Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 9. 1969.

The Torture and Assassination of an old Goon Show Script by the Inmates of V.U.W. under the Direction of Nobody in Particular

The Torture and Assassination of an old Goon Show Script by the Inmates of V.U.W. under the Direction of Nobody in Particular

Extrav is back in the Dark Ages. The "If in doubt say 'shit' " school of production (for want of a better word) has returned with the proverbial whimper. In fact the only decent thing that this year's Extrav controllers have done towards its audiences is to name the affair after At last the 1948 Show. Presumably anyone paying good money to see a pale imitation of that has only himself to blame.

From printed programme to finale there was abundant evidence of lack of direction in both sense of the word. No one has actually admitted to being 'producer' in the generally accepted mould. No unifying theme or effect was aimed at or at least readily discernible. Perhaps it was all a question of "Too many Peter Cooks . . . ." Because from a technical point of view it is plain that a large scale production like this one is doomed to failure when it relies so heavily on the inspirations of three members of the cast (John Clarke, Simon Morris, Mike MacDonald) to the virtual exclusion of all others. Add to this the fact that three performers appear to have had a major say in production policy and immediately one can appreciate why it was that the full-stage numbers served only as bridge passages between tab sketches and that the only occasions where a script was in evidence were those on which a performer was seen to be reading one. This is no to say that improvisation or indeed "happenings" have no place in Extrav, only that an extremely talented and disciplined cast could hope to sustain such an approach for a full two hours.

The show was not entirely short of talent of course but what talent there was suffocated beneath the weight of a tedious succession of puns and gibes directed very often at non-existent targets. An extremely good band was ignored to the point where the only memorable tune given to it was the National Anthem. This sets could have been handled by a stage crew of one and the lighting man's duties were limited to the flicking of the occasional switch.

Despite this going through the motions one or two bright spots did appear. John Clarke's election summary a la Peter Kelly came across well and Sid Gowland's motorway maniac had relevance lacking in just about every other skit with the possible exception of the satire on "normalcy" in which Gowland also appeared. The less said about Ross MacRae's "Holyoake" the better. Half way through it I began wondering if it could possibly go any lower, but then Dan Bradshaw began his heckling routine (rigged? we shall never know) and my doubts were resolved. The only other variant on crudity remaining by this stage was outright defamation and this came in another tab on the subject of Mr. Muldoon. It was however well-received by the audience which generally showed patience well beyond the call of duty.

That a review of this nature can bewritten at all testifies to the generally high standards of previous Extravs inasmuch as they have for some years now established a formula guaranteeing a minimum content of expertise and humour. Any Extrav producer must inevitably put his personal stamp on his production and if he can come up with a formula of his own (e.g. Whitehouse '66) so much the better. The sad fact of the matter is that Extrav '69 will be remembered for its total disorganisation and lack of control. For its "just of the building site" costuming. For its resurrection of the male ballet as performed by females (ironic twist of fate). For an opening chorus which slumped from its initial promise to what resembled a stage version of the first scene of Space Odyssey 2001: with over-amplification. But above all it will be remembered for its refusal to acknowledge that humour is an extremely serious business which requires intense rehearsal and sincere approach.

Perhaps Shakespeare, whose work was put through the mill to no purpose, in this Extrav should have the last word.

"Nothing shall come of nothing".