and chaired by university Professor of English Arthur Sewell, agreed upon structural mechanisms by which to 'ensure proper Trade Union representation on the Committee', which, it was felt, had not been adequately established at the inaugural meeting. Bill Deuchar, an electrical worker, was nominated as interim secretary and Mason as organiser, and the organisation's political objectives—to 'encourage and organise the writing and production of plays which shall have significance in social change'—reaffirmed.28

The constitution formally adopted at the next scheduled meeting five days later (attended by around 50) provided for a democratic structure and formal relationship with the labour movement. The theatre's executive committee would be 'elected by ordinary members and by delegates from the affiliated Trades Unions. The executive sitting together with the Trades Union delegates form the Grand Council which is the governing body of the theatre.'29 Conditions of affiliation included the purchase of tickets for each performance, at the reduced price of 1/-, for 12.5 per cent of the union's membership, while the theatre in its turn would 'assist with entertainment at smokos, meetings etc., and assist any members anxious to set up a dramatic group or to study the dramatic art.'30 The individual membership subscription was 1/- a year (later raised to 2/6). The theatre was registered as an incorporated society under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908. Its first elected committee consisted of Arthur Sewell (president); F. Craig, Arnold Goodwin and lawyer R. A. Singer (vice-presidents); Mason (organiser); Bill Deuchar (secretary); Frank Cartmill, a clerk in the Public Works Department and union member (treasurer); two railway workers, J. R. Angelo (a union official and Communist Party member) and W. G. Johns; two tramwaymen, Ernie Shreeve and H. W. Parker; and Ernest Blair, a company manager and one of the founders of the WEA Dramatic Club.

The People's Theatre could jusdy claim, in terms of its affiliated membership, to be a workers' theatre. In all 13 unions affiliated: watersiders, boilermakers, coachworkers, Auckland district labourers, local bodies labourers, painters, plasterers, carpenters and joiners, tramwaymen, electrical workers, the Otahuhu branch of the ASRS (railwaymen), the Institute of Marine and Power Engineers, and the Locomotive Engineers, Firemen and Cleaners Association. The Mount Albert branch of the Labour Party and the Auckland branch of the New Zealand Youth Council also joined. Membership records (which are not complete) show a majority of workers, trade union members and union officials among the theatre's general membership and delegates: of an undated membership list which records 82 names, some 80 per cent of those who can be identified were workers or trade unionists. The cast of the theatre's 1937 production of Odets' Till the Day I Die was said to have been chosen 'mostly from Trade Unionists'.31 However, members recall a more even mix of working class, middle class and page 180 professional people among the group's active membership. Cast and committee members included Jack Basham, Eileen Smee (later Coyne) and Shirley Barton of Progressive Books; 'Big Jim' Roberts, the national secretary of the watersiders' union and secretary of the Labour Party; AJ.C. Fisher, a teacher at Elam School of Art and WEA tutor; and architect Vernon Brown. Printer Bob Lowry and photographer Cedric Firth were also members of the theatre, and A.R.D. Fairburn was in the original cast of Waiting for Lefty. In a speech to a People's Theatre meeting Mason suggested that the stronger initiative came not from the workers or trade unionists but from those of professional or middle class background. The original group of people involved in the Lefty production, he observed,

included a good sprinkling of proletarians but was not dominated by them. It was left to the intellectuals to ensure the 'hegemony of the proletariat' both on the Constitution Committee and our General Council.32

While the theatre's constitution ensured a significant trade union representation on the executive committee, the main executive positions were on the whole not held by workers. Of the second committee, elected in May 1937, AJ.C. Fisher was president, Sewell, Singer and Shreeve vice-presidents, and Deuchar secretary. Fisher resigned from the presidency in January 1938, partly because of pressure of work but also because of the 'exceedingly democratic form of control' which he found 'exceedingly irksome'.33 Executive members in 1938-9 included S. Brown (provisional president) and Singer (subsequently elected president); vice-presidents Goodwin, Shreeve and Rita Chapman (listed as an artist and a tramways union member); Chapman as secretary, later replaced by writer J. Denis Coyne; and Paul Holmes, the Youth Council delegate (later a teacher) as organiser. Mason had resigned from the theatre in mid 1937 due to personal circumstances, and appears not to have been actively involved for over a year. In April 1939 he was elected vice-president, along with Goodwin and W. E. Kilburn, a coachpainter; Singer was re-elected president and Denis Coyne was the theatre's secretary.

Along with its political agenda, 'the struggle against all forms of reaction', the People's Theatre also expressed a commitment to the art of drama itself, a commitment which was indeed integral to the popular and political ideals of a people's theatre in Mason's conception. At the inaugural meeting,

All the speakers pointed out the value of such a movement to the working classes, who without it had no prospect of anything save a decadent ruling class art which has no connection with life as they knew it. The Peoples Theatre Movement would enable them to participate in dramatic productions of a high order, which set forth their own ideas and ideals, and thus to revivify the dramatic art as well as to educate themselves.34

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Furthermore, Mason was expressly concerned that 'every effort be made to concentrate on offering first-class entertainment and that no person be allowed to turn a function into a political meeting.'35 On one occasion the Communist Party was reprimanded for distributing political leaflets at a People's Theatre performance.

