Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 10. August 9, 1951
T.C. Drama's Major
T.C. Drama's Major
Margaret Walkers work as a producer continues to surprise us each time in spite of our being prepared to be surprised by her.
This in itself has probably gained her a wider following than would be expected, if one is to judge by the large attendances at each showing of Dark of the Moon, presented by Miss Walker as the Training College's major production of the year in V.U.C. Little Theatre.
Irrealism suggests itself as a handy label to describe the talents of Miss Walker, and this play, by Howard Richardson and William Berney, proved a convenient irrealist vehicle.
Fantastic, incredible. Miss Walker worked it up to an emotional pitch that was gripping, that did suspend one's disbelief; and, this accomplished, made the play one of the most moving, in several places that Wellington has seen in many months.
I stress the importance of Miss Walker's work because it was surely the hand of the producer which made a cohesive force out of a production composed of so many false coins and bad patches; not all o them attributable to the inexperience of the cast, but in herring in the play itself.
Though I have not had time in which to study the written play, I am prepared to assert that certain high-points were not helped by the too-obvious grafting of rhyme onto the text. Poor rhyme which could but irritate and obtrude itself as being out of character.
These bad spots were momentary and soon made up and forgotten as the play forged ahead to its inevitable conclusion—a statement of a theme as old as the Greeks—that Gods (or supernatural agents) and mortals cannot mix.
Dark Of The Moon is composed of elements from American folk-lore, and folk music, the chief source of inspiration being the hill-ballad, Barbara Alien.
It's about a witch-boy who falls in love with the all-too-human Barbara Allen, and who wants to become a human so that he may win her.
The conjur woman grants his wish, and he may remain a human forever if Barbara Allen will but remain faithful to him for one year.
The "folky" atmosphere is the first obstacle to a sophisticated audience. The play weans them from disbelief somewhat subtley by the crudest possible means—an injection of "mountain maythin." Ozark humour straight from the pages of A1 Capp.
The only stock character absent is "the revenoor." But he wasn't needed, even for a laugh.
Up in them that hills a man's an island unto himself till he's caught; an' a gall don't git wed till she has ter.
Waal, the Allen's is in a purty fix 'coas Barbara has ter, an' once agin all the men, sensing the threat to their status, has become women-shy.
All except the strange boy from Baldy Mountain—whar there ain't nobody lives—but anyway, he presses his suit and is taken.
Jest as well too, since he's the party who done Barbara wrong—but o' course, nobody really knows.
A lot of curious happenings make the locals of Buck Creed suspicious of "John Human" and his wife Barbara Allen, who eventually is bedded and gives birth to—a witch.
And all their fears and gossip becomes confirmed.
The night upon which John Human is to become really human—the night of the anniversary of Barbara's fidelity, coincides with the big revival meeting.
Barbara's mother has dragged, her to the meeting, and there the whole story comes out.
With the full sanction of the church, and in the midst of the congregation, Barbara is raped by a lusting local to save them all from calamity.
There is only left the death of Barbara and the return of the witch boy to the mountain-top to complete the tale.
The revival meeting is the grand climax—and from it [unclear: emeages] the play's message—the great theme of the modern American play—that is the function of society and the community to thwart, even destroy, the individual.
It is a strange and original way of making the point, but effective, and I nominate the revival meeting as being the mast disgusting and telling fragments of unbearability I have seen.
Miss Walker taxed her young players to the utmost and no doubt got the best from them.
The songs sprinkled liberally throughout, and the light, "folky" touch gave often an extravaganza—or at least, festive—air.
I doubt that an older man could have convinced so well as the witch boy as did John Norton.
Barbara, a Harold Bell Wright heroine in the midst of the Al Capp characters, showed unusual refinement for her environment, and was left to Oriole Whitlock.
Good casting was shown in the contrast of the two witch-girls, representing perhaps the moonlight and shadow of witch Dom and the duality of the black-magic world which carries over into our own.
Some of the "charactcrs" got the maximum from their lines:—Geoff Barlow us Uncle Smelicue; Elizabeth Gordon as Miss Metcalf; Bryan Snell grove as Floyd Allen, succeeding particularly well.
And perhaps best of all. Kevin Woodill as the hell-fire preacher, the Reverend Haggler, who could take his "com licker" with the best of me and still have wind left to exhort redemption.
It is possible that Dark Of The Moon will be presented to larger city audiences again later in the year.
The cast will therefore have time in which to perfect their lines, and Miss Walker will have on her hands something of a local triumph.