Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 18, No. 12. September 6, 1954
During the Winter Tournament the annual drama contest was held in the Little Theatre. Four plays were performed fey the major universities, each one differing a great deal from the others.
The first play was "Aria da Capo" by Edua St. Vincent Milley, performed by Otago and produced by John Kim. The title was explained as meaning a song which begins and finishes at the same place, and this play was definitely linked with music of that kind and gave a series of impressions of the comic and tragic theatre.
Commencing with the comic figures. Pierrot (Brian Bell) and Columbine (Marie Jones) the scene moved forward to the appearance of the tragic muse, Thyrsus (Denis Hoskins) and the two shepherds (Richard Graham and Tony Thompson) who rehearsed their scene which culminated in their deaths; at which point Pierrot and Columbine reappeared and recommenced their earlier dialogue.
Throughout, the acting of the players was convincing, and this was vividly demonstrated when the shepherds, using confetti as jewels and streamers as a wall, really captured the spirit of the play, and were able to get right across to their audience and hold them in their spell. This was also shown in the stylistic brilliance of Brian Bell and Marie Jones who joined together gesture to gesture and dared to come to the front of the stage in order to get the audience closer to them.
The second play was Josephina Niggli's "Sunday Costs Five Pesos," performed by A.U.C. under the direction of Anne Spinley. Here was a simple love story set in a Mexican village, relying mainly on colour and characterisation. However, the players, except for Celestina (Susan Davis) and Tonia (Jean Armour), failed to convince, and they did not capture the atmosphere or the feeling of their setting.
The decor was simple and effective but was possibly not quite what was necessary, while the costumes and their colouring did not help to create more atmosphere. To sum up, there was a lack of technical artistry, and the play appealed more as an amateur high school performance than as university drama.
Tuesday, the second night of the festival, saw Paddy Frost's production for C.U.C. of "The Boy With the Cart," by Christopher Fry. This play was described as being "a pastoral play with a spiritual theme; it has a modern comment in the form of a chorus running parallel to the Anglo-Saxon story." It is a play of words, and extremely difficult to produce effectively. However, by means of their concentration on the inner spirit of the play, the actors accomplished this major achievement. David Zwartz, in the leading role of Cuthman, was particularly convincing with his strong voice, and although lacking a true sense of character and ease, he captured a deep feeling for the words which he spoke, and it was due mainly to him that the play was so successful.
In the female lead, as the mother of Cuthman, Judie Joves acted very well, conveying the character with much spirit.
The main falling of the play was to be found in the chorus, which could have been made more acceptable if greater characterisation had been used.
An unusually simple setting added to the conviction by letting the words colour the scene for us.
The final play of the contest was "The Siege of Anatole" by Snitlzer, played by V.U.C. and produced by Gavin Yates. Unfortunately, soon after the beginning of the first scene Rosemary Lovegrove became indisposed, and it was therefore decided to continue with the second scene. Here the actors were obviously playing under stress, but, in spite of this, extremely good performances were put up by Gavin Yates as Anatole. Bill Sheat as Max (the dead-pan cynic), and Diana Lescher (Annie), who had taken the part only ten days previously.
It was indeed unfortunate that the incident occurred, as it was not improbable that V.U.C. might have taken top honours. As it was, Mr. Richard Campion the judge, decided to leave V.U.C. out of his judging altogether.
After an extremely good summing up of all the plays, he gave first place to C.U.C. with O.U. second. In doing so, he stated that he was looking for talent and quality rather than for perfection.
During the festival Mr Campion made a few serious comments on university drama. He stressed the tremendous opportunity open to university drama clubs where in a less limited field producers were able to bring forward more fanciful and imaginative productions than was more usually the case. Following this, he warned against the competitive nature of these festivals, which he believed would be ruinous to university drama.
—E. A. Woodfield.