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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 11. 1967.

Cures offered for impotence

Cures offered for impotence

"Dr. Ruddock Takes A Trip"— reviewed by Bob Lord.

When I was about seven I was given to the care of my paternal grandmother for a period of several months. Basically a kindly woman, brought up in genteel fashion in another country, she always managed to convey the impression that this New Zealand was populated with coarse people of dubious taste, morality and social status.

She would tell me stories of life in a far-off world populated by people who might have stepped straight from the pages of some Victorian novel, and she would issue stern and frightening warnings as to my fate if I succumbed to the wicked ways of New Zealanders.

Fortunately, or otherwise. I was a little too young (or perhaps a little backward) to appreciate the exact nature of the sins that I was to guard against—otherwise I may have explored them earlier. But I was given a taste of what Tim Eliott calls the "eccentric moral strictures" that surround us today.

However, I have no doubt that my grandmother did lecture me in earnest and in all sincerity, and really did believe that if I indulged in the activities she most vigorously condemned then I would go prematurely bald and become knock-kneed, and on top of this spend eternity surrounded by murderers and thieves in something like a volcano.

Listening the other night to Dr. Ruddock (alias Tim Eliott) delivering his lecture on Vitalogy at Downstage I saw no reason to deny the Doctor's integrity and sincerity as he issued warnings and offered cures along much the same lines.

I wondered, in fact I began to realise, that people once believed these incredible, illogical and irrational remedies for complaints both moral and physical.

True Dr. Ruddock does have some charm and some fascination—his language and his style are both delightfully convoluted and quaint. He is not from the same English stock as my grandmother but comes from south of the Mason-Dickson line where possibly the turn of the century morality was even stranger.

Dr. Ruddock offers cures for impotence —both herbal and personal—the latter suggesting the male refrains from attempting intercourse for a period of from two weeks to two months. He warns that the practice of masturbation (which he euphemistically refers to as self-pollution) among young men and women will lead to untold physical damage as well as to the possible moral collapse of nations.

He tells how to choose a wife and how to care for ourselves as we enter the golden twilight years of this life.

His advice we laugh at and we disregard it as nonsense. It almost seems impossible to believe that our parent's parents (and perhaps even our parents) believed in such dictums and were prepared to let such irrational ideas form the basis of their morality.

The thought occurs that perhaps in two generations' time many of the ideals we hold dear now will seem equally as ludicrous.

The book from which Mr. Eliott has composed his one man plus one show was produced by the dear Dr. Ruddock about 1900.

The success of what is a humorous and entertaining show stems from three sources:

• The ludicrous nature of Dr. Ruddock's writings.

• The correlation between the writings, the sound effects, and the illustrating slides —which often tend to undermine the Doctor's intentions and to underline what we see as his folly. 'For example, the scrawny figure of Twiggy is used as an illustration of a poor woman physically suffering for moving from the straight and narrow.)

• Mr. Eliott's appearance as Dr. Ruddock —with remarkable subtlety and a very slight accent he manages to convey all the pomposity, irrationality and sincerity of that venerable gentleman.

The non-verbal support Mr. Eliott receives from David Hugget as the mod-assistant adds much to the success of the evening.

The fluorescent set fascinates and the lighting and sound reinforce what is quite an Event.

The next show at Downstage is to be Green Julia. It is being directed by William Austin who produced Twelfth Night for the University Club earlier this year. Appearing in the play are Ray Henwood (last seen in The Golden Lover) and Barry Hill (last seen in Baxter's Spots Of The Leopard). The season begins on August 15.