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SMAD. An Organ of Student Opinion. 1937. Volume 8. Number 15.

Pot Shots

page 3

Pot Shots

The Extravaganza

Constructive Criticism

Dear "Smad."—

For some years past it has been the policy of the Executive to provide something superior in Extra travaganza programmes. Victoria is the only New Zealand University to provide fare of a higher standard than that of a glorified school concert, and to produce its Capping Show in large theatre for a long season: and the public has shown it appreciation of the students' efforts by flocking to the Opera House, in increasing numbers each year.

If public opinion is to be kept in this happy state, it is essential that this high standard should be preserved, and it is therefore with some misgivings that I read the statement of the Executive's policy with regard to next year's Extravaganza. This show is to consist of:—
(a) Opening Chorum and spectacle 5 mins.
(b) Men's Ballet 5 mins.
(c) Satire (a la "Bob" and "Hell's Bells") 40 mins.
(d) Interlude 12 mins.
(e) Extravaganza 50 mins.
1 hr. 52 mins.

The Extravaganza is becoming each year more and more a financial venture. The time has gone when it represented merely the wild caperings of a host of irresponsible students, fortified for the occasion; the audience has now even ceased to throw things. Many, (including the Radio Record), will no doubt shed tears over the passing of the old days, but the public generally has welcomed the change from lewd nonsense to clean satire and musical burlesque. The .substantial sum added to the Building Fund by this year's effort shows that the Extravaganza has become an institution, that the public likes the form of entertainment provided, and is willing to fill the Opera House for four nights (four nights!) in order to see it. Next year, we are informed by the Secretary of the Building Fund Committee, a big drive is taking place to augment the Fund. And what do we propose to offer the public next year for our Capping Show?

First, we are giving them an "opening chorus and spectacle." Presumably we shall see Salamanca lasses emulating the Marcus Girls in a minimum of coswhile the Glee Club (with Mr. Scotney and other non-singing members) will render the "opening chorus." This will, the Executive undoubtedly believes, put the audience in a good humour for what is to follow. But I remember the hush that came upon the Opera House when the curtain rose upon the scene of "Bob" this year. The subdued blue lighting, the simple setting, and the magnificent acting, cast a spell over the audience, a spell which was not broken. Had this scene followed an "opening chorus and spectacle," the effect would have been appalling. Never is blatancy more blatant, and never is a good effect so effectice, as at the very beginning of a show.

Next we are to be treated with a men's ballet. An excellent scheme. But first, the men's ballet should definitely not be 'in this position on the programme, and secondly it should not stand alone but be incorporated in a short interlude, preferably with another in the main play itself. Otherwise the audience will be convinced that they are about to see a vaudeville show, and will settle down in the comfortable and unintellectual frame of mind common to George Wallace audiences.

And now the Satire. In view of the well-deserved success of "Bob." "Hell's Bells" and "Murder in the Common Room." it would be absurd to cut this item out or curtail it—indeed, to do so would justly be considered an affront to the authors of these splendid plays.

The Interlude, so long as we have the inimitable Carrad. should on no account be omitted. The men's ballet and the bright original music are always appreciated.

