Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 10, No. 9. June 25, 1947



Dear Sir,—

For some years it has been the policy of the Executive to provide something superior in the way of Extravaganza programmes. Victoria is the only University College in New Zealand to provide fare of a higher standard than that of a glorified school concert; and the public has shown its appreciation by flocking to the Opera House each year in increasing numbers. Now that the tumult and shouting has died on another successful Extrav., I should like to put forward a few ideas regarding next year's show in the hope that it will provoke further discussion.

During the period from about 1934 onwards the Extrav. has altered from the lewd nonsense and wild caperings of students fortified for the occasion, to clean satire and good musical burlesque. That the public has welcomed this change, there is very little doubt. In the last year or two, there seems to be a tendency to rely on lavatory humour, rather than the type of satire so ably handled by Redmond Phillips and later, by Ron Meek and the "Seven Pillars of Wisdom."

Now comes the question of the length of the show itself. I am rather of the opinion that three short shows are preferable to one long presentation. The only two-and-a-half hours Extrav. I Have seen which really did sustain itself was Ron Meek's magnum opus, "Peter in Blunderland," and even parts of this show tended to drag somewhat.

The scheme I would suggest is similar to the earlier system:
(2)Interlude (with men's ballet).
(3)Main Extravaganza.

The satire should be modelled on the lines of such sterling works as the "Book of Bob," "Hell's Bells," and "Adam Baba and the Forty Leagues." Ron Meek, writing some years ago, made this comment, which I think, is still relevant:

"In view of the well-deserved success of 'Bob,' 'Hell's Bells,' and 'Murder in the Common Room' it would be absurd to cut out this item or curtail it—indeed, to do so, would be justly considered an affront to the authors of these splendid plays."

And now to the Interlude. This has always been well received by the public. It also provides the ideal position for the introduction of the male ballet. The idea of attempting to sandwich it into the main show does not appeal to me.

I should like to see John Carrad write another Interlude. John has produced by far the best Extrav. tunes—witness the songs that are always sung at Extrav. Reunions and elsewhere when 'Varsity types gather together—and songs like "Treasure Trove," "The Governor of North Carolina," and "South Pacific Seas" will live for a long time to come. Ron Meek makes the following comments about the Interlude:

"The Interlude, so long as we have the Inimitable Carrad, should on no account be omitted. The men's ballet and the bright, original music are always appreciated."

Ralph Hogg, in surveying the 1937 show says, "The 'Interlewd' was responsible for the best single item of the evening, the male ballet most effectively dressed and doing some most effective stepping . . . . Let's hope John will be on stage, at the piano, complete with cigarette and new tunes next year."

Now for the pice de resistance of an Extravaganza, namely the Extravaganza itself. This should include topical references, caricatures of politicians and other notorious people., a presentable plot, and a selection of good songs and choruses. It is not much use introducing songs if they cannot be reasonably well sung. Better to cut them out and let the character speak the lines.

A word about the opening chorus. This is generally believed to put the audience in good humour for what is to follow. However, unless it is a Good opening chorus, it is doubtful whether it does anything else but hold up the action. Compare a badly sung opening chorus with, say, the opening scene of the "Book of Bob," which depends for its opening on simple but effective stage setting and clever lighting (not by me). This, together with excellent acting, cast a spell over the audience which was not broken. Had this scene followed an "opening chorus" the effect would have been appalling. I mention this to illustrate that an opening chorus is not a necessity to any show and in some cases may be detrimental. Incidentally. Ron Meek used a similar effective opening in the "Zealous Zombies" and introduced the Zombies' Chorus later, without breaking the continuity of the act.

Finally a word about a new Extrav. innovation—the Interval Entertainers. This appears to me one of the most successful innovations of recent years and Ray Hannan, Jimmy Winchester and Mike Mitchell deserve to be congratulated for building it up to its present high standard. To know that intelligently planned, clever entertainment is proceeding in front of the curtain during a major scene change is very comforting to those back-stage. I do not see any reason why Weir House should not take over this branch of Extrav. activities in future years. It would be much better for them to expend their energy in a constructive manner rather than the usual puerile display of crayfish dangling, saveloy dangling, suspended human bodies, and toilet paper throwing. This may amuse the mighty Weir House intellects, but the audience, unable to appreciate genius, does not respond very favourably.

I do not suggest that the Haka Party be abolished. It does a very efficient job on the publicity angle, but I think if the Weir House people took over the responsibility of organising an interval entertainment on the lines of previous years, it would certainly be a step in the right direction.

The first impressions of the audience govern, to a large extent, their reactions to the remainder of the performance, and in this connection I remember Ron Meek made the following remark to me when we were discussing the setting of "Peter in Blunderland," which I think is worth recording:—

"Never is blatancy more blatant, never is good effect so effective, as at the very beginning of the show."—

Huddie Williamson.