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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 33, Number 13. 1970

Otago University Production of Edward Bond's 'Early Morning'

Otago University Production of Edward Bond's 'Early Morning'

Edward Bond's 'Early Morning' has been described variously as a child's view of the world, a Freudian analysis of social and political relationships, and a surrealist view of life.

Life, in Bond's strange world, is brutal and meaningless. "Live", we are told, "is an anagram of evil," and Bond's characters are preoccupied with their search for death. Even Heaven offers no relief; instead the characters are forced to live out a grotesque existence where no pain can be felt, where canabalism is the norm and where the flesh of the victim grows again.

Personally, I think Bond is attempting to portray real life social and sexual relationships by his usual device of gross overstatement (as he did in 'Saved'). The implicit is stated in explicit terms: thus the comsumption of a man's soul/individuality by his fellow man becomes overt canabalism; Queen Victoria becomes an aggressive lesbian; the internal conflict in the central character Arthur (though not, I think, schizophrenia) is physically manifested in his Siamese twin George, who has his own, conlicting interests and tendencies.

'Early Morning' presents certain conceptual problems of production. As in all comedies of menace there is the all-important question of emphasis: it is possible to stress the black comedy (and 'Early Morning' certainly provides ample scope for this) but this can sometimes be to the detriment of the play's ideas. Joe Orton's success with 'Loot' and his failure with 'What the Butler Saw' illustrates how important this balance is. It was therefore gratifying to see that Rodney Kennedy's production always subordinated the very genuine (but sick) humour to the playwright's view of human relationships.

Yet the production itself was abysmally slow; the many scene changes were conducted without as much as a music break and no play can withstand twenty or so thirty-second interruptions. Simple though the set was, the designer's failure to provide a completely multi-purpose set spelled disaster for the play's continuity.

The acting was reasonable throughout if somewhat heavy-handed at times. The three leads—Peggy Jowett as Queen Victoria, Alison Chisholm as Florence Nightingale and Richard Mercier as Arthur contributed well towards the success of the play. The others tended to be a bit static in their vocal attack and page 5 movement and when accents were resorted to, they proved to be only a source of embarrassment to cast and audience alike.

Yet Otago University must be congratulated for attempting such an immensely difficult and important play. The apparently insurmountable technical difficulties were handled surprisingly well. The fact that they succeeded in provoking a good deal of interest amongst drama enthusiasts at Arts Festival was undoubtedly a measure of their success.

T.J. Groser

Photograph of raised hands at a concert