The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, October 1918
The Concert—Thursday, June 20th, 1918.
"I've a mystery I'm going to reveal!"—Bad Ballads.
The Capping Concert is always of the nature of a variety entertainment, and those who take ticket for it may be sure that they will have ample opportunity to laugh "dull care away."
On June 20th the programme included various musical items, a short duologue and, as most important item, "A Grand Opera in One Act"— "The Prof's Progress"—the creation of the combined talent of the students of to-day.
The clever little sketch "Collaborators" was presented by Miss Alba Greening and MR.V. Evans, both of whom possess decided histrionic talent. Still it is the duty of a critic to point out that collaboration is required f those who collaborate! Mr. Evans's conception of his part was on the whole correct, but as he appeared to have worked it out quite independently of his partner, the duologue resolved itself into two monologues, both interesting in their way but hardly fulfilling the author's intention. Much of Miss Greening's "business" was effective, and her interpretation generally, gave evidence of careful study. With so much talent at command, she would be well advised to take lessons in voice production, and also to make a study of the methods of the best modern actors. That artificial and melodramatic style of elocution has long been discarded by the modern stage as inartistic.
The criticism of "A Grand Opera" even in "one act" presents difficulties to the amateur critic, which at first sight appear insurmountable. Fortunately, a second reading of the programme reveals the much less alarming sub-title— "A Piffling Playlet"—with which it is easier to cope. Even if one has too lively a memory of the extravaganzas of "Capping Carnivals" of the past, to consider this last quite worthy to take a front place in their ranks, one must still offer most sincere congratulation to the students of to-day whose determination to present an entertainment worthy of the occasion, neither the shrinking of the sovereign, nor the latest additions to the War Regulations has proved sufficient to overcome.
V.U.C. is ever modern and up-to-date. The playwriter of to-day displays his wit not only in the text but in the "stage directions." V.U.C. playwrights have gone a step further and produced a programme, which one can commend heartily for its pleasant wit and quaint fancies. It was certainly a happy notion—that of "capping" Professor, those "deep-thinking, learned and kind-hearted men." "With wondrous lore and marvellous minds." And the friendly page 46 relations existing in the home of learning on Salamanca's windy slopes must have been patent to the veriest stranger present.
A cast including such world-famous stars as Gaby Deslys, Charlie Chaplin, Harry Lauder and Diogenes, is and must remain, above criticism; but one feels that "Juanitor Brooke" (a bygone babbler) played by Alfred Lord Tennyson will long remember with pleasure his "1st Class Honours in mustering and draughting, with special mention for sentimental references to old students," and that "Jentle Jamey Thompson" (the three-star artist feared by Hindenburg) and "S. Hiram Klark" (a Komic Kewpie Kid) will have no doubts as to the friendly feelings entertained towards them—short as is the time during which they have been amongst us. For it is indeed a proof of friendship to receive a cordial invitation to look no, while all one's particular and pet weaknesses are paraded to amuse a critical audience!
In conclusion a word of criticism may be permitted. "The Profs.' Progress" proclaims itself a parody. Now, in order to produce true parody one must have a clear idea of what one is going to parody and must at all costs carry out that idea from start to finish. Cleaver and witty as is the idea of not only burlesquing the names of the Dramatis Personae but providing a cast who should be the most capable of playing the character, it would have been still cleverer if it had been quite clear whether the authors intended each character to be represented as seen by friend or foe, compliment or opposite. One asks, for instance, why Horsay Watson is played by M. Myers when Simple Simon in cast for Joe Up Ah Sheet? Both are amusing, but they should not exist side by side.
Again, the very essence of parody is the exaggeration of peculiarities possessed by the original. When Maurice Baring wrote the "Blue Harlequin,' one could almost believe Maurice had collaborated, so perfect is the reproduction of the latter's style. The writers of the "Profs.' Progress" did not remember this rule throughout their play and its symmetry suffered severely as a result.
The acting itself would have been more effective if there had been more light and shade. An extravaganza is necessarily boisterous and should be full of life and merriment, but contrast is always valuable and the wittiest speech is the better for being brief.
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The Gradusates Association Tea
The Graduates' Association this year again entertained the new Graduates at a tea at the College. On Friday, 21st June, Mr. G. Watson, the President of the Association, presided over a pleasant gathering of old and new Graduates, most notable among whom were Messrs. F. A. de la Mare and A. E. Caddick, both returned from the front badly wounded, but now fortunately making good recoveries. Thus already, thought our Hall is not yet with ivy grown,
"Back from the field where their work was done,
We gather to cheer them home."
Mr. Waston extended a welcome to the new Graduates, which was gracefully acknowledged on their behalf by Miss K. Mackenzie and Mr. H. D. C. Adams.
Then we had the pleasure of listening to one of the most interesting and thoughtful speeches that has yet been delivered at any of these functions. It emanated, of course, from our old friend "The Frog," and dealt with his impressions to the War, not so page 47 much of the fighting as of its effect upon the character of the fighters.
He commented on the inherent cheerfulness of the soldier when things are absolutely black—in contrast with the constant growl when things are going fairly well. He spoke of the tendency among men to lower their ideals in war time and to drift with the crowd. He had found that the majority of University men over there were in the grip of ideals dynamical enough to enable them to resist this drift, and to him it seemed that it is to the Schools and Colleges that we must look in the future for the regeneration of the people.
From this Mr. de la Mare went on to speak of teachers and their vocation, which he considers to be the very highest. He spoke, too, of the University as teaching the search for truth as a fundamental of life. University Graduates must face facts.
Altogether a clearly though-out and clearly expressed speech, the result of the search for bed-rock on the part of an analytical mind.
