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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 8. 1965.

Dock Brief

Dock Brief

Downstage has made a new departure—its latest production. A Dock Brief, is a very different thing from The Dumb Waiter or The Maids, and not nearly so good a play. There are two characters: an elderly lawyer and his client whom he interviews before and after the letter's trial for murder. The play purports to study the relationship that develops as the play progresses.

There is a considerable debt owed to Thurber's Walter Mitty— he is taken over, cut up, and parcelled out between the two actors. Morganhall indulges in his fantasies, and Fowle is as henpecked as he. But it is hard to pay as much attention to their development as we would like, for what really interests the playwright is his jokes. Frequently we are distracted while he takes time off to be funny in a way that advances the play not at all.

To carry tills off, to get at the kernel of pathos and the incongruity of Morganhall's dependence, the play must move fast. And on the first night it did tend to drag. It was not conspicuously slow— Michael Woolf (Fowle) forgot a few lines and tended to pause a trifle long, to be a little slack on cues; Martyn Sanderson (Morganhall) marred an otherwise very proficient performance by overfussiness, and an annoying tremor that communicated itself from his voice to his right arm. Nor did the audience always help: there was a small section that guffawed assiduously at more than every opportunity, and constantly kept the play waiting.

Nevertheless there was some good acting. Martyn Sanderson used spectacles, wig and gown to lawyerly effect, and Michael Woolf was extremely funny with a towel draped over his head, acting the peppery judge, or brash but quickly deflated witness or the bamboozled medical expert. The play is not as good as some Downstage have done in the past; all the same, with a little more speed and polish, it will be an amusing interlude. — Alastair Bisley.