The group's more ambitious plans included acquiring a theatre with paid technical staff and establishing a library. It was intended to approach for assistance organisations of workers, soldiers, farmers, churches, friendly societies and returned soldiers ('in this order'), and eventually the government. It was Mason's hope that within a few years, 'barring the advent of war or fascism', the People's Theatre would have grown to become a national movement.36

Mason's qualification was prophetic, and the People's Theatre did not live long enough to see these ambitions realised. It did, however, produce a People's Theatre Magazine, 'a humble cyclostyled effort' of 16 pages which appeared in December 1939. This was intended to be the first, but in the event was the only issue of a monthly magazine for the purpose of

publishing news of progressive theatre in New Zealand and linking local activities with realist drama in the international sphere. . . . [to] not only help to develop public interest in the movement throughout this country but also establish a bond of friendly association and enthusiastic competition between the various workers dramatic groups.37

Its contents surveyed the international left theatre movement with which the People's Theatre identified itself, with articles on London's Unity Theatre, Clifford Odets and theatre in the Soviet Union, and quotations from Hallie Flanagan (director of the American Federal Theatre), John Allen (president of the Left Book Club Theatre Guild), George Bernard Shaw and Maxim Gorki. Promised material for the next issue included 'The theatre art of Stanislavski, 'The rise of the Federal Art Theatre in America', 'Documentary film and its relation to realist theatre', 'Chinese revolutionary drama', and 'The theatre in New Zealand: history and perspectives'.

Just over half of the People's Theatre productions were from the repertoire of the British and American left theatre. The group regularly corresponded with and received scripts from the Sydney New Theatre League and was affiliated to the Left Book Club Theatre Guild in London. It opened with three performances of Waiting for Lefty in Avondale in December 1936. 'Sponsored' performances were also planned for New Lynn, Otahuhu and Hikurangi, and the production went on tour to Waikato in April 1937, playing at Hamilton and Huntly. A short adaptation of the play was performed by the theatre's 'Agitprop Group' at several trade union meetings, and the carpenters' journal Borer described the page 182 performance at the union's district meeting in September as 'a brilliant success, so much so that the People's Theatre intend to continue with similar performances at other meetings of the Trade Unions and working-class organisations'.38 The group received a number of requests from unions, Labour Party branches and other organisations for performances at social events. The second major production was Till the Day IDie (produced byA.J.C. Fisher), which played 'to a capacity audience' at the WEA hall in June 1937.39 To the theatre's surprise, it was favourably reviewed by the New Zealand Herald, the season was extended by two nights and requests were received for the play to tour to other centres. The People's Theatre was moved to describe this production as 'the most outstanding piece of work yet seen on the New Zealand amateur stage.'40 In June 1938 it produced Judgment Day, an American anti-fascist play by Elmer Rice, appar-endy its only production that year. Judgment Day was a financial loss and the Herald was unimpressed: 'farcical', 'unconvincing' and melodramatic, 'many of the audience simply laughed.'41 Productions in 1939, a more active year, included 'Rehearsal' by Albert Maltz, an American play set in a labour theatre, which was performed at a WEA social and at an informal theatre evening along with a satirical farce entitled 'Good Blood—Bad Blood'. A programme of one-act plays in December included an armistice play entitled 'Eleventh Hour' and 'People's Court', 'a charming litde play . . . which deals with the working of a People's Court in Soviet Russia.'42 (The Peoples Theatre Magazine was not so enthusiastic about this choice, apologising: 'We'd just like to say the time is strictly 1933. We've tried to whoop it up a bit'.43 ) Marching Song, an American strike play by John Lawson, was in rehearsal in September 1939 but was abandoned when the demands of war rapidly reduced its large, mostly male cast.

In drawing from the repertoire of the international left theatre the People's Theatre was typical of left theatre groups in New Zealand in the 30s. The 'various workers' dramatic groups' to which the People's Theatre Magazine referred were mostly the Left Book Club drama groups, whose staple fare was Odets and O'Casey. It also referred to the recendy-established People's Theatre in Hamilton, which will be discussed in more detail later. Dunedin supported the most significant left theatre activity outside Auckland in the 1930s. Prior to the six productions of the Left Book Club there a short-lived Little Theatre Group had produced a double bill of Waiting for Lefty and Till the Day I Die in December 1937. This group, which had been formed in 1935, bore a closer resemblance to its main competitor, the Dunedin Repertory Theatre, than to a political, people's theatre, however. Its swing to the left in 1937 'alarmed many of the more conservative members' and the following year saw a return to safer ground with Baa Baa Black Sheep by P. G. Wodehouse, its last production.44 Reviewers welcomed its adventurous choice of the two Odets plays but were frank in their criticism of the technical inadequacies of the production, advising page 183 that such plays were simply too difficult for an amateur group more accustomed to 'the traditional three-act plays'.45

