Salient. The Newspaper of Victoria University College. Vol. 19, No. 7. June 16, 1955
Criticism and Opinion
Criticism and Opinion
Dear Sir,—The review of the Players' current production "Escapade" in your last issue made so little mention of the play's defects as to be quite misleading. Just as they would make the most of Extrav. so the Players made the most of "Escapade," but the disparity between the quality of performance and quality of the play seemed as great.
To say that "for sheer entertainment value this is one of the best things the Players have done" is to compare it with "Private Lives." the "Dream," "Ring Round the Moon." "The Lady's Not for Burning," etc., and therefore to suggest that it is good entertainment. To call entertaning a play in which naive and sometimes banal dissertations upon world affairs, family relationships, education, etc., is to show a lack of dramatic sensibility. A play in which the serious and comic elements are fundamentally quite unrelated to each other or to the action (most of which takes place off stage) is not amusing but pitiful. Instead of a hotch potch of funny bits, action and purple passages in which the preaching voice of the author is heard, a play must be concerned with some action which may be funny or serious or both but in which all the elements are interdependent "The youthfulness of outlook," or as I would say, the immaturity which the 45 year old MacDougall shows is also combined with a lack of technique. The excellence of production alone saved from fading away a play in which most of the action—the shooting, running away, etc., took place off stage—and in which there were long pauses in which Daventry expounded his philosophy.
"In the style and content there is a marked resemblance to G.B.S. and Wilde," says your reviewer. The compliment is backhanded for Shaw was able to disregard the rules only by the force of his genius and the power of his thought. Lacking Shaw's genius MacDougall still disregards the rules and thereby provides an awful warning to those who would also imitate Shaw.
If such a play as "Escapade" presented with all the technical ablity of the Players is a "worthy opening to their new season, I have misgivings as to whether they will survive the season. Likewise to survive a season's reviewing your reviewer, I suggest, must sharpen his critical faculties.
J. H. Larsen.
Mr. Dawick replies:—
"I could hardly disagree with Mr. [unclear: Larsen] more, Mr. MacDougall might place too much emphasis on the importance of the family as a unit of society for more sophisticated tastes but he does not indulge in banal dissertations. The humour of the play most certainly did arise out of the situations, and if the action on stage was largely conditioned by off stage developments, that is not to say that the interplay of personality which constitutes dramatic action was lacking. But this is developing into a criticism of a criticism of a [unclear: criticism]. I thank Mr. Larsen for his letter and will endeavour to be more sparing of my superlatives in future.—Editor.)