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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 14. 1967.

Cheers for tele drama

Cheers for tele drama

Cheers! New Zealand TV drama has celebrated its first birthday. From those embarassing moments when we sat through Bruce Mason's expose of New Zealand life. The Evening Paper, which marked the birth of our tele drama things have progressed a little.

In fairness to Mr. Mason it was argued at the time that with actors trained more specifically for tele then his play would not have been the dismal flop it was.

Well this year saw the Actors' TV Workshops conducted in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch and the first public showing of the products of the Workshops indicates that there is some hope but as yet little life.

The first play, Warren Dibble's Double Exposure was surprising because of its evenness and fairly low-key acting. A slight and slightly amusing play it lacked the bite of Operation Pigstick a cartoon by Mr. Dibble produced at Downstage last year. It also lacked pace but managed to create some degree of tension.

Ian Cross's contribution Momma's A Good Girl appeared as a delightful comedy of middle class kiwi manners but unfortunately was ruined by over-acting in nearly all the minor parts and again lacked pace.

In a few years time when tele drama is a little more mature Momma's A Good Girl could, perhaps, be produced again. Many of the moments that I felt were lost in this production could well be retrieved by a more experienced cast.

The third play was Peter Bland's The Tired Man. It contained many hilarious moments but was too theatrical to work successfully. Laughs at the expense of the Welfare State, garden gnomes and butterfly's all gave the play something of the atmosphere of a revue sketch.

It is not difficult to compare the play to, Mr. Bland's Downstage success George the Mad Ad Man and from the comparison it is easily realised what has to be clone to bring a basically theatrical idea to the television screen.

The most successful play to come out of the Workshops was undoubtedly Ngaio Marsh's Slipknot. Working to the murderexpose formula she knows so well Dame Ngaio with producer Brian Bell created an absorbing mystery and also gave a few interesting comments on local attitudes to art.

The acting was even and apart from the person playing the art gallery director it was all sufficiently low-key to convince, in addition to this the play had action which led to a pace lacking in the other three productions.

The plays do hold a considerable degree of hope for the future and credit is due to TV's Brian Bell who conducted the Workshops and who produced two of the plays— for him the standard reached in Slipknot must be gratifying.

Acting honours are due to Athol Coates as the boorish philanthropist in Slipknot and to Anne Flannery as the intellectual suburban housewife in Momma.

For me one of the highlights of the four plays was the old lady with the butterfly in The Tired Man who, with the sculptress with bad eyes in Slipknot, could well find a place in New Zealand's answer to Coronation Street whenever that gets under way.

Bob Lord