What distinguished the Auckland People's Theatre from other left theatre groups was its production of New Zealand material, written with only one exception by Mason. Locally-written drama based on local themes was implicit in Mason's conception of the theatre as 'a recipient and source of social stimulus', and a logical extension of the prevailing doctrine of realism. Following through this idea the People's Theatre looked forward to the development of an indigenous progressive drama. Similarly, Tomorrow, commenting on the reception of the first two productions, observed:

The success of these productions indicates the possibilities which the future holds for a strong and virile drama in our country. Such a development is dependent upon writers of plays as vital as the two mentioned above, but dealing with our own problems and outlook; and secondly, the training of earnest and truthful actors . . .46

They endeavoured to further this ideal with a playwriting competition held in 1938. The announcement of the competition in Tomorrow and the Workers' Weekly made clear what kind of theatre was required:

While it is not anticipated that the plays submitted will be of outstanding dramatic merit, it is expected that their authors will endeavour to deal fearlessly and truthfully with problems of worldwide significance, in special relation to the lives and happiness of our own people. For example, 'high society' drama and 'eternal triangles,' however well they may be written, will receive scant consideration from the judges.47

Programme for Falls the Shadow, March 1939 (Freda Dickens Programme Collection, Auckland Public Library)

Programme for Falls the Shadow, March 1939 (Freda Dickens Programme Collection, Auckland Public Library)

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Scripts of the winning one-act plays—'Left, Right' by R. E. Baeyertz (an Auckland barrister, who sent the theatre a number of other scripts), 'Send Us, Lord, a Little War' by G. L. Hogben (a student) and 'Survival of the Fittest' by Robert Verrier—have not been discovered, nor has any reference to their production. (A fourth play, 'The Porcelain Plaque', was highly commended for its writing but the author advised to 'get down to more meatier subjects.'48 ) The winning full length play, which was performed by the People's Theatre in March 1939, was Falls the Shadow by Ian Hamilton (published in 1939 by the Griffin Press). The author, a farmer and orchardist formerly from Hawke's Bay, later spent 15 months of the war in prison as a conscientious objector. Falls the Shadow was a pacifist play, and as such fulfilled the condition of dealing with 'events of world-wide significance'. However it did not bear 'special relation to the lives . . . of our own people'. It was set 'in the Drawing Room of Sir Guy Stewart's house, in the country, South of London'49 immediately before, during and just after a second world war, and structured around the ideological conflict between the hawkish Sir Guy, his son John recendy returned from military service in India, and the pacifist, artistically-minded younger son Michael (with an obligatory romantic sub-plot involving Michael and his brother's American-born fiancee). The play apparently 'aroused much criticism'. A correspondent to the Workers' Weekly complained that it was 'nothing but propaganda for pure pacifism' which aroused only 'disappointment and gloom', bringing the following response from a member of the theatre's executive: 'We are quite conscious of the limitations of "Falls the Shadow", but it is part of the constitution of the People's Theatre to encourage New Zealand plays.'50 No doubt the judges also justified their selection by the importance and topicality of the play's subject. In a similar vein Frank Sargeson commented in Tomorrow on the inappropriate-ness of the play's social setting for people's theatre: 'in view of the theme (pacifism), no one can seriously object to the conventional upper-middle class setting, because aerial warfare doesn't discriminate much between classes.'51

In its international context Falls the Shadow was typical of the New Zealand material produced by the People's Theatre. Six sketches written by Mason were performed in 1939. The majority of these were 'agitational' pieces, and the People's Theatre functioned here as an agitprop theatre also by taking its message to its audience. But only one dealt with a local issue. 'BMA' (for British Medical Association), a sketch 'written in support of socialised medicine under the Social Security Act', was performed at several Labour Party branches and at the Auckland Unitarian Church one Sunday in place of the sermon.52 During the 1938 general election campaign a sketch was prepared for a performance at a Labour Party rally but was not performed owing to a legal ruling that it was 'a piece "of entertainment"'.53 Other pieces dealt with Spain, the Soviet Union and war. 'Better Bayonets', performed for a People's Theatre meeting and at a dance page 185 in the FSU hall in Karangahape Road, concerned 'attempts at renewing the War of Intervention against the Soviet Union, with special reference to Finland'.54 A comic sketch entitled 'Perkins and the Butler' was performed for a theatre dance. Squire Speaks, a dramatic monologue published by the Caxton Press in 1938, was a more substantial work and was performed by the People's Theatre in December 1939. It had already been produced by the Dunedin Left Book Club and by the Auckland WEA Dramatic Club in September the previous year (the date it was written is uncertain).55 It tells the story of an old servant on an English country estate who rebels against his employer; when the Squire attempts to persuade the old man to lay down his gun he merely condemns himself (that is, his class) with his own words. The play's frame of reference is the conventional English comic genre from which 'Perkins and the Butler' also derived, and the stock of revolutionary motifs—the servant builds a barricade and waves a red flag.

