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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, No. 25. October 8, 1968

Drama — A wordy year's drama

page 11


A wordy year's drama

While God may or may not be dead in 1968 it is certain that theatre is very much alive. Debate of the merits of plays and productions have been conducted at length in the press and that institution has awarded much space to the announcement of plans for the Hannah Play-house. Discussion of the use of this theatre by Downstage has been considerable and in weighing the pros and cons it is worth noting that while many amateur groups have complained at the exclusive use of it by Downstage none of them went to the trouble that organisation did to produce publicly plans for a theatre suited to their needs.

There is very definitely a need for another theatre in the city catering for the production of the amateur groups. That the City Council is prepared to support such a venture is good and if the amateur groups who will benefit from it are active enough in raising funds it may be that plans to use the theatre for both musical and theatrical events can be thwaited. Such a combination can only resnult [sic] in a theatre unsuited to both activities.

Another decision of importance for all people interested in drama is that of the University Professorial Board's approval of plans for a unit in drama at Victoria. Although no lecturer has been appointed to direct the course as yet, it is hoped that it will be available for students in 1969. While the nature of the course must depend to a considerable degree on the appointee it is hoped that the unit will combine both practical and academic approaches to drama. Associated with the Faculty of Languages and Literature the unit will be available at Stage Two level for students of all faculties. Such a course should provide a stimulus to drama work at the university and will be of interest to students both academically and practically involved with theatre. If anyone has any doubts as to student interest in the course the vast number of applicants for the Drama Club's course in theatre, which was conducted by George Webby in the second term of this year, should dispel them.

The most debated theatrical event of the year must be Downstage's production of Awatea. While enough has been written of the play to fill a whole issue of Salient it should be remembered that it was a very great popular success.

Awatea was a New Zealand play, one of the two presented by Downstage this year and one of the three presented in Wellington. One hopes that in the future we will see more plays by New Zealand authors presented in this city. Last year Downstage presented a Peter Bland— James K. Baxter "Double Bill" which was a fascinating evenings entertainment. I for one am ready for more.

While on the topic of Downstage with productions from twentieth century Albee to twentieth century Shakespeare they have offered us a lot of entertainment and in two plays (A Delicate Balance and Inadmissible Evidence) some food for thought. While entertaining is a worthy pastime I seem to remember that at the time of its formation Downstage set itself a task something similar to that of the Abbey Theatre: to do unpopular plays until they became popular, with a responsibility not just to entertain but to do something more—to make the audience think. I forget the exact phrasing of the aim and I hope that that Theatre has not forgotten its nature.

I mentioned earlier that a New Zealand play was presented outside Downstage this year. I was referring to Baxter's The Bureaucrat which was given an interesting if uneven production (perhaps more the fault of the play than the producer) by Unity Theatre in their Aro Street Workshop. Indications are that Unity is "on the road to regaining its status as New Zealand's foremost amateur group. Venturing up to the University Theatre for one night with Stephen D and for their forthcoming season of A Day in the Death of Joe Egg they are expressing a confidence in their talent which I hope will be rewarded.

Like Unity, Wellington Repertory has been forced to retreat to their own small theatre out this has not diminished the range of their activities or he accomplishment of them. Their production of Henry Living's play Eh won the nation wide Benson & Hedges Three Act Play Competition—a success to be proud of.

Another amateur group that has been very active this year is Ngaio Revue. Their productions in the University Theatre have ranged from Finian's Rainbow to She Stoops to Conquer.

Highlight of the year in amateur theatre have been Stagecraft's sensitive production of The Subject Was Roses and the University Club's production of The Crucible. It seems a little unfair to mention both plays in the one sentence but they shared an integrity in approach and a polish in production that to my mind ranks them above other amateur productions seen in Wellington in 1968.

One of the most consistent sources of pleasure for the theatre-goer throughout this year has been the New Theatre Studio in Cuba Street. Run by well-known producer Nola Millar this group offers both practical classes and semi-professional productions to its members. Miss Millar in running the Studio has so far received no assistance from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, a lamentable situation. That the Studio is able to continue is a tribute to her devoted work both as a producer and as a tutor.

Productions at the Studio this year have included Olwyn Wymark's Lunch Hour Concert with excellent performances by Grant Tilly and Jeanette Lewis and Tennesse Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire (surprisingly the first production of this play in Wellington) produced by Miss Millar of Ibsen's play Brand will begin an eight night season with Ken Blackburn in the title role.

Other plays shortly to be seen in Wellington include Charles Over's Staircase at Downstage and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg. Both are contemporary English plays that have received acclaim in their overseas productions.