And finally, we have the piece de resistance of an Extravaganza — namely, the Extravaganza. May I offer the following comments?
(1)The length of this part of the show has been greatly reduced. For any author other than a genius like Redmond Phillips (and it is unlikely that we have any Redmonds blushing unseen within our walls) it is almost impossible to write an Extravaganza to be performed in fifty minutes and yet to comply with the traditional requirements of such a show. An Extravaganza must include numerous songs and choruses, specialty items such as dancing. ballets, topical references, caricatures of notorious people and also a presentable plot. To cram these elements into a show lasting an hour and a quarter is difficult enough-too often an impression is left in the minds of the audience of a conglomeration of songs and burlesque, where there should be a clear-cut impression of a good plot and development of character. But fifty minutes!
(2)Two arguments are usually advanced by opponents of this type of show:—
(a)The public can get musical comedy and spectacle of a higher standard elsewhere. Certainly they can-though I doubt whether the "spectacle" element introduced by Mr. Mount joy in recent shows is very often equalled. But they can also get infinitely better variety entertainment than we can provide.
(b)In presenting this type of show, we are not "keeping up the old traditions " True—but since the public has shown that It likes the modern Philips type of show better than the old "Willum the Conk" type, and since we are not presenting Extravaganzas for our own amusement but for the public's, it is time we developed a new tradition to conform to the public taste.
(3)In so drastically curtailing the Extravaganza, the Executive is apparently prompted by considerations of time. The total acting time of the proposed show is 1 hour 52 minutes. This, with intervals and delays of, at the most, 25 minutes, will conclude the programme at 10.17. I have heard no complaints concerning the fact that this year's show did not close until twenty minutes to eleven and it is very unusual for any of the visiting Vaudeville Shows or Musical Comedy Companies to get out before 10.45. The excellent stage managing in "Bob" has shown that even under extreme difficulties delays can be reduced to a minimum.
In my opinion, the ideal show would consist of the following:—
(a) Satire 45 mins.
(b) Interlude (with Men's Ballet) 15 mins.
Interval.
(c) Extravaganza 70 mins.
2 hrs 10 mins.

In conclusion, I would recommend that the Executive consider the abolition of the prize money awarded to the successful authors The incentive given is very small, and Extravaganza writers should need no recompense for their months of labour other than the knowledge that the whole show has been appreciated by the public and has done a little at least to cement the relations between 'Varsity and the outside world.

Yours faithfully.

Ronald L. Meek.

A Challenge

Dear "Smad,"—

As a student I have this year deplored the quality of your paper, and as a member of the Debating Society Committee I have been astonished, and (I think justifiably) annoyed at your paper's attitude towards the Debating Society.

I should like to make it clear from the start, however, that I am not writing this in any official capacity, and the Debating Society Committee are in no way responsible for any statements herein.

The Debating Society has not run one function this year which has not been adversely criticised by "Smad," and I am at a loss to understand why this campaign of hate has been directed against the Society. You will, no doubt, offer the excuse that these criticisms were justified, but such destructive. and, in some cases, malicious, criticism was not merited.

It appears to me that in an endeavour to keep "Smad" in the public eye (which is quite a commendable object in itself) you have descended to the standard of the "yellow press," and have made the Debating Society's activities the butt of many of your ill-timed witticisms and criticisms.

If your contributors are not of high enough merit to draw the student public's attention by good writing, then it is manifestly unfair to attract notice by being sarcastic and cynical at the expense of another College organisation. The Debating Society is, I submit, doing as much as any organisation in the College, including your paper, to keep the cultural and social life of this College at a high standard, and your unwarranted attacks on its efforts are most irritating and discouraging. Friendly criticism, obstructive, and without animosity, can be a very useful thing, and any club in the College would welcome it, but the bitter attacks of members of your staff are found hard to bear by those who are at least doing their best, however poor, to further College activities.

It is too late in the year to begin a discussion, which might well become prolonged, but I feel that it is necessary to make some reply to your attacks. For myself, at least, I can say that if any of your staff who have criticised the Debating Society this year are of the opinion that they are capable of setting up a better programme than this year's, then they are welcome to take my position as a step towards the furtherance of their ambitions in this direction. This year's committee fully believed that it had as good a set of subjects as those of any previous year, and I challenge "Smad" to produce a syllabus which will bring nothing but praise and will draw good attendances for every meeting. As I have said above, if any of "Smad's" reporting staff consider that he can produce such a set of subjects, then the Debating Society Committee will be the first to acknowledge hit genius.

Yours faithfully,

R. C. E. Scott.

Graveyard Vespers

Voices of the half hidden people,
I hear them in the night.
I hear them in my dreams, sad voices,
That never speak by day.

Half-hidden in the earthy places,
Out of reach of tongue and eye.
They never, never speak the language,
Of the daytime that we know.

—M.L.