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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 10, No. 13. September 24, 1947

World Theatre

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World Theatre

Famous Plays on the Radio

Radio, "the one-dimensional theatre of sound," is a comparatively new art form which has limitations and possibilities not yet fully explored. This was quite evident when the first two plays of World Theatre were presented from 2YA recently. The adaption of the stage plays—Gilbert Murray's translation of Euripides' "Trojan Women" and Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus"—showed an intelligent attempt at tackling the medium.

The historical origins of the two types of drama were reflected in the success of one and the failure of the other to sustain interest. Greek drama with its choral beginnings is more adapted to the change of medium than the early Elizabethan play with Its roots in the medieval spectacle.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Dr. Faustus are certainly deadly without the accompanying spectacle, and the episodic nature of the play is unfortunately too evident. Interest does not flag in the "Trojan Women." however, as the magnificent tragedy is more dependent on the voice alone. The resultant success was largely due to the radio acting of the feminine aide of the caste: Menelaus with the emotional quiver in his voice was just adequate, Poseidon was weak and the Herald capable; but the four women, without exception, seemed to feel the depths of the tragedy.

Sybil Thorndyke managed to put the age, spirit and whole character of Hecuba into her well-varied elocution, although she sounded a trifle masculine in patches. Cassandra, god-inspired, sent the requisite chill down the listener's spine and was assisted by the hollow-sounding acoustics of the studio. This change in quality was also used most effectively for the Angel in Dr. Faustus, and indicates a healthy effort to widen the limitations of the medium.

Best Use of Medium

The touch of melodramatic rhetoric in Andromache's speech on Hector and fallen Troy was well suited to radio presentation and the actress's ringing voice made full use of the possibilities. Helen's chacter called for a more subtle voice control, and her fabulous beauty, so hard to render on the stage, was echoed by her versatile eloquence and pleasing voice.

Character in Faustus suffered through too much attention to elocutionary correctness and the actors seemed to be unable to blow the breath of life into Marlowe's "flat" roles. The adaption of the slapstick comedy was an utter failure, while the changing scenes of the play and to be indicated by a fruity voice uttering "Enter Faustus in his study." and other ridiculous stage directions. The rising melodrama at the end fell flat after the interminable episodes which preceded it.

But the most important [unclear: lesson] of the presentations were the [unclear: ensrmous] advantages which the radio has over the stage under certain conditions. The final climax of the "Trojan Women" has a terrific impact over the ether, due to the work of the sound effects man. The cry "Troy is gone forever!" was followed by a deep, ominous rumble which conjured up a better image of the walls and towers of Ilium falling than any elaborate destruction of stage machinery, especially as the effect was reinforced by the subsequent lines. Again Hecsubas' lament over the body of Hector's son is much more-tragic "over the air" than a stage presentation of an old women's administrations over the mangled body. The words, beautiful even in translation, are more than enough to evoke an image of the action.

The limitation of three speaking characters on the classical stage is very appropriate to radio, where voices are hard to distinguish, but this is only one of the many factors which made the "Trojan Women" such a great success. A few more of these productions and we may see radio lifted from the average intelligence of 13 years" or which the father or broadcasting Lee de Forest complained a few months ago.

I have no pain, dear mother, now,
But oh! I am so dry.
Connect me to a bowery
And leave me there To die.