Such a generalised and romanticised conception of'the people' and the class struggle is also characteristic of Mason's verse dramas. Three of these were performed by the People's Theatre: 'Service for the Fallen. In Memory of the International Brigade' (also titled 'International Brigade'), which was first produced by AJ.C. Fisher for the Spanish Medical Aid Committee in May 1939; 'Skull on Silence', a verse monologue written for Armistice Day and performed at a public meeting in November 1939; and 'This Dark Will Lighten', a 'mass chant' which was performed in December along with Squire Speaks. 'International Brigade' takes the form of a dialogue between a Man and a Woman who represent the voice of the Spanish people. It describes their struggle for freedom and ends with a salute to the memory of those who fell and to the ongoing struggle. The description of the International Brigade members emphasises, by definition, unity and the common struggle:

These were not conscripts,
these were not drugged by ignorance,
these were not adventurers
these were not mercenaries:

But free, straight, with wise eyes,
young fellows whistling,
like our own sons whistling home from work—
like your son or my son.56

'Skull on Silence', an anti-war piece, followed the style of 'International Brigade' with 'Skull' representing the symbolic voice of the returned soldier from the first world war. According to a reviewer in the People's Voice, 'The audience listened with close attention throughout and their deep silence indicated their appreciation of its significance and high dramatic quality'.57

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'This Dark Will Lighten' is as its title suggests more 'revolutionary' in tone. As Mason explained in his explanatory note, it was written 'the day after War was declared, at a time when I thought it might become a genuine war against Fascism. I was wrong'. The synopsis reads:

A group of men and women who have worked together in the Labour movement are meeting perhaps for the last time. The doom of war is on them. . . . Torn between the spirit of despair and the spirit of struggle, a firm resolve grips them—the resolve to forge out of this world of darkness a new world of e.ernal light.58

This note was printed in the People's Theatre Magazine, and evidently Mason had by December 1939 modified his stance on the war in line with the Communist Party's. The text of 'This Dark Will Lighten' ranges from the symbolic discourse prefigured above to more specific evocations of the experience of oppression:

. . . year after year sweated, exploited, bullied, despised,
kept in ignorance, preached at, lied to.

Year after year dull in mill, wharf, truck, ship, factory—
on the picket-line, hunger-march, strike, demo clash with
scabs skirmish with specials.
. . .
The blessings of a king cannot conjure out
the devils that darkness built up in our spirits:
no paper can wipe off
scars etched into the flesh with acid:
holy water cannot wash away
what is burnt into the living bone.

There is some specific New Zealand reference:

Then too the starved rugged farm outback
. . .
And slump and slave-camp, soup-kitchen and doss-house—
. . .
And the word of some comrade comes from overseas
the refugee, international brigadesman,
or from some old-timer from Waihi, red fed, or returned man.59

But for the most part the piece is as generalised in its setting and international in its thematic context as the war it described.

Mason composed two more verse drama pieces in this period, 'China Dances' and 'Refugee'. These were written as scripts for dance drama and page 187 performed in 1945 by the short-lived New Theatre Group. The founder of the New Theatre Group was a former member of the London Unity Theatre, Margaret Barr. Barr had studied dance drama under Martha Graham in New York and worked with Unity Theatre and the Left Book Club Theatre Guild in London before coming to New Zealand in about 1940; from 1941 to 1946 she conducted classes in dance drama under the auspices of the Auckland Advisory Committee on Adult Education. The annual public performances given by her students had included some social comment pieces: 'Sketch for the People' and 'Factory' in 1941, 'Asi Sucedo', on the Spanish Civil War, and 'What D'You Know' with words by A.R.D. Fairburn, in 1942. In 1944 she organised a performance for the Auckland Trades Council's May Day celebrations. The New Theatre Group was formed the following year by members of her class for the purpose of 'furthering the aims of progressive drama in all its aspects', by producing 'plays which are progressive both in their meaning and in their production.'60 'Refugee' and 'China Dances' were performed as part of the group's first production in October 1945. The programme also included a satirical curtain raiser by Mason entided 'The Buccaneering Banker' (based on a Communist Party pamphlet, Banking Buccaneers), Hebridean folk songs, sketches entitled 'Breadline' ('a study of starvation in Europe') and 'In the Best Tradition' ('a satirical comedy of the Edwardian period'), and a technique display. A Living Newspaper 'based on the Housing Problem' and 'specially written for the New Theatre Group' was planned for the following year, but this performance does not appear to have eventuated. Barr left for Australia in 1946, and the New Theatre Group folded soon after.61

'China Dances' described the Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1933. In 'Refugee' Mason turned his attention to New Zealand. Its setting is a returned soldiers' meeting, at which a deputation of refugees tell of the experience of 'all our main streams of migration [who] came to New Zealand as a haven of refuge from some form of oppression': Maori, Irish rebel, Sydney convict, New Zealand Company labourer, dispossessed Highland crofter and refugee from Nazi Germany.62

These are the only pieces of Mason's writing for the theatre which are known to have been produced in this period. No performance is recorded of 'To Save Democracy', a political sketch 'Based on H.E. Holland's Armageddon or Calvary', which was published in Tomorrow in April 1938.63 There exist, however, a number of dramatic scripts and fragments of scripts among the Mason Papers now held in the Hocken Library. Although these are not dated, their condition and content indicate that they were written in the 1930S-1940s.

