The Spike or Victoria University College Review 1935
The Dramatic Year
The Dramatic Year
"Chinese white," by Val Gielgud, was the choice of the Dramatic Club for its first presentation for 1935. I am quite aware of the difficulties of this Society both in regard to the selection of a play for production and of the difficulties of staging any play on what is little better than a shelf at the eastern end of the gymnasium. However, even if the Club has perforce to choose plays with only one scene and a limited cast, there are still a few plays in this category that merit production more than the present choice.
The first and undoubtedly the most striking feature of the production was the miracle of transformation that was effected on the stage. Without being lavishly decked with flowers and hangings it was quietly correct and provided an unobtrusive but pleasing background to the movements of the play.
The acting of the cast was fairly even; no one player dominating the others, but they rarely convinced us that they were really experiencing the feelings and emotions they talked about so much. In other words they gave us a very reasonable explanation of the play rather than an interpretation. Miss Gallagher and Mr. Sellers as Janct James and General Wu respectively had the easiest parts, and were perhaps more at home in their roles than any of the others. General Wu could have been a little more suave rather than a mere automatic vendor of Confucian aphorisms. Miss Welch, as Sheila, showed distinct promise rather than finish in her performance. A good stage presence and a clear voice will be big assets when she learns to use more light and shade in her speech. Her nagging and outbursts of temper were convincing, but some of the lines of the play seemed to suggest to me at the same time a woman who has maintained her sense of humour and who from time to time sees the funny side even of her own tragedy.
Mr. Aimers as Gerald gave some of the best acting of the evening at times, but at others bis work lacked spontaneity and his movements and intonations appeared to be rather learnt and reproduced than prompted by feelings.
The little that Mr. Sandford, as the Rev. Pat-rick James, had to do was quite competently performed.
Jack Coyle as Leslie Dale should have dominated the play even when he was not on stage but he rarely succeeded in doing so. He gave the impression of a casual undergraduate from the Oxford he pretended to despise, whose success at Tan Fu had come to him quite by accident. He wandered unnecessarily up and down: he stage while important lines were being spoken by other members of the cast.
Except when the players were obviously waiting for prompts the action of the play was brisk, and the effective stage pictures were a c.... to the producer, D. G. Edwards. Altogether the production was workmanlike and while it did not reach the standard of some past performances it was by no means as poor as others that have been presented with much more experienced casts and under much better conditions in the Concert Chamber or the Blue Triangle Hall.
Laburnum grove" was in some ways a wise choice for a V.U.C. production as J. B. Priestley always draws understandable characters from everyday life—the naturalness of his dialogue and the drawing of the characters is his greatest asset as a playwright. It was unfortunate, however, that the principal characters were middle-aged and had, as always at Varsity, to be played by young people. It is a credit to their acting that they made the people they were playing live and real.
E. S. Harrowell had a difficult role to play in Mr. Radfern, that must have demanded all the ability of Edmund Gwenn who played it in London. Mr. Harrowell despite his thinly disguised youthful appearance and rather obvious padding gave an intelligent rendering of the part. He was on the stage most of the time and had a great deal to say, His best scene, in fact one of the best in the play, was the duel with Inspector Stack. The two best pieces of acting of the evening came from A. Ashley-Jones as Bernard and from I. Gow as Joe Fletton. These two were definite "characters" and needed little subtlety presentation.
Throughout the play, the sense of characterisation was good, contrasts provided by Mrs. Radfern and her sister, the latter played admirably at short notice by Miss Tossman, the middleaged "sponger" and the young couple, were most effective.page break page break page 41
Molly Best and Joan Powell played the parts of mother and daughter respectively, with conviction. Joan Powell looked particularly charming but her stage movements are a trifle gauche. Experience and training will no doubt remedy this defect in an otherwise promising young actress. Tom Bush looked the part of Harold, but his speaking of the lines was forced, his movements were jerky and he betrayed his inexperience by his inability to resist smiling at his own lines and by playing to the audience. The staging was pretty, in fact, the furniture looked if anything too new and spick and span for a suburban parlour in Shooters Green. The production was a credit to the University, to the Dramatic Club, and Miss Tossman, the producer, who has done well in bringing to light new members whom we hope to see in further plays next year.