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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 13. 1967.

"Luv" could prove to be theatre's best for 1967

"Luv" could prove to be theatre's best for 1967

The Prime Fact to be recorded about Luv, the current attraction at Downstage, is that it is so very good and could well prove to be Downstage's biggest success of 1967.

Tearing straight through the plethora of social mores that surround love and marriage, the play is both caustic and hilarious. The laughter tends to hurt, especially in the second act, when the sickness of the situation becomes explicit.

This may suggest that the play is but another black comedy—it is far more and indeed far better than the majority of recent Downstage productions.

Always funny, it also manages to teeter on the edge of tragedy and the tension this creates is no doubt due to Anthony Grosser's direction and the skilled acting.

But it is the play itself that provides the highlights—I understand much of the action is written into the script and I doubt if I will forget quickly such scenes as when Peter Bland (the first husband) applies makeup to his impassive wife (Shirley Duke) and when the wife produces a graph of the decline and fall of sexual experiences in their marriage.

Some scenes seem to have been lifted from other plays—Albee and Ionesco both make contributions.

Grant Tilly as the degenerate and unfortunate second husband performs with a pathos fitted perfectly to the part and he is left to deliver the final line which destroys once and for all any illusions the audience may have had about the situation.

Peter Bland gives a performance equal to that he gave as the father in The Homecoming in a role which is possibly more demanding. His timing and delivery are faultless.

Shirley Duke gives what is without doubt the best performance she has delivered at Downstage and reveals a maturity that other roles have npt allowed her.

Cedric Leming's set in its stark simplicity effectively compliments the play.

Luv is good, it is funny, it is cruel, and it is diametrically opposed to the style of comedy Downstage showed us in Green Julia in that it moves through the accepted and doesn't stop to pick up the pieces.

Green Julia is perhaps the least pretentious play yet to be seen at Downstage and one wonders why the producer, Mr. W. Austin, went to considerable trouble in his programme note to make it appear to be pregnant with meaning.

Unfortunately I found the programme note to be incompatible with what was an amusing if not startling play.

Dealing with two young men who have shared a flat (I think "digs" is the proper word in the context of the play) for a number of years and who are now to be separated, the play romps through situations and touches on emotions familiar to anyone who has ever talked to another person.

The comedy routines were amusing and familiar and the play seemed to me to carry a vaguely sentimental air.

Green Julia works inside society whereas Luv cuts through it, and although some might think it unfair to compare the two, I justify myself by pointing out they deal with almost identical situations.

In Green Julia both Mr. Henwood and Mr. Hill performed well within the restrictions of the play and made the most of the comedy routines. Their acting styles work well together and I shudder to think what would have happened with a less competent cast.

The new Canterbury Professional Theatre recently produced The Killing of Sister George, another triangular comedy, but one with a decidedly kinky bias.

The play, widely acclaimed overseas, is a close-up of a lesbian marriage disintegrating. The butch partner, George, is a radio actor and plays the part of a district nurse in a serial something like The Archers. She is being pushed out of the serial and is eventually "killed" in a motor accident.

The trials she suffers at the BBC are heightened by the collapse of her love affair with a baby-doll girl. In the end the girl goes off with the BBC's female PRO and George takes the part of a cow in the children's programme.

I had always thought the play to be definitely funny, though a little pathetic, but it appears that producer John Kim thought otherwise, or, at least, was uncertain, and his production wavered between attempts at comedy and attempts to portray the pathos of a lesbian love affair.

Consequently the play was never as funny as it could have been. The audience raved over it, as did the Christchurch critics—I expect we all support local industry.

The acting was uniformly stodgy and stilted—except for the woman who played the gypsy fortune teller.

It is a play that should and probably will be presented at Downstage —if it is one hopes that it will be performed as it is written (a comedy).

Another play one would expect to see at Downstage is Little Malcolm and his Struggle Against the Eunuchs, which Otago University successfully presented at Arts Festival 67. The play appears at times pretentious but in the second act is so brilliantly funny that all the lapses are forgotten.

The end is predictably unpredictable, the dialogue contains one adjective which seems unnecessary but which no doubt speaks for the author's and the actors' liberality.

Little Malcolm was the highlight of Arts Festival drama and with some pruning of the more tiresome scenes would make excellent Downstage fare.

Next Downstage production is Hamlet, produced by Richard Campion with Tim Elliot as Hamlet and Peter Bland as Claudius, it commences on October 17.

Bob Lord