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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 21. 5th September 1973



Drama header

Drawing of a crying man holding up a mask

Amamus' recent production, Pictures redeems them utterly from their travesty Christmas. Whereas the latter was little but slick stereotypes and arrogance, Pictures communicates a very deep and humble sense of humanity. The programme notes state that 'For the script we have borrowed mainly from Peter Weiss: Discourse on Vietnam and Notes on the Cultural Life of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam; Satre's trilogy: Roads to Freedom; US; The New Testament'. But it is not an anti-war play pandering to liberals' need to have their faith bolstered by horror shows. Just as Theatre Action used clowns last year to distance the audience, while simultaneously paring away ego barriers, Amamus set their play in a ward of schizophrenics. Using the mentally ill to reenact man's inhumanity to man in the world outside has become a popular theme, almost a device, in contemporary theatre. But Amamus forego wallowing in picturesque insanity; the characters are honestly portrayed, and seem to stem from the actors' personal experience rather than a cursory reading of e.g. R.D. Laing. In fact, what happens as the characters explore themselves through portraying the continual struggle for autonomy of the Vietnamese peasant, is, in a sense, irrelevant. It is the manner of portrayal, intense and yet humble, that moved me. The first time I saw the play, I was bothered by the stridency in their voices, the repeated violence of their actions, which ceased to have any effect — and yet fell that they had touched on very fundamental experiences. The second time these criticisms were irrelevant. Afterwards I felt as if I had made a journey to a very important place, but that the impressions were made at such a deep level that they were not amenable to conscious analysis. At such rare moments, the critical faculty is more of an obstacle than ever.

Hopefully Amamus will revive this play, their best. However, I'm not sure that the spell will work for everyone. Not that is important — it's useful to remember Grotowski's desire to reach an audience to whom his art, or creativity, was neecessary, rather than a mere adjunct to life, as theatre often is.

The Bed-Sitting Room, by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus, and playing at Downstage, is a good example of what I mean by 'adjunct to life'. It's really nothing more than a loose collection of parodies and skits, with a very solemn and ill at case last action. The topic is purported to be Britain after the third world war; but it's just an excuse for the authors to parade the usual motley assortment of jokes (not good enough to merit the label 'satire') of the English comic-script writer. These ones are ten years stale, and rely heavily on sexual innuendies, usually camp, and lavatory jokes. It's interesting to note here that both the daily papers' reviews which made use of very similar phrases anyway, were greatly impressed by the 'plastic-mac man'....."a superb pervert", said R.M. in the Dom;.... "the perfect pervert" in the Evening Post. Well, perhaps I'm being harsh — there may well be an audience to whom this kind of theatre is truly neecessary.