Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol 7, No. 6. July 12, 1944
Leading Questions to Leading Man — Lloyd Lamble Interviewed
Leading Questions to Leading Man
Lloyd Lamble Interviewed
Salient got busy this week, and a reporter went down town to interview (with his kind permission) Lloyd Lamble, leading man in current J. C. Williamson production "Susan and God," and President of Australian Actors' Equity. Our reporter received a friendly welcome, and a lot of helpful suggestions for our own drama club.
One of the first questions we asked was, naturally enough, about Australian Actors' Equity. Students will have seen details in the daily press and on the newsreels of the actors' strike in Australia. Mr. Lamble was able to tell us quite a bit about it.
"They won hands down. We had the support of the Australian public, and made world news! We also received telegrams of solidarity from British Actors' Equity, President Michel Redgrave, and for the American Screenactors' Guild from their President, James Cagney."
"We have a hard job on the stage," said Equity's Australian President. "It's the only job people are willing to do for nothing. If you started a road-building or stone-breaking contest you wouldn't get many applicants, but people are susceptible to the limelight of the stage and are willing to do it for nothing. So you see it is very important for us to have an organisation to protect the interests of professionals—and in doing so it also protects amateurs.
"I read the review of 'Arsenic and Old Lace' in the last issue of Salient," and Mr. Lamble . . . added here some wise sayings which we have passed on to the reviewer.
"We have a saying the stage, 'You can learn from anybody, even an amateur.' Perhaps you could reverse that and remember 'You can learn from anybody, even a professional.'"
Another interesting light on the professional stage to which he drew our attention: "It is impossible for some actors to give a bad performance," and equally, "It is impossible for some actors to give a good performance." Some actors, brilliantly successful on the amateur stage, fade out on the professional—they don't just get across—the born professional, by his description, was the person with acting ability, judgment, timing, and always quick to see faults and remember "the good actor has still always something to learn."
We told him about our College drama club's revival after black-out and E.P.S. days, it's growing membership and their keenness and our handicaps in lack of experience, staging, and worthwhile plays, our perennial lapse into Guitry or Coward for our comedy and difficulty in selecting plays generally.
"Don't aim at perfection of production. That's where you'll fall down," said Mr. Lamble. "Coward and Guitry—sophisticated comedy has the appearance of being easy because the dialogue is slick and modern. Don't be misted. Acting ability—professional ability and technique are needed to put over the fine points of these playwrights; an eyebrow or hand movement may make or mar a scene. The temptation to underact is basically correct but is dangerous for amateurs. To overact is easier than to underact—this latter must be very skilfully done.
"Try modern material like Steinbeck, Odets, Ibsen—plays with a social background that you appreciate, which require primarily sincerity of production—the amateur's strong point.
"I don't advise Tchekov—it is very tough and unsuitable for amateurs."
At this point he branched off to give us a few recommendations (including the "Eve of St. Mark's," which we reviewed in an earlier issue), which have been passed on to the Drama Club.
As for staging, he assured us that all amateur societies are handicapped there, and suggested that by lighting and simplicity we could get our effects. Curtains behind and a spot—those were the two important things—we should manage with those.
Mr. Lamble speaks with a pleasing voice, and his accent conforms to standard English. We questioned him about it. Are accents (New Zealand or Australian, for instance) permissible on the amateur or professional stage? In New Zealand (and elsewhere) a "good" English accent indicates to some people snobbery or at any rate a definite class; is such an accent a handicap or an asset? Well, then we got It. Serious stage-work with a local accent is as ridiculous as a London theatre putting on a cockney version of Hamlet! In Australia the pronounced Australian accent was only used on the stage in comedy, low comedy (e.g. Dad and Dave?). He spoke of a U.S. serviceman, a professional actor in the States, who was thrilled to see a stage-show again. He wrote to the company; he had been worried about the accent before seeing these American comedies—but their accent was standard—that of the English-speaking stage world. Young actors who can act but can't speak standard English should learn to speak—it's a false set of values that suggests a "good" accent to be other than good.
We asked Mr. Lamble, too, about "The Moon is Down"—he had taken the part of Lanser over the radio in Sydney and so was acquainted with this rather controversial script. He considered it interesting, not perhaps as a view of the effect of fascism on the people, but as a study of the feelings of these fascists themselves. Lanser—the regular soldier of the old school, cold and efficient, the super-efficient and brutal young Nazi, and the weak young officer who crocked under the strain.
Besides this Mr. Lamble gave us good ideas for our drama club, exercises in acting, plays and addresses as contacts with go-ahead amateur groups overseas. We feel we got more than we deserved and we're very grateful for this material, so, thanks, Mr. Lamble.