first night

Our Country's Good

Louisa Mathieu laughs, thinks a little and is suitably moved by Fourth Wall's production of 'Our Country's Good'

 

“We will laugh, we may be moved, we may even think a little.” When the curtain closed following the final scene of Our Country’s Good at The Assembly Rooms, it was obvious why Leying Lee quoted this line in her Director’s Note.

 

The play follows the struggle of Lieutenant Ralph Clark (Sasoon Moskofian), as he convinces his superiors to let him direct a play (The Recruiting Officer). His cast are a group of convicts, all members of a penal colony in New South Wales in the 1780s.

 

Occasionally hilarious, often harrowing and always thought-provoking, Fourth Wall’s production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play is rendered remarkable by its outstanding cast, playing wonderfully diverse characters with exceptional depth and attention to detail. Particularly impressive were the actors playing multiple roles, who brilliantly crafted multi-faceted characters that were all equally convincing and compelling to watch. Special mention ought to go to Adam Evans as Major Robbie Ross, and also as Ketch Freeman. Not only did he master a different broad accent for each character, but was equally fearful and sadistic as the Major as he was endearing and guilt-ridden as the hangman. Also outstanding were Tristan Robinson and Annie Davison, as Harry Brewer and Robert Sideway, and Duckling Smith respectively.  Both actors have an incredible intensity that makes them simultaneously watchable and unbearable to watch, particularly during the couple’s tumultuous love scenes.  Without raving about every performer (easily done with this production), I must finally commend Sasoon Moskofian, Sorrel Brown, and Lydia Feerick for their extremely natural and thoughtful characterisations.

 

The stylised first scene immediately exposes the audience to the brutality of the situation in the colony and its preceding voyage overseas, and is so visually powerful that the following few scenes seemed to lack a little in pace. However, as the plot unravels and the cast of convicts begin rehearsals, the energy of the performance skyrockets. We are presented with scenes of physical abuse and psychological trauma, but also scenes of warmth and human compassion. Director Leying Lee’s clear love for the play is demonstrated in her sensitive juxtaposition of the two.

 

The set is simple but effective, without cluttering the stage. Some set changes felt a bit slow and/or clumsy, but this is a very minor and easily corrected detail of a performance that was very slick overall. Costumer Alissa Cooper also did a great job of creating detailed costumes that also allowed for (sometimes astoundingly fast) character changes.

 

Our Country’s Good is a thoroughly enjoyable production that showcases some fantastic talent and should not be missed. I did laugh, I was moved and I did think a little. After moments of horror and moments of elation, the lasting image in my mind is of the cast of convicts and their tireless director facing away from us, and towards the stage on which they are about to perform. One cannot help but feel an overwhelming pride in the ultimate solidarity of the troubled cast of convicts, much as I’m sure the cast of Our Country’s Good feel after a very successful first night performance. 

28 November 2014

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