Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Association. Volume 40, Number 3. March 14, 1977.
Taylor on Tranesties
Anthony Taylor is Artistic Director of Downstage and directs their current production of Travesties. A former Registrar for the Magistrate's and Supreme Court, he was Senior Director for Radio N.Z. before taking up his position at Downstage. Allan Smith interviewed him for Salient.
Why did you choose to direct Travesties at Downstage? What is it about the play or about Stoppard that makes this play suitable for you to direct?
A.T. — Well, I suppose it is because, in a way, I do the same thing as Stoppard — in a directorial sense. I am inclined to throw entertainment up and expect the audience to see the idea that actually presented it, and not just take it on a surface level. If they want to do that, well and good, but there's always a reason behind it if they like to look for it. And I suppose, in a funny way, that's why Travesties starts to look on the page like a play that might have been set out for me to direct ... I think I threw the cast into some confusion when they asked me what the impression of the audience should be when they first leave the auditorium, and I said that they had been thoroughly entertained, and that then they could think about why they had been entertained... And I am glad to say that I have been exonerated in this by Mr Stoppard — that is what he does. He tries to attach high entertainment to serious ideas. So the idea is behind it — all the time he is throwing up entertainment, as he does in Jumpers. The idea is behind it, not in front of it.
What then is the "idea" behind the entertainment in Travesties?
A.T. ... To me, it is the opposition of Art and Revolution, the attempt to reconcile Art and Revolution... and this extraordinary thing about the further left you go - and this is actually said in the play — the more bourgeois the Art, and yet the artist invariably moves towards the left, or seems to. I also liked it simply as director, the contra-posing of complete nonsense and serious discussion, at times in a very nonsensical manner.
So you think that this stylistic device has an implication for the "total meaning" of the play?
A.T. I think it does. If you look at what the Lenins say or what is said about the Lenins, it is as nonsensical in life as Dada is in Art, in reality it's just as ridiculous.
Obviously the style of Stoppard's script presents some enormous difficulties for production. What were some of the problems which it presented for you?
A.T. When I first looked at the script. I thought "My God, how on earth is one supposed to stage this play?". And I like to think that the presentation of the play was actually simplified and improved by bringing it into the type of theatre that Downstage is — by the relationship of the audience to the performer, and the ability to utilise the theatre as a whole and not just as a proscenium arch... I think a lot of Stoppard's difficulties were created by the fact that he was writing for pros arch. Now we have thrown the concept of separate areas right out the window and said "this is the area, the space of Carr's mind". Whether that is right or wrong is immaterial, because it is the play as it is performed in this theatre that matters...
What is the "vision du monde", the view of reality which you as Director would like the audience to go away with tonight from this your first performance of Travesties?
A.T. Oh God! I honestly don't think I'm going to... well ...(I'm going to hate this in a few weeks time)... Everybody in this country runs around making profound statements that theatre must educate. We invariably hear this said about the Arts. "To educate, to inform, and to entertain" — I think that is actually the charter of Radio NZ and the television channels. Now to me, that is totally arse about tip, because you educate by entertaining. If you stand up there and just bellow education at people from a platform, they will all go home — I would anyway. What Travesties does, and I think that this is intentional on Stoppard's part, it goes "entertain — educate", not "educate — entertain"; and I think that this is one of the primary things about this presentation of Travesties — I hope it is — and I think that this is perhaps a good thing as far as a statement about what the theatre is doing at this moment.
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Director Paul Maunder conceives of The Tempest as "containing the essence of the paradox we are". His production of the play at Unity Threatre is indeed paradoxical, although perhaps not in the sense he meant it.
For Mr Maunder, the paradox (if we are to believe his programme notes) is the tension between the play's "images of hope and the seeds of destruction". He succeeds in maintaining this paradox in the production by underlining the dramatic tension between the forces of order, personified in the character of Prospero, and the forces of disruption and chaos.
Yet in the Unity production this latter category is less personified in the rather weak characterisation of the villians of the piece than in the comic/grotesque trio of Stephano, Trinculo, and Caliban. It is the forcefulness of their comic presence, together with the grotesque power of the dark Caliban, which provides the dramatic opposition to the lofty order propagated by Prospero.
That this tension is sustained throughout the play reflects creditably on the performance of Bernie Grice as Prospero; he succeeds in attaining the degree of grandeur which his singular role demands. Similarly John Anderson as Caliban fills the immense presence required to generate a dramatic force capable of matching or threatening that of Prospero. The rest of the cast fall somewhat short of the competance of these two actors, with the exception perhaps of Fiona Lindsay as Ariel, although she tends at times to be a little stiff.
Jim Moriarty as the love-struck Ferdinand only just avoids the melodrama which is, as it were, the occupational hazard of the role. Jonathan Dennis as Stephano, the uncouth drunken butler, somewhat overdoes his phoney Italian accent and lacks the dramatic sensitivity which is required especially of uncouth comic parts. This sensitivity is to some extent attained by the performance of our very own Richard Mays as Trinculo the jester. His thoughtful interpretation of the role as the archetypal Fool does much to point the function of the comic roles as counterbalance to the Wise Old Man archetype of Prospero.
And yet the sense of paradox which Mr Maunder claims for his production remains very tencous. The oppositions never seem to unfold in terms of characterisation but rather by a sometimes crude juxtapositioning of dramatic effect which relies heavily on the ingenious set design. This, together with lack of polish in individual performances, gives the production at times a certain roughness. These objections apart, the production is laudable in its ambition, and in the extent to which it fulfils this ambition.
— Allan Smith
Theatre Des Iles
The Theatre des lies is a French-speaking, semi-professional theatre company. It is composed basically of four actors: — Mme Claire Jugand, M Jean Phillipe Jugand Mr Phillip Mann and Mr Jim Spalding. (Both these latter have worked professionally in the theatre and are employed full-time as lecturers in Drama at Victoria University).
Each year, other actors are auditioned to join the company for a particular performance. These auditions take account of both fluency in French and acting ability.
Theatre des lies has been in existence for four years. It developed originally as a collaboration between the French Department (where Mme and M. Jugad teach) and the Drama Studies Department, at Victoria University. Its aims initially were to provide to English speakers a lively experience of the French language through drama and, as regards the French-speaking Pacific Islands, to provide theatre in regions where no theatre existed.
To date, three tours of New Caledonia, three tours of New Hebrides and one tour to Tahiti have been made abroad. At the invitation of the organizers. Theatre des lies was the official theatre troupe performing at the last Noumea festival in January 1976.
Amongst its productions Theatre des lies can count Rhinocerous by Eugene lonesco (in French), Moliere's Le Medecin Malgre Lui, and several original pieces created by the group. Amoungst the latter, the text of II suffit d'un baton is currently being published in Paris by Avant-Scene. The group has also ventured into bilingual productions (The Bald Saprano, Ubu Cocu). In these productions part of the text is in English and part in French. However this does not mean two separate performances, but rather an attempt to create a synthesis of the two languages. Ideally the performance should be appreciated as much by a French-speaking audience as by an English-speaking one.
Drama Society 1977
After an absence of two years, an entirity new group of people, determined at a meeting on Thursday 10th, to affiliate a different and active University Drama Society. To this end, they are in search of anyone, experience or not, interested in contributing ideas, time or energy towards revitalizing university theatre.
So watch out for their information/registration booth and details of an inconvinent AGM.
The group regards bilingualism as an innovatory concept in theatre which remains as yet largely unexplored. Their aim is to further this exploration by more French/English productions in the coming season.