No play had more effective advance publicity than ‘Noah’, a modern version of the Scriptural story by Andre Obey, which the pupils of Campden School presented in the school hall. After the wettest autumn on record, we were all keenly flood conscious and ripe for a course in arcmanship.
The play itself was more ambitious & theatrically satisfying than last year’s programme, though it did not reach that level of that memorable series of productions from 1951 – 1958. This was partly because it lacked direct popular appeal and partly because the school doesn’t appear to have the acting talent that it had a couple of years ago.
It is a current vogue among French dramatists to take a fresh look at classical or scriptural stories, either by transposing them to a modern setting or rewriting them in a contemporary idiom. Mr.Obey chooses the latter method, and at first is satisfied merely to humanise the story of Noah without attempting to offer any message.
Then the play develops into a test of faith, with Noah symbolising all that is good in mankind, and his mutinous children, the voices of human frailty. When the ark safely reaches Ararat, Noah’s sons go off to found dissident races and creeds, and we are left wondering whether humanity was worth saving. Noah, however, is hopeful. ‘I am satisfied’, he tells the Lord. ‘Are you satisfied?’ God replies reassuringly with the first rainbow.
The play employs a mixture of styles which do not blend entirely happily, and there is no character drawing apart from Noah, his wife and their son, Ham. However, ‘Noah’ is the sort of play that schools should be encouraged to do: a play that gives enjoyment yet also makes us think.
The school production had its impressive movements, though these were usually the result of fine technical effects, such as the moan of the wind, the sun piercing the rain clouds and the hopeful burst of the rainbow. The play was ably produced by Mr. C. D.Meteyard, though I disliked his predilection for edging out his actors beyond the proscenium.
The best individual performance was given by Vicki Whitehead as Mrs. Noah, always the meatiest part in the ‘Noah’ saga. Terry Turner was dignified as Noah and spoke his long part clearly, and Peter Goldby was effective as the spleenish, rebellious Ham. Other speaking parts were played by Peter Merriman, David Kibblewhite, Heather Welch, Claire Callard, Pauline Smith and Andrew Palmer.
The animals, whose appearance was fearsome rather than cuddlesome, were played by William Churchill, Edward Armitage, David Sabin and Robert Parnell, and Claire Darvill was an unseen flute player. The bizarre incidental music greatly enhanced the atmosphere of the play.
The simple costumes gained from being in bright colours and the settings were apt yet economical. The construction of the ark must have kept the boys of the woodwork class busy throughout several periods!
Working behind the scenes were Mr. W. Howells and Mr. A. Unsted (scenery), Miss Bint, Shirley Richardson, Paula Warner & Linda Nobes (wardrobe), Mr. A.T.Fowles (lighting), Miss Orchard (properties), Mr. F. Harvey (stage manager), Mr. P. Moore (assistant stage manager), Susan Keitley (assistant producer), Elizabeth Reeve (prompter), & Miss Hill (music).