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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, June 1929

The Extravaganza

page 35

The Extravaganza

The profits of the 1929 Extravaganza are in the neighbourhood of £400. This is very gratifying indeed, if one is interested in that sort of thing. A fat profit is not to be sniffed at, of course, but this year the aim which the Executive of the Students' Association set itself was a much more admirable one, namely, the revival of the Extravaganza as a Capping reval. In the opinion of the writer, the decline of the Extravaganza during the past few years commenced with the notion that this function could possess a vitality apart from Capping. If the College is ever again tempted to depart from tradition in this respect, the experience of the past few years should bring it up with a round turn. Capping-time is the appropriate to the Extravaganza was several reasons. The College year is too short to allow of serious interruption outside of the season set aside expressly for the purpose of blowing off steam. Next, a College show separated from Capping cannot normally have much of an excuse apart from money-making, and cannot recommend itself to the public as well as a College show with a Carnival setting. Again, the enthusiasm for student revels attains its peak during the flutter at the end of the first term: a long Lent is to follow the Carnival. Last, but not least, and a consideration not to be overlooked, the Staff can be depended upon not to feel too unkindly towards ebullitions which expend their force before the work of the year commences in deadly earnest.

In its inspired wisdom, the Students' Association went further than a mere revival of the Extravaganza—they restored to it its traditional character, which is burlesque, and they made a distinct break with recent tendencies by presenting this burlesque in the large Town Hall, with (here is a remarkable thing) no scenery whatever. Black silk hangings, some absurd notices, a few properties, and meagre lighting effects certainly throw a show upon its merits, but at the same time they open up possibilities which future Extravaganza writers might find it interesting to explore. From past experience in connection with the hiring of the Opera House, it appears likely that the Town Hall will house the annual Extravaganza for some years to come. There is no need to be appalled at this prospect. There is need, however, for performers to remember that the acoustics of the Town Hall are not all they should be. The two-bob seats have as much right to hear what is being said on the stage as the fortunate holders of front-row seats.

"G.G." (as this year's show was entitled) made no pretension to the customary central idea—although, when one thinks about the matter, one notices that a certain amount of emphasis upon the theme of modern advertisement and the uses to which this is put-but the absence was not noticeable, for the character of Gaudeamus Groatz (not Gordon Coates, surely?) supplied a thread upon which the action was strung throughout the three acts ("escapaded," the programme termed them). Act 1 saw Groatz banished from Cockieland. Act 2 saw him escape from a "bottleship" after being court-martialled for "being too beautiful to live." Act 3 saw him page 36 reach the island of Samboa, where he fell into the hands of cannibals, then into the arms (very nearly) of the ladies of the United Party, and finally into the ob of Administrator. It seemed to the writer that Acts 2 and 3 displayed more spontaneity in dialogue and action than Act 1. We could have wished the Conspirators' scene in Act I shortened a bit, despite the superb acting of Mr. W. J. Mountjoy and the excellent chorus singing of the Plotters. On the other hand, Act 3 could, with advantage, have terminated with the cry of the three women, "No, the United Party!" The libretto was, we understand, hastily constructed, and the authors, Mr. P. Hohepa Emihi (why this anonymity?) and Mr. D. J. Donald, really did very well.

So did the performers—very well indeed. Some of them might have done better—a remark which can be made of anything at all. Beyond this criticism (if it can be termed criticism) we have no business to go. Our College performers are not professionals, nor are they in training to become professionals. Besides, it must be remembered that Victoria University College has for some years been without an Extravaganza whereby stage experience might have been gained. Some of the performers in "G.G." deserve, however, special mention. As Gaudeamus Groatz, Mr. A. D. Priestley gave an excellent rendering of the part of a male "beauty actor." His appearance in each act was the signal for a delighted stir among the members of the audience. After seeing and hearing Mr. W. J. Mountjoy gloat, we wouldn't meet this gentleman in a dark street at midnight for quids. His acting was, among the men, easily the most finished. Mr. H. J. Bishop and Mr. M. C. Read made the best cannibals the writer has had the good fortune to meet outside of the movies. The former has the makings of a very good dramatic actor, and the latter of a very droll comedian. Mr. Fear possesses some talent for comedy, but, as Bosun Bung, was obviously hampered by the difficulties of the nautical jargon allotted to him. Mr. Hastings had little to do, but impressed us by the manner in which he did it. We did not fail to notice that the performers appeared to know their parts quite well.

But we were impressed most of all by the performance of the women participants, not only their acting, but in their dancing. For some obscure reason, only three speaking parts were provided for women students, but these were magnificently filled. Misses Edna Purdie and Sinclair Breen proved themselves finished artists. In addition to taking part in the dialogue, Miss Purdie sang sweetly, and Miss Breen danced ravishingly. The ballets, thanks to the skill of Miss Dorothy Buck, who arranged the dances and trained the dancers, were prettier than we have seen in Extravaganzas for many a long day. The Sailors' Hornpipe was in particular excellently done.

You must forgive us, Spike, if we make no mention of the names of quite a number of people who were deserving of praise. This is hardly intended to be a complete report. It would be a pity, nevertheless, to omit special reference to the work of Miss Rona Munro. who. we understand, had not previously appeared in a stage production. To use a slang expression, this lady was "out on her own," and should not be lost sight page 37 of in any future casting. It might be as well to provide in future Extravaganzas for more women parts than "G.G." permitted.

The crowning good fortune of "G.G." lay in the circumstances that the Students' Association were able to secure the very valuable services of Miss Marie Richmond, Miss Mary Cooley, Mr. Vryn Evans and Mr. W. H. Stainton in the work of production. What these people do not know about the College Extravaganza is not worth knowing. Miss Richmond saw that the performers were properly and adequately clad, and Mr. Stainton caused the three nights of the show to be filled with music, the best of which was of his own composition. Our knowledge of Mr. Evans and Miss Cooley secures us in saying that they made the show possible. Rumour hath it that a certain Mr. Styche, who refused to allow his name to be printed on the programme as "the man who gets things gone," also did service worthy of record.

Our bedside book for this night will be a copy of the excellent songs written by Mr. D. J. Donald. Some day we shall bind it together with our copy of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Editorial Note.

One of the authors of "G.G.," having been permitted to peruse the foregoing, begged leave to comment thus by: The fellow who wrote this thing is more intent upon re-establishing the Extravaganza in its traditional character as a part of Capping than in criticising "G.G."—quite a proper attitude and. may I be permitted to hint, a very safe one, for critics of College productions go in danger of the judgment. I see no reason for disagreement with his remarks, but I heartily disagree with his omissions. Did he really attend complete performance? If so, why did he not mention the Plunket Babies and the Sea Anemones and the Sailors' Hornpipe and the Men of the Meow and—oh, Great Unimpressionable!—the Hula Hula Hussies? Surely he did not miss the tender kiss that Mr. W. P. Rollings imprinted upon the parietal of the fair Semolina—or the magnificent spectacle of Mr. A. E. Hurley in naval uniform—or the wonderful suggestion of Wooden Nutmegs in Mr. G. R. Powles—or the preposterous efficiency of the Gun? I am afraid that he did miss these things as well as much more that a Great Critic might have praised. There are also a cauldron and a skull. The latter (I am convinced) once belong to a—but never mind; I will content myself with a civil leer in the direction of our anonymous friend and leave him where he leaves us—guessing.