Interestingly, none of these takes the international anti-fascist setting of the plays discussed above. Many are short sketches: a publicity sketch for the page 188
'China,' Yearbook of the Arts in New Zealand, 1945 (VUW Library)New Theatre Group 'China' programme (Hocken Library)

'China,' Yearbook of the Arts in New Zealand, 1945 (VUW Library)
New Theatre Group 'China' programme (Hocken Library)

page 189 People's Theatre; a dialogue or monologue about 'The Slump'; a series of three short, unconnected sketches observing city life after dark, which may have been intended as a programme filler; a sketch entitled 'The Birthday Present' in which a war veteran of Orakau discovers, to his dismay, that the war pension has been cut. There is a dialogue on Christianity and agnosticism, and three short, humorous sketches which have a mock Classical theme. Longer works include a comic story about an old gold miner turned tramp, which is set in the Coromandel, and a play describing the reunion of two old sailors. A rather . obvious three-act satire on capitalism entitled 'This Monkey Business' envisages a scientifically-based scheme hatched by some would-be business tycoons to turn monkeys into ideal workers; in a plot reminiscent of Karel Capek's R.U.R, the 'Monkmen' eventually revolt. 'Toilers Triumphant' is a satirical agitprop piece about the depression and war. Its final scene shows a tableau of a man with a Volunteer Week billboard; the strains of the 'Marche Militaire' and 'Rule Britannia' are heard as two ditch diggers, the toilers triumphant of the title, declare: 'Well we can't go on under the depression like this. We must have this war—a bigger, better war'. The script ends—after Waiting for Lefty—with the audience joining in a call to 'war! war! war!'64

Two more of Mason's unpublished scripts follow the historical interest prefigured in 'Refugee'. 'This Bird May Swing', in which a young man is on trial for the murder of his estranged lover who has died of poisoning, is based on 'an actual [case] which occurred in New Zealand' (according to Mason's note 'an accidental discovery proved that it was suicide'). The play is set in the street outside the courthouse; Mason juxtaposes the arguments of a liberal-minded newspaper reporter with the reactions of various observers and passers-by. A prefatory note advises: 'The play may be regarded as a piece of "propaganda", but that is not the intention, which is purely aesthetic.'65 Another, uncompleted, sketch tells of a nineteenth-century missionary who succumbs to the sexual attractiveness of a young Maori woman.

Technically, these plays are of little significance. One critic has written of Mason's dramatic writing (published and unpublished): 'Plays obviously provided Mason with a vehicle by which he hoped to combine his literary and political interests but the propaganda element obtrudes and they have little merit.'66 Of course, most of Mason's dramatic pieces were written as political agitprop sketches, in which the 'propaganda element' is, by definition, a primary element. Nevertheless, while one cannot finally judge the success of agitprop theatre from its script rather than performance, it must be said that Mason was not on the whole successful, with these efforts, in his attempt to integrate his political message with his 'artistic feelings'.

But it is the New Zealand subject matter of Mason's unpublished scripts that makes them interesting, regardless of their artistic merit. Mason's historical page 190 interest in New Zealand (and its neighbours), seen in his 1947 history of the Cook Islands, Frontier Forsaken, later in the radio play Strait is the Gate (1962), which concerned the Scottish immigrants to Otago, and a projected history of the New Zealand Company, was little evident in his published literary work in this period, although his note to No New Thing referred to a design for 'a vast medley of prose and poetry, a sort of Odyssey expressing the whole history of New Zealand.'67 Although they were not consistently political in the way his published and performed plays were, these plays can also be described as 'popular' in terms of the characters they draw and stories they tell: stories of sailors, relief workers, storemen, gold miners and missionaries.

In its New Zealand and populist character, Mason's dramatic writing offers a stark contrast to the polite social comedies and drawing room dramas which were the staple fare of New Zealand amateur theatre in this period. Some local writing emerged from the upsurge in amateur theatricals in the 1930s. A level of interest in indigenous drama is attested to by the response to the annual playwriting competitions of the British Drama League. The first competition held in 1932 attracted over 70 entries, and the second nearly 100; the first competition run by Art in New Zealand magazine in 1931 had 45 entries. Little of this material was ever produced, although the better efforts were seen in print in the six-part 'Clay' series of New Zealand one-act plays, published between 1933 and 1936. The vast majority were imitations in style, setting and subject matter of the British Repertory and West End theatre which dominated the amateur programme, precisely the 'high society dramas and eternal triangles' the People's Theatre explicitly warned it did not want to see. Those that did take a recognisably New Zealand setting reflected relatively little, or indirectly, the political currents of the time. 'Rural monotony and isolation', John Thomson has observed, were a predominant theme, and where political and economic forces occasionally intruded more directly these were dealt with in their personal or domestic aspect, with melodramatic plots in which 'industrial or political matters [were] tested against family bonds in situations so extreme or emotionally charged as to batde belief'68 The economic effects of the depression were seen in their impact on small business people and employers, rather than workers, a perspective which reflected the nature of the audience and players for whom these plays were written.

