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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 25. 3rd October 1973

Drama — Before the Dawn:


Before the Dawn:

Rewi Alley's Before the Dawn is one of those plays which reads woodenly, but which contains enough truth and honesty to make, good credible theatre in the hands of a sympathetic director. Philip Mann's production utilises elements from Chinese theatre to communicate Rewi Alley's overwhelming indignation at prerevolutionary conditions of existence in Shanghai. It is more a moral plea than a clarion call to revolution for its. New Zealand audience, perhaps because we place it in history, situate it firmly in a China which has succeeded, which no longer needs active sympathy and devotion.

Somehow the cast, albeit welfare-state innocents, portray feelingly the starving, claustrophobic world of an illiterate peasant directly confronted with profiteers, colonials and, ray of hope, the communists. To a large extent, their success is thanks to the director's marrying of familiar stereotypes, e.g gangsters. Col. Blimps, with the gymnastic portrayal and stylised gesture of Chinese theatre, in Western translation. It is also dependent on a splendid musical background score by Rod Jenkins which acts very much like a Greek chorus, both pointing to events and commentating on them.

Perhaps the subject, perhaps the imaginative approach, but this university production is more honest and vigorous than I had begun to believe possible.