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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 9. 1965.

Reviews — Ondine, A Worthy Attempt


Ondine, A Worthy Attempt

Giraudoux'S plays all show a certain fine wit and irony, a deftness that carries the delicate tension between aspiration and reality, or, in Ondine, between blundering mortality and the absolutes of a spirit world men see in glimpses.

Something or this clarity and delicacy is lost in translation, so that the players must make the most of what is left. And if the late Khandallah Arts Theatre production tended a little towards the dingy, it was because the actors did not appear to be aware of this. We must have our nuances, and if the Khandallah Arts Theatre, or anybody else, fails to provide them, we feel cheated.

The least successful moments of the play came in Act 1. Auguste (John Mahaffy) instead of being a kindly parody of the traditional peasant, turned out to be a parody of a kindly parody of the traditional peasant. Hans (Wayne Brabin) was more idiotic than he had any right to be, more, I suspect, than he intended. Of course he was not helped by his "armour" which made him look like a species of walking sardine tin. The most impressive thing about Ondine (Vivienne Epsom) was her aspirations—she played the part on her tippy-tip toes, but simpered rather than scintillated.

Michael Mansfield, the Lord Chamberlain, ressurected the play in the second act. He moved against the rich background with delightful urbanity and provided, with the King (Gordon Wright), an excellent foil for Ondine, who began to look a little less kittenish. Bertram (Pat Shields) was as sincere, ugly and ungainly as he should have been, and Dairne Shanahan made an adequate Bertha.

Act 3 was not a success, and the fault was Hans's. Not that he was exceptionally bad—he managed all the preamble before the trial quite competently—but that when the whole play depended on his dramatic coming of age, on his tragi-comic dissertation on the human condition, on the fusing of fairy tale and reality, of mortal and absolute, he simply lacked capacity. Inevitably, and in spite of some of Ondine's better moments (it was a pleasure to see her not smiling) the play fizzled.

It was, all in all, a worthy attempt, albeit not an entirely successful one, if Giraudoux was rarely with us, he was often just around the corner. The pity of it is that there could not have been that little extra control, intelligence, technique that would have brought us together. — Alastair Bisley.