Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good is a moving and funny play, but most of all it is a cry of triumph for the power and enduring worth of theatre and it ends on a heart-lifting note. Dealing with the story of the first play to be performed on Australian soil to an audience of convicts, gaolers, Officers and marines of the fleet by a cast of convicts, it follows the development of the play and the convict players.
Our Country’s Good “is a moving play about the power of theatre to transform and unite people and follows a cast of convicts and their director, Lieutenant Ralph Clark, freshly arrived in the new penal colony, as they attempt to put on a play - The Recruiting Officer - against a backdrop of violence and starvation.
Although the cast of our production didn’t face quite the same odds as the convicts themselves, it was a challenge for all involved, being so different to the usual Little Theatre fare. For some of the cast it was their first play, and many had two (if not three!) very contrasting roles, playing both jailer and prisoner. The animosity between the officers and the convicts, and also within the two groups, was well portrayed, my favourite scene being the one in which the officers all discuss whether or not the play should go ahead, with characters talking over each other and insults being thrown. The vulnerability of certain characters was also well acted – Ken Edmonds as the repressed Lieutenant Ralph Clark, Fraser Wall as the insecure hangman Ketch Freeman, and Nick Barlow as Harry Brewer, who slowly descends into madness, haunted by the ghosts of convicts he has sent to the gallows. Susie Tookey was superb as Liz Modern, the volatile convict given a part in the play against the odds, particularly in her speech at the beginning of Act 2 where she tells her life story in full 18th century criminal slang. Light relief came in the form of the convict Sideway (Mark Foster), gloriously hamming it up in all the rehearsals. Gordon Scott played out of type as the terrifying Major Ross, determined to stop the play, and Lesley Ricketts had a hilarious cameo role as ‘Meg’.
The set was simple – a raised white platform on a blacked out stage represented a ‘blank canvas’ and heightened the idea of the ‘play within a play’ and back projection and lighting were used to suggest different settings and moods, from the darkness in the hold of the ship, to the scorching heat of the Australian sun. The clever simplicity of the set serve to heighten the intensity of the action on stage and the actors played their parts superbly.
Of course, the play ultimately has a happy ending – the final scene showed beautifully how all the characters had been transformed by the experience, working together and supporting each other, and they perform The Recruiting Officer to a large and enthusiastic audience of convicts and officers. It was a powerful and moving drama and shows the quality of the productions that are performed even when out of our normal “comfort zone”.
Show dates: 06/07/2011 - 09/07/2011
|Cast||Captain Arthur Phillip||Frank Edgeller|
|Cast||Captain David Collins||Mark Foster|
|Cast||Captain Jemmy Campbell||Nick Barlow|
|Cast||Captain Watkin Tench||Sam Willetts|
|Cast||Dabby Bryant||Carol Phillimore|
|Cast||Duckling Smith||Lucy Payne|
|Cast||John Arscott||Sam Willetts|
|Cast||John Wisehammer||Frank Edgeller|
|Cast||Ketch Freeman||Fraser Wall|
|Cast||Lieutenant Geroge Johnston||Lucy Payne|
|Cast||Lieutenant Will Dawes||Anna Friend|
|Cast||Liz Morden||Susie Tookey|
|Cast||Major Robbie Ross||Gordon Scott|
|Cast||Mary Brenham||Anna Friend|
|Cast||Meg Smith||Lesley Ricketts|
|Cast||Midshipman Harry Brewer||Nick Barlow|
|Cast||Reverend Johnson||Fraser Wall|
|Cast||Robert Sideway||Mark Foster|
|Cast||Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark||Ken Edmonds|
|Cast||Second Lieutenant William Freddy||Susie Tookey|
|Cast||Voice of the Aborigine||Nick Barlow|
|Crew||Lighting and Sound||Pete Ross|
|Crew||Stage Hand||Catherine Tucker|
|Crew||Stage Hand||Mike Scammell|
|Crew||Stage Hand||Tony Hathway|
|Production Team||Director||Lois Harbinson|
|Production Team||Music Consultant||Sheila Ross|
|Production Team||Producer||Gordon Scott|
|Production Team||Stage Manager||Charlie Watkins|
|Wardrobe||Make Up||Helen Makin|
|Wardrobe||Make Up||Julie Makin|