Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 9. May 9th, 1950
Seaweed and New Music
Seaweed and New Music
And So the whole grisly business of Capping Week, Procesh and Extrav has ended for another year. And some there be who lift up their small voices in a fervent "thank God."
It seemed at first as though we would have a reasonably good Procesh. A lot of people spent a lot of time preparing their floats—the Weir house mob and the Chem boys in particular—the weather was good enough, the distribution of Cappicades was very successful—thanks to the labours of Messrs. Hurley and Cook and their many helpers—a fair crowd of citizens turned out to watch the fun, and yet despite all these favourable portents, the whole affair tended to leave rather a bad taste in many mouths . . . due to the efforts of those nameless irresponsibles who bespattered the not so amused by standers with flour, water and the occasional coll of seaweed. Someone should have remembered that flour and water form a paste which is apt to spoil people's clothing.
It is perhaps typical of this year's Extrav that its most important feature, its almost sole virtue, should have originally been omitted from Cappicade: a fact which was partially remedied by a small and often illegible hand-stamping, "Original music by Jeff Stewart." This music was very good: from the intriguing variations on the minor scale which made up the Atmosphere Music to the complicated pastiche of the Final Chorus, the lilting "Jungle Style" and the rescucitated "Man to practise On." But in some cases these tunes were marred by inaudible or forgetful singing, and occasionally inept and pointless lyrics.
The plot, ah yes the plot! To speak generously, this had, if possible, just a little less point than a rubber ball, and much less bounce. It began well admittedly, it built up an atmosphere of mild anticipation, a feeling that surely something, something would happen, but when the curtain came down this half-promise of action went unfulfilled. The descent to the incredible dullness of the Garden Party scene was rather sudden. The Jungle scene had been quite entertaining, if quite irrelevant (a common failing with Extrav scenes) but surely the authors, who knew what was to follow, could have loused up the end of this scene a bit, so that the audience could be more prepared for its [unclear: ghastly] sequel.
The pan, not the man
Extravs have been produced for long enough now for intending authors to know that an Extrav must take some pointed criticism and exaggeration of the contemporary political machine to obtain a maximum of audience appreciation. The applause which resulted when a man made up as Peter Fraser merely walked onto the stage should be further proof of this. And though lavatory humour is to some extent a substitute for wit it should not be so much encouraged on the stage of the Opera House. Again, of course, a failing of past Extravs. but unfortunately not a falling which it is worthwhile perpetuating.
Maureen Ross-Smith, Bill Short and Jeff carried the show along, appearing with an enthusiasm which some of the other members of the cast could have well imitated. Maureen especially gave the whole thing a dash and gusto which it really did not deserve. A magnificent performance. The voices of all three could have benefited from a microphone, and someone should have realised that a key which suits Jeff's voice will not necessarily suit Bill's voice.
Ponsonby, Carstairs and Colonel Carruthers spoke their sometimes witty, sometimes stale and sometimes staling lines with empirical efficiency, and sang and danced adequately enough. They appeared to best advantage on the Monday night, when they came on impromptu and told Polo Club stories for about ten minutes. But people will persist in saving that recognition of homosexuality is a sympton of the decadence of a nation. And any reference to Lesbianism, however brief, as in the St. Vitus scene, can. only be deplored. Very few people seemed to think it funny.
The male ballet was well up to its usual standard: but it was a shame that they were allowed to clown about in such an apparently impromptu manner during the school scene. They may have been highly organised in their downing, the whole thing may have been carefully planned out, but it didn't look like it. It looked far more as if someone had at the last moment told them to go on and try and make fools of themselves. Though this was bad enough, it was worse that they should have been so idle and disorderly while Jeff was singing one of his best songs, the "Headmistress's Song." It would have been easier for the audience to have appreciated this song if their attention had not been diverted by the pleasant antics of the little folk at the back of the stage. The usual smooth performance of the Bop Ballet was somewhat impared on the last night. What Mr. Prater intruded may well have been a source of amusement to his intimates, but not to an Extrav. audience.
Win Stevens appeared in the male ballet as a solist. One of the high spots of the show. Very good. Pity you missed it, Aunt Ermintrude.
The girls' ballet was good. Possibly a few more year's experience will teach them to keep smiling through. Their singing was much better than usual. They looked alright too.
It was a shame to confine the Incredible Melford to such a small part as Alladin. It would have been better to have given him much more to act, and a little less to sing.
Ham and corn
It has been the, practice in past Extravs to give the audience some entertainment during the interval. But doubtless with regard to the general character of the show it was all for the best that this practice should have been abandoned. Instead we had an untopical and uninteresting parody of the National Orchestra. Corny posturing, and dubbed-in music which somehow managed to be at once very out of tune, and yet not all funny. And this year there was no liquor allowed in the Opera House. But the interval "entertainers" did their alcoholic best to turn the basement of the theatre into the anteroom of a bawdy-house; with wild drunken shouting and brandishing of bottles. Not the best way to ensure our being able to hire the Opera House for next year. . . .
It seems only fair to the stage crew to say that on at least two nights they did not sound like a herd of elephants in the throes of some immense conga-line. The technicians were remarkable only for a positive genius for misplaced explosions.
A few people were apprehensive over the appointment of Ken Avery as Musical Director. Perhaps they had heard "Paekakariki." But be this as it may, the fact is that Ken turned in one of the best Jobs in this line that has been seen for some time. His job was not made easier by the number of original tunes, many of which had to be completely orchestrated, not an easy task, but one which he discharged very well. At the cast rehearsals which he attended he helped clean up the endings of some of the choruses, and his conducting was an adequate substitute for that of the more experienced Cohen. The orchestra was if anything a little more polished than in times past, but the overall effect was at times marred by the same old unregenerate blurts from the trombone section.
The true glory
Most of the honours for the presentation of Extrav must go again, as usual, to Dave Cohen, who left what should have been a well-earned retirement to produce another show. Under his direction the Thing took some form, until a slick competency of action was achieved on the stage. Dave had the usual producer's troubles to overcome: it is puzzling how so many people can go to so many rehearsals and yet know so little about what they are supposed to be saying and doing.
The Waidrobe people had a hard time of it, because many actors had more than one role, and so needed more than one costume. (Elementary, isn't it?). But these difficulties were eventually overcome, and anyone who saw the show will realise the importance of the costumes to the atmosphere of the show. Ephra Garrett and Daphne Fletcher may take their curtseys here.
It should be enough about the bashes to say that the Harbour Board does not appreciate broken bottles over its driveways.
So much for Extrav 1950. It had its bright moments, Maureen, Jeff, and Bill, Roy with his harem, Bruce Hamlin as Dr. Mac, Ponsonby and his cohorts, the idea of the tourists, the ballets and Win Stevens, but it was all very much an expense of spirit in a waste of shame. But there is always the future.—5.