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27th September 2012

Our Country’s Alright

Josephine Lane reviews Our Country’s Good at the Bolton Octagon.

Three out of five stars

The play was a multi-rolled piece recounting the true story of a group of convicts putting on a production of The Recruiting Officer in a 1780s penal colony in New South Wales. Despite severe opposition from the other naval officers, director Lieutenant Ralph Clark goes on with the show, giving the tormented convicts hope through the morale and unity created.

Although based on true events and people, Wertenbaker definitely has a talent for writing characters, particularly female ones. Whilst all the characters had their own strong individuality, it was the scenes with the women in that I always looked forward to. A poignant piece of acting and writing came in the scene in which prostitute Duckling Smith confesses the feelings she never told her dying and unconscious Midshipman lover Harry Brewer. Lisa Kerr gave an unbearably paining performance as she tearfully told Harry ‘If you live I will love you. If you die I will never forgive you’, before breaking down completely.

Our Country’s Good was warm, gentle and had a few good laughs. The frequent theatrical ‘in-jokes’ make the subject a little inaccessible, but were great if you were ‘in’. The painted canvas backdrops and wooden scenery gave the show an old-school, quasi-epic feel to it, but the Brechtian technique of summing up the events of the scene to come made little sense as it only occurred thrice in about twenty different scenes.

This of course is not the fault of the director, Max Stafford-Clark, (who collaborated with Wertenbaker on the original production in 1988), which brings me on to my overall opinion of the play. Whilst not a bad play, or indeed production, I feel that this and other plays of its kind bear little relevance in today’s world: both theatrical and societal. The contexts of imprisonment and 1780 make for something not very relatable at all.

Although the play may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, it is well directed and humorous. On the whole, Our Country’s Good wasn’t bad.

Our Country’s Good ran until September 22nd and is now on a UK tour.

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