In the context of the literary nationalism of the 1930s and 1940s Mason's dramatic scripts also stand apart from the writing of his literary contemporaries, such as Allen Curnow, Charles Brasch and Denis Glover, who pursued the theme of national identity primarily through a focus on the New Zealand land/ seascape. However, there are also significant similarities. In a letter printed in the first issue of the Peoples Voice Mason wrote:

New Zealand speaks with two voices. . . . One is the true voice of our people. It page 191 is clear, bold and direct. . . . Rough it may be at times, but it is the roughness of quartz from which fine gold may be extracted. That voice is the voice of the masses.69

Behind this description of New Zealand's unheard voice there is a conception of a New Zealand working class culture, which is expressed more clearly in one of Mason's unpublished sketches: 'In the backblocks you'll find evidence of a blunt, free, frank manner. It's disappearing even there. In the towns, of course, the ideal is to be a third-rate imitation of a timid suburban Englishman'.70 It is expressed again in a programme note to 'BMA', where Mason describes the character PWD (from the acronym for Public Works Department; Mason himself wrote under this pseudonym in the People's Voice) as 'the embodiment of the New Zealand working class . . . tall, rangy, quiet, unemotional, direct'.71 This is of course a familiar characterisation. It bears a close resemblance to the solitary, male anti-hero who populates the poetry of Denis Glover, the stories of Frank Sargeson and Mulgan's Man Alone. It is a characterisation that has become an enduring stereotype, and to some extent a defining motif for the 'nationalist' literature of this period. It also represents a limited perception of an increasingly urban New Zealand working class, one which excludes marginal social groups such as Maori and working class women, who are conspicuous by their absence from the major fiction of the 1930s and 1940s (with the exception, in part, of the work of Robin Hyde). And as such it represents, arguably, an inappropriate basis for the development of a genuinely popular New Zealand literature.

But the sketches Mason wrote for the People's and New Theatre did not develop the vision, suggested in his unpublished scripts, of a popular history forming the basis of a New Zealand drama. Of Mason's published and performed plays from this period only two, 'Refugee' and the topical sketch 'BMA', take a New Zealand setting. The theme of 'Refugee' reflects, moreover, the international orientation of the left in this period; the majority of Mason's writing for the theatre was, similarly, international in its context. By virtue of its form, agitprop sketch or verse drama, it presented symbolic characterisations of 'the people', and was rhetorical in style. It has an abstract quality which also characterises Mason's earlier poetry, where his 'universal reference' and lack of 'specific reference to the New Zealand scene and people' set him apart from the self-conscious nationalism of Curnow or Brasch.72 In his preface to the 1943 publication of 'China Dances' (published with the tide China) Mason expressed his hope that 'its publication may possibly be some incentive towards a progressive drama in this country',73 but this was a time little conducive to, and a play itself inappropriate to, the creation of an indigenous left-wing drama.

page 192

In the preface to China Mason also expressed his confidence in the potential popular support for a progressive theatre movement:

It has been my invariable experience . . . that such plays [his own sketches] are welcomed by the working people. To me it seems certain that the majority of our people would take as ardent an interest in dramatic artistry as do our Maori fellow-citizens: provided only that the work was done honestly and without condescension by authors and players, and that it was progressive both in outlook and presentation.74

Whether this should be read as a statement of fact or of faith is difficult to say. That Auckland supported ten performances of Waiting for Lefty in six weeks does not necessarily indicate a widespread interest in left-wing, political theatre, for Lefty was a universally popular play. Its follow-up performances, moreover, were less successful than its opening: 'Audiences were small and not very appreciative'. Possibly, the People's Theatre surmised, 'the speed and violence of that remarkable play . . . stunned them after the insipid pictures to which they had been accustomed.'75 In Avondale, a working class suburb, door sales totalled only £16, and 27 tickets were sold in Mount Albert for three performances. Nevertheless, the combined audience of 2000 (the Honourable Peter Fraser among them) which attended the two Odets productions is not insignificant.

Nor does the group's formal link with the trade union movement necessarily signify a widespread interest among trade union members. Trade union executives, a few Labour Party branches and similar organisations showed an active interest. The Waikato tour was organised in conjunction with the Hamilton LRC and a combined committee of Communist Party and trade union leaders in Huntly. But working class audiences were more difficult to find. After their disappointing reception in suburban Auckland, followed by a similar experience in Hamilton, the theatre was gratified to be able to perform, in the mining town of Huntly, before 'a 100% working-class audience . . . which would appreciate working-class drama.'76 Not all the Huntly miners did, however. Sensitivities were offended by the language of the play and by the scheduling of the performance on a Sunday night. Commenting in Tomorrow on the Huntly performance, Frank Sargeson gave a somewhat more cynical assessment than Mason of the potential here for a popular, political theatre:

