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Ron Randall, Osmund Wenban, and Peter Finch gamble with dice
for a Duke's daughter in "While the Sun Shines."
Music and Drama
The Flying Emus
f"pHE success oí several recent
I plays at the Minerva J- Theatre, after an unspec-
tacular run of drab-to-middling stuff earlier in the year, is clear evidence that the group of players doggedly nursed and reared by the never-say-die Whitehall management, is be- coming a truly efficient drama- tic unit-a reward well-deserved by a management which has, with odd aberrations, shown itself constantly aware of its responsibilities to the theatre and to the theatre public,
I An overseas visitors who said two years ago that the actors in Australian theatres were just a lot of emus, always on the wound and never likely lo fly, would be due for a surprise at the Minerva. Some of his "emus" there are sprouting eagle feathers. It would be an extravagance to talk of them as eagles yet, because there has been no great acting at the Minerva and no hint that great acting is even so close as "just around the corner." But recent shows, notably "Distin- guished Gathering" and "While the Sun Shines," which is still running to capacity business, leave an impression of neat craftsmanship, with flashes ol rare polish.
WEAKNESSES have been scarcer
and more forgivable because ot the trim workmanship that has gone to the making of the rest of the shows "workmanship" is the word, for one would need to see much more of the development o£ these actresses and actors before talking of art, with all its highest implications. Por instance, rich touches of virtuosity in the detail of characterisation which are above the range of competent routine acting, with Its set styles and rules, still have to be furnished before the eagle fully replaces the one-time emu, In fair- ness, It should be said that neither "Distinguished Gathering" nor "While | the Sun Shines" has afforded much
scope for acting outside routine limito.
The first was a good, entertaining plot story without room for much more than superficial accent on character. The second is an entertaining comedy of the moment, containing arbitrarily ready-made characters, There is à pleasant young earl with an Albany apartment, a million or two, and a small and slow brain; there is a superior valet of the gentleman's gentleman type, with decorum his very life-blood; there is an American marine who makes a bee-line for the earl's fiancee, with a bottle of whisky and pressing manners.
T'HESE characters ave all deeply
established theatre types; we have all seen them before, and we would all, no doubt, be disturoed if the acton, shifted away from the standard pat- terns, called into use by the author. But it will be a tragedy for the art of acting if the increasing habit of play- wrights to use characters that are fully-made as soon as the curtain goes up, is not checked. This is not im- portant in such material as "While the Sun Shines," which is skilfully and freshly written within the set char* acter grooves; but it is a habit which, being extended into serious drama by some playwrights, may drive the legiti- mate theatre to the same deplorable standardisation of acting that has im- poverished the films. Some actors may find standardisation of roles an easy way oí making a living; the numerical system is standardised, too, which makes things rather easy for the clerk, But no actor, who believes in his art or In himself could be.ex- pected to suffer patiently the sort of role which does not give him range for personal expression, but merely tests his recollection of a set of rules.
Take Peter rinch, for instance. His District Attorney in "Night of January the Sixteenth" and his earl in "While the Sun Shines" are both standard types prescribed by the respective play- wrights and with little room for a personal, or Individual, colouring. He gave both roles with skill and balance -even a standardised role needs a good judgment to retain the essential illusion of . freshness-and he per- formed them with enough skill, indeed, to suggest that he may have some ex- ceptional creative powers of his own which, so long as they remain unused or untried, «re waste.-L.B. I