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The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1926

"Just As You Say, Dear" — An Original Farce in Three Acts

page 45

"Just As You Say, Dear"

An Original Farce in Three Acts.

Men nudge each other—thus—and say.
This certainly is Shakespeare's son!
And merry wags (of course in play).
Cry, "Author!" when the piece is done.

It had taken Victoria two years to find an extravaganza deemed worthy the performing, and yet there gathered to witness the first appearance of "Just as You Say, Dear" a strange and ragged crew, too many to be the intelligentsia, too few to be called an audience. Perhaps that one year's lapse had done it, perhaps it was something in the title, perhaps the idea of an original farce did not appeal. Still more possibly, perhaps there was not the vast total of friends and relatives of a big cast to fill stalls and circle. But, whatever the reason, at the time of writing the public has shown no signs of going to see the latest College production, and we may venture to say will show no signs of going to see it.

"Just as you say, Dear" was a mistake. It is hard, but true. In the first place it was not an extravaganza. In the second it was not amusing. One does not idealise the productions of the past. One cannot escape from the fact that in all post-war effort (and we have had a hand in three extravaganzas) there has been only one which had a finely-worked philosophic idea—"Der Tag." which was mainly the product of Mr. Harold Miller and Miss Edith Davies—only one with complete unity of action—"'Struth," by Mr. Phil Broad, with epigrams by Oscar Wilde. But there was in those extravaganzas sincerity, enthusiasm, some wit. Occasionally the philosophic justification has been strained, as it was in "Done to Death." Sometimes it has been sheer sentimentalism, as it was in "Pep." But the men who wrote those great extravaganzas of the past, "Boadicea" and "The Bended Bow," made for us something which is unique, gave us a whip for the back of hypocrisy, the laughter that stings self-satisfaction. They gave us a medium of expression which one may say quite seriously was in the Aristophanic tradition. They gave us a conception of chorus work as not merely to fill space and solve the problems of the producer, but as a vehicle for the conveying of ideas to the audience. The run-through chorus went soon after "Der Tag," and it was not regretted, because if the extravaganza was to develop it must achieve greater unity of presentation. But the latter-day expanded action of the "Luv" kind brought with it a penalty. The necessity of making the extravaganza an all-night show has gone far towards killing it. It was only a matter of time before circumstances forced the Students' Association to look outside for something to put on It looked. It found Mr. Young and "Just as you say, Dear." And the results look like being disastrous.

Of course it is not Mr. Young's fault that his work is not an extravaganza. He wrote it for another purpose. It is more than possible that he had never heard of our tradition. But it page 46 is his fault that the farce was not farcical enough to be more than very mildly amusing. And it is the Executive's fault that it put on a play which bore not the slightest stamp of being a Varsity production and which was doomed from the beginning. There is not a line in the play which betrays thought. There is not a situation which is not extremely well worn, not a joke which has not weathered the scorn of years. And though the Students' Association may have come to regard the annual production as a source of easy revenue, it would be better that the extravaganza should go down in night that that shows of this kind should become usual.

All this may appear highly unnecessary. But it would seem that the College has reached a point when it would be as well for it to know where it is going. And it should know what says the body of opinion of past students. We have a tradition. We are proud of that tradition and will be gentle to any present-day efforts which fall short of our demands, but a scrapping of tradition will find us regretful and disinclined to take what may be offered in its place.

The faults of "Just as you say, Dear" may be simply stated. They consisted of a superfluous act, poor scenery, too many words, and not enough humour. Whatever he may be, Mr. Young is not a wit. And the first act, which was mainly some unnecessary bridge and some tedious clowning by Messrs. Watkins and Dalglish, would certainly never have survived had anyone else but the author been the producer. They were not only unnecessary, they were a positive obstacle to the development of the play's theme. And an obstacle of boredom. To be candid, the other acts saw the action go ahead far and fast. The biggest flaw thereafter was the entirely unexplained flight from the room of everyone save Miss Mavis Halliday, for convenience in kidnapping, and the astonishing quickness with which the American women accepted the offer of the "mysterious something" The other faults were purely technical and of no interest, and ranged from Miss Cooley's uncertainty as to whether a door in her home opened inward or out to the contrast in the legs and stomach of Mr. Platts-Mills, which very obviously belonged to different periods. The dialogue was not bright, but it was on the whole sound. The exits and entrances were good, and there were no horrid pauses. The cast performed ably and without nervousness; almost without prompting, a big thing for amateurs in a production of that size. The general impression was that for something worth while the College contains more good material than ever it did. But one cannot admire the work itself.

Where all did well to particularise is a luxury, but the "Spike" ever was frank. Let it be said, then, that Miss Cooley's shrewish dame and Irish Katherine were most capably played, and that with her one must bracket Miss Thyra Baldwin. Low comedy is something new in this young lady, but not the less well done. With them we may rank Mr. Platts-Mills practically all the time, Mr. Noel Lewis at moments, and Mr. Watkins sometimes. Mr. Lewis was good as long as his part flowed smoothly, but in the rapids was as much at home as a bear would be. Mr. Watkins's imitation of George Gee was recognisable, and would page 47 have been quite excellent if only he had not suffered from an itch for movement and (as usual) tried at least four voices before assuming natural tones. Whatever he may have felt, Mr. Davidson never looked less than a Labour leader. Miss Mavis Halliday was charming and effective, Miss Semeloff a thought too intense. Miss Muriel Cameron was always equal to the occasion, Mr. Dalglish had the butler poise to perfection, Mr. Pope lacked the experience to simper effectively, and Mr. Charles Bollard's study of New Zealand youth, be it confessed, intrigued us greatly. Messrs. Dalglish, de Montalk, Scott and Thomas made a fearsome array of spinsters, but their words were quite unintelligible.