Waiting for Lefty was a play about a taxi men's strike. It was queer to stand outside and watch the members of the Left Book Club turning up in Taxis. The play, I understand, didn't go down too well with the Huntly miners. They objected to that sort of language being used in front of their womenfolk, and a disgusted member of the cast told me that the people of this country are bone from the feet up. It is probably quite true. How otherwise could anyone have expected anything different from a performance of Waiting page 193 for Lefty in Huntly? After all, there can't be very many members of the Left Book Club in Huntly.77

Whether the People's Theatre would have gone on to produce more New-Zealand material in the post-war years, and whether, in fact, such material would have provided a more fruitful basis for stimulating a popular interest in left-wing theatre, is also a matter only for speculation. The People's Theatre did not survive the first year of the war. After the abandonment of Marching Song more frequent shows of shorter plays requiring smaller casts were planned. Sunday evening performances for People's Theatre members and affiliated unions were held in November and December 1939, and a sketch was performed at a rally on 5 November to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Mason was to have produced Where's That Bomb? in 1939 and a variety concert to raise money for a production of Bury the Dead was held in March 1940, but no reference to productions of these plays has been found-In mid 1939 a report had noted the serious state of the theatre's finances, due to trade union apathy and a continuing decline in the number of general members. Although the number of trade union affiliations had increased, fewer tickets were being sold to unions. In April 1939 there were fewer than 20 individual financial members on the register; a 1940 report put the total number over the previous year at 40. A decision that the theatre go into recess was made before the annual general meeting scheduled for April 1940. The decision was attributed to three factors: financial difficulties; the pressure of work, with 'the increasing work falling on our most active members who belong to other organisations such as unions'; and the political circumstances of the moment— 'the feeling that at the present time the drama was too slow & laborious a method of propaganda'.78

1 A. Curnow, introduction to R.A.K. Mason, Collected Poems. Christchurch: Pegasus Press, 1962, p.9

2 Curnow to R.A.K. Mason, 1944, quoted in J. E. Weir, R.A.K Mason. Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1977, p.56

3 Curnow, 'The Poetry of R.A.K. Mason', Book, 2, May 1941

4 'Consumer Co-operatives in Auckland', Borer, June 1937 (v.1, n.6), p.6; R.A.K. Mason. Diary, 1937. R.A.K. Mason Papers. Ms Papers 900: box 2. Hocken Library

6 R. E. Harley, 'R.A.K. Mason: Poetry and Polities', Islands, June 1980 (v.8,n.2), p.164; J. C. Reid, Creative Writing in New Zealand. A Brief Critical History. Auckland: Whitcombe and Tombs, 1946, p.34

7 Weir, R.A.K Mason, pp.58, 45, 44

8 W. S. Broughton, 'Sponges Steeped in Vinegar: a note on the Collected Poems of R.A.K. Mason', Education, July 1963 (v.12, n.6), p.17

8 W. S. Broughton, 'Sponges Steeped in Vinegar: a note on the Collected Poems of R.A.K. Mason', Education, July 1963 (v.12, n.6), p.17

9 Harley, 'R.A.K. Mason', p.160

10 C. K. Stead, 'R.A.K. Mason's Poetry— some random observations', Comment, 16, July 1963 (v.4, n.4), p.38

12 Mason, 'Mr Kerridge Tries Culture', Landfall, Mar. 1948 (v.2, n.1), p.35

13 See P. Harcourt, A Dramatic Appearance. New Zealand Theatre 1920-1970. Wellington: Methuen, 1978, pp.54-5, 85-7; J. A. Colquhoun, 'History of the Auckland Workers' Educational Association until the passing of the Adult Education Act, 1947'. MPhil thesis, University of Auckland, 1976, p.46

14 'Penetrating Satire. Coming W.E.A. Production', People's Voice, 3 Nov. 1939, p.8. Programmes for productions of the Auckland WEA drama group in this period are held in Ephemera Collection: Theatre, 1940s. Auckland Institute and Museum Library; and by M. Lusty.

15 B. Mason, 'New Stages in Theatre', New Zealand's Heritage, part 95, p.2645

16 A.R.D. Fairburn, quoted in D. Trussell, Fairburn. Auckland: Auckland University Press/Oxford University Press, 1984, p.44

17 R. Bowie, quoted in Harcourt, A Dramatic Appearance, p. 55

18 Workers' Educational Association, Dominion of NZ. Nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first annual reports for the years ending 31st October 1933-45, p.31

19 F.S., 'Notes By The Way', Tomorrow, 7 Dec. 1938 (v.5, n.3), p.73

20 Ibid., pp.72-3;F.S., correspondence, ibid., 5 Jan. 1939 (v.5, n.5), p.16o

21 News clipping, in Waiting for Lefty Scrapbook. Mason Papers: 5

22 Mason Papers: 5

23 'People's Theatre', New Zealand Herald, 2 Nov. 1936, p.14

24 Rules of Peoples Theatre Incorporated, 23 Dec. 1936. People's Theatre. Papers. NZ Ms 821: folder 1. Auckland Public Library

25 People's Theatre enrolment card. Mason Papers: 5

26 E. Smee, correspondence, Tomorrow, 11 Oct. 1939 (v.5, n.25), p.800; People's Theatre. Programme, Waiting for Lefty, Dec. 1936. Ephemera Collection: Theatre, 1930s. Alexander Turnbull Library