After Mr. de al Mare had spoken, Professor Hunter also made a few happy remarks, mostly directed towards refuting some nasty aspersions that had been made upon his age by the last speaker.
This brought a very successful function to a close, except that we think we saw the President remaining behind to deal with a dish of peanuts, which, by disguising itself as a pot-plant, had previously escaped his eye.
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The Presentation Ceremony—Friday, June 21st
To eulogise the Capping Ceremony would be to sink to the level of political advertisement. Someone complained a couple of years ago that students were no longer "capped," but were "presented." We can carry this even step further. They are no longer "presented," they are "exhibited." The whole performance suffered from a dignified lack of dignity. Sir James Allen was handicapped by not having a bouquet. He seemed ill-at-ease, and by his demeanour appeared several times to be about to apologise for his presence, as Mr. Watson had done previously during the evening for the absence of Sir Francis Bell—an apology that was greeted with loud applause by a number of law students who were doubtless labouring under the false impression that he had written a text-book. We missed the old familiar faces, the people whom we can always depend upon to be humorous without any apparent effort on their part. We missed them both on the platform and in the body of the hall. Still we are not complaining from the point of view of the audience (for it is remarkable with what great fortitude people will bear a performance when the admission is free) but from the point given of the students who are supposed to be "capped." Undoubtedly, they will remember the ceremony all their lives, but there is no reason why we should not strive that the remembrance should be a pleasant one. We must, of course, object to strict officialdom. This would be apparent at any time. But we would also like to say that to make the presentation resemble Madame Tussaud's wax-works is venturing perilously near the other extreme.
Well, so much for the badly handled exhibits. We now come to the noise. To the men we would like to point out that volume in music does not always compensate for lack of tune. We level these charges against those who, having good voices, are led away by the idea that provided they get off the mark well, they can do themselves page 48 ample justice and get ahead of the crowd. And, unfortunately, they generally succeed. As for the women, modesty or nervousness prevented them from fulfilling adequately their part in the songs. That the Glee Club is largely composed of women members seems to be no reason why they should be so sadly silent when time and occasion demand sound. As to the capping songs themselves, we could only boast of one new one, "Willy-Nilly—and Electioneering Ballade" to the tune of "Tit-Willow"—a song that was sung very well by the majority of students, probably because it was short. There is the rub. Until we appreciate the fact that unless we shorten the most of the songs, we can never hope to overcome the tired feeling that showed up in most of the efforts—until then, the lack of feeling, lack of harmony, lack of endurance, lack of everything, will manifest itself on the "night of nights."
Now as to the inexcusable occurrences. Mr. Clement Watson, Chairman of the College Council, rose to speak first. The Haeremai Club extended to him the welcome that its name implies, but the members, evidently impressed by the noise they made, carried on their jollification throughout his speech—an achievement which gave them great satisfaction. Several press-reporters who were sitting very near the stage caught snatches of what he had to say. We think that there are times when the ideals of humour can be carried into the realms of bad taste. This was one of them. When the speaker treats the subject of the sacrifices of old students ad graduates through whose industry the University has come to bear the traditions that it does, then we think it is time to listen with respect. Mr. Watson showed that the war had greatly reduced the number of men students, there being in 1914, 243 students as against 166 in 1918. In the same period the number of women students have increased from 134 to 198. He then went on to discuss the calamity of the war, but, as we have mentioned before, the men students were in no mood for tragedy. He concluded, after an effort to make himself heard, by congratulating the graduates on their well-earned success.
The arrival of Hon. T. M. Wilford as the nest speaker was made the occasion of a burst of applause. He, however, throughout his speech was quite to any of the witticisms hurled at him from the proleteriat. He stated that he had no particular theme, and that he was going to pick it up from those around him. Who the ferocious intruder was we do not know—but the subject was war. Whether, with his usual good sense, Mr. Wilford refrained from speaking of the University and its doings because he knew little about the subject, or whether it was that he knew too much, is hard to say, but it is equally hard to assign any reason why he should have chosen that evening to give a little war lecturette. The subject was singularly inappropriate. To do him justice, however, what he had to say was unusual and, with the exception of the humour, was listened to with great respect. After congratulating the graduates he sat down amidst very hearty applause.
Sir James Allen, Minister for Defence, wisely refused to face such a warlike audience, and, on calling for cheers for the graduates, which were given lustily, retired unobtrusively.
Mr. T. V. Waters wielded the baton successfully throughout the evening, and his untirely efforts in training the students were fully appreciated. Our thanks are also due to Miss E. Dorrington for acting as pianiste.
The proceedings closed with the singing of the time-honoured "Final-Chorus" and the "National Anthem."page 49
After the Presentation Ceremony, over two hundred students assembled in the Stafford Tea Rooms, where the undergraduates' supper was held. If last year's supper was of a rather riotous nature this year's was marked by a peculiar orderliness and gravity. Early in the proceedings the Presidents announced that he had received a letter from the tournament delegates, Messrs. A. E. Caddick and G. G. G. Watson, advocating the revival of the Inter-University Tournaments, and suggesting that an expression of opinion be taken at this gathering. The occasion was a particularly opportune one as there was present at the supper one who had been intimately connected with the tournaments in the past, Mr. F. I. De la Mare.
Mr. De la Mare then spoke briefly on the subject. He said that personally he felt there was only one task that mattered at the present, and that was the successful termination of the war. Though he recognised the importance of cultivating inter-university spirit, in his opinion the time had not come for reviving the tournaments. Apart from purely sentimental reasons, he considered that if the students did so, they would not be in a positions of the community.