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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 9, No. 12. September 25, 1946

A Filthy Act in Public—Drama Give Ibsen's Ghosts

A Filthy Act in Public—Drama Give Ibsen's Ghosts

Towards the end of the nineteenth century there lived a Norwegian dramatist named Henrik Ibsen, who wrote a number of plays intended to expose the bigotry and hypocrisy with which he found himself surrounded. Such a play is "Ghosts." In 1946 the VUC Drama Club, after suitably publicising these facts, treated its amused audiences to a play purporting to be that written by Ibsen

In Act I we are introduced to a group of characters whose outlook is very definitely not as broad as our own. As a result they become involved in a series of mishaps which might have been tragic if they were not such funny people. However, at the end of Act III there is a kind of a firework display, and we all go home feeling very happy and superior to our grandparents.

The acting throughout was competent and the staging perhaps even a little better than we are accustomed to expect on the Gym. stage. What, then, went wrong? The answer seems to lie in a rather too superficial reading of he play.

Ibsen's Regina was a girl who although she had picked up some of the more superficial phrases and behaviour patterns of Society (and even a little French) was quite ignorant of their meanings and implications—a person who retained a quality of earthiness. Joan Taylor played the part of a rather charming young lady who had strayed into the pages of Ibsen by mistake, and found the whole environment somewhat distasteful. Her "father." Jacob Engstrand, is a whining cringing creature without a single redeeming feature. Mrs. Alving's open disgust for him is surely evidence enough for that. Frank Coleman gave us a portrait of an entertaining rogue with a good line of blarney—surely no Ibsen character.

Perhaps the weakest character in the play was Pastor Manders. But Ibsen's Manders is not weak. He lacks both charm and humour. He believes in a code which always gives an immediate answer—an answer which is always correct moral theory, but which fails every time it is applied to a specific case. When Mrs. Alving left her husband and went to Manders for help, it was not because of liking or respect but because she was then an adherent ot the Manders code, and appeal to the raster was the correct answer to the situation. Gilbert Johnstone's Manders sometimes found a moment to smile. Ibsen's never did.

Pat Girllng-Butcher probably came nearer to Ibsen's idea of Mrs. Alving but Mrs. Alving is one of the greatest tragic roles of the stage. It was a fine effort, but VUC no more has an actress capable of playing Mrs. Alving adequately than it has an actor who could play Hamlet. Surrounding her with caricatures was no assistance in a difficult role. She had the sympathy of the audience, but for the wrong reasons.

Although Oswald might have appeared as he did in the Quartier latin, he could never have done so in Norway. The mere possibility makes the play incredible.

For the most part the words of Ibsen (or rather, of Mr. William Archer) seemed out of place on the lips of the characters on the stage. The copious footnotes with which Mr. Archer garnishes his translations make it harder to understand how the interpretations arrived at were reached. However, if

the aim of the Drama Club was to amuse its audience rather than to instruct, then it must be granted a large measure of success.