27 People's Theatre. Leaflet, [Oct. 1936]. Mason Papers: 5

28 Mason, convenor, 'to members of the Constitution Committee'; minutes of meeting held at WEA, 3 Nov. 1936. Mason Papers: 5

29 People's Theatre Magazine, Dec. 1939 (v.1, n.1), p.15

30 Manuscript notes. Mason Papers: 5

31 Letter to V. Arnold, secretary, Sydney New Theatre League, 27 July 1937. People's Theatre Papers: 1

32 Manuscript notes. Mason Papers: 5

33 A.J.C. Fisher to secretary, People's Theatre, 12 Jan. 1938. People's Theatre Papers: 1

34 New Zealand Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic Review, 11 Nov. 1936, quoted in Waiting for Lefty programme, Dec. 1936.

35 Manuscript notes. Mason Papers: 5

36 Ibid.

37 People's Theatre Magazine, p.1

38 'Working Class Play', Borer, Oct. 1937 (v.2, n.2), p.18

39 'People's Theatre Success', Workers' Weekly, 25 June 1937, p.4 (reprinted from the New Zealand Herald)

40 Report of annual meeting of the General Council, 15 July 1937. People's Theatre Papers: 1

41 'Judgment Day. Unconvincing Drama', New Zealand Herald 27 June 1938, p.12

42 Secretary, People's Theatre to J.E.D. McGuire, 21 Nov. 1937. People's Theatre Papers: 1

43 People's Theatre Magazine, p.8

44 Harcourt, A Dramatic Appearance, p.66

45 'Leftist Propaganda. Two Plays by Odets', Evening Star, 8 Dec. 1937, p.7

46 'News and Views', Tomorrow, 13 Apr. 1938 (v.4, n.12), pp.354-5

47 Ibid.

48 Comments on playscripts, [nd]. People's Theatre Papers: 1

49 I. Hamilton, Falls the Shadow. Auckland: Griffin Press, 1939

50 "Tails the Shadow". A Criticism of People's Theatre Production', Workers' Weekly, 31 Mar. 1939, p.4

51 F. Sargeson, 'Mr Hamilton's Play', Tomorrow, 12 Apr. 1939 (v.5, n.12), p.377

52 People's Theatre Magazine, p.5. Copies of the script of 'BMA' are in the Mason Papers: 3 and People's Theatre Papers: 1

53 People's Theatre Magazine, p.15

54 Ibid., p.10

55 Weir (R.A.K Mason, p.27) claims that Squire Speaks was written in 1928, but as Harley points out he offers no evidence for this assertion (Harley, 'R.A.K. Mason', pp.157-8)

56 Mason, 'Service for the Fallen', People's Voice, 14 July 1939, p.7

57 People's Voice, 24 Nov. 1939, p.7. The script of 'Skull on Silence' is printed in full here.

58 People s Theatre Magazine, p.8

59 'P.W.D.', This Dark Will Lighten', People's Voice, 15 Sept. 1939, p.7

60 New Theatre Group. Prospectus, 1945. Robert Lowry Papers. Ms Papers A-194: box 1, folder 6. University of Auckland Library; NewTheatre Group. Programme, 'China Dances' [etc], Oct. 1945. Ephemera Collection: Theatre, 1940s. Alexander Turnbull Library. Programmes for other Margaret Barr productions are held by M. Lusty.

61 'China Dances' programme. A short profile of Margaret Barr appeared in In Print, 22 Oct. 1941, p.5. See also P. Herlinger, 'A new direction for "the New"?', Australasian Drama Studies, 8, Apr. 1986, p.108

62 'China Dances' programme. The script of'Refugee' is in the Alexander Turnbull Library.

63 Tomorrow, 27 Apr. 1938 (v.4, n.13), pp.408-11

64 Mason, 'Toilers Triumphant'. Mason Papers: 3

65 Mason, This Bird May Swing', p.1. Mason Papers: 3

66 Harley, 'Politics and Public Themes in New Zealand Literature 1930-1950, with special attention to Mulgan, Sargeson, Mason, Fairburn, Curnow'. PhD thesis, University of Auckland, 1980, p.161

67 Mason, No New Thing. [Auckland]: Spearhead Publishers, 1934, p.[xxvii]

68 J. Thomson, New Zealand Drama, 1930-1980. An Illustrated History. Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1984, pp.16, 18

69 People's Voice, 7 July 1939, p.4

70 Mason, 'God in Hell'. Mason Papers: 3

71 Mason, 'BMA'

72 Broughton, 'Sponges Steeped in Vinegar', p.17; Curnow, 'The Poetry of R.A.K. Mason'

73 Mason, China, p.[1]

74 Ibid.

75 Letter to V. Arnold, 27 July 1937

76 Ibid.

77 Sargeson, 'Just a Few Hot-points', Tomorrow, 18 Aug. 1937 (v.3, n.21), p.657

78 'Cancellation of Annual Meeting', Apr. 1940.  People's Theatre Papers: 1