“Our Country’s Good”by Bluecoat Drama
Our Country's Good is a 1988 play written by Timberlake Wertenbaker, adapted from the Thomas Keneally novel The Playmaker. The story is about a group of Royal Marines and convicts in a penal colony in New South Wales, in the 1780s, who put on a production of “The Recruiting Officer”.
The play shows the class system in the camp and highlights themes such as sexuality, punishment, the judicial system, and the idea that it is possible for ‘theatre to be a humanising force'.
This was a new play to me so I deliberately did not read anything about the play before going to see it. I wanted the full impact of seeing the play for the first time without any pre conceptions.
I've not known a play go so quickly as it did tonight. Mainly because the story swept me along, and the acting was way above what you'd expect from such a young group of actors. The passion and understanding of the script, the pathos, the comedy and the seriousness of the story was just wonderful.
Some times when there is no set or background, I feel that there is something missing from a play but with this one, the story and acting enveloped me and I saw no need for a set. it made me concentrate more on the script and the acting.
I really enjoyed the partnership of Captain Campbell and Major Ross. Campbell providing the comedy with Ross being the straight, bullying Major. These roles played with great conviction by Lewis Spencer (Campbell) and Peter Rogers (Ross).
The flirtiness of "Filthy" Meg Long, played by Loren Allen. The wonderful hammy overacting of Sideway, played with great aplomb by Toyosi Draycott. All of these adding that bit of spice to this play.
Another well paired duo were Jason Adcock as Lieutenant Ralph Clark, who was in charge of putting on the play"The Recruiting Officer", which was the play within this play, and Midshipman Harry Brewer, played by Nigel Nyanhete. Both of these actors performed with great passion, making me believe the character they were playing.
All of the cast presented their roles exceedingly well. The whipping scenes, while not being visually graphic, made me wince with the sound effects of the lashes and the contorted pain in the faces of the actors. The imagination of the audience well utilised here to great effect.
Brilliantly directed to get the audience to use their minds and to bring the characters alive via these talented students, Joel Mansell and Adam Iqbal, did a smashing job. It's often nice to go out to see a play and make the audience do a bit of work, and I loved the audience quips in the play's script as well.
The evocative lighting created that "doom" atmosphere well, designed by Peter Hodgkinson, who I have to thanks for inviting me down to see this wonderful piece of theatre.
The costumes made sure that you knew who was on whose side and separated the officials from the convicts at a glance.
Nice use of props and especially the hangman's noose which hung ominously throughout the play, a constant reminder as to what fate possible held for the convicts, guilty or not!.
“Our Country’s Good” is being performed at the Aspley Lane Drama Studio, Bluecoat Academy until Saturday 27 January 2018 and tickets are only £5.00.