Thursday, 5 November 2009

Our Country's Good - RNCM Studio, Manchester

Our Country’s Good
Writer: Timberlake Wertenbaker

Director: Marie Critchley and Jason Hudson
Reviewer: Ruth Lovett

Our Country’s Good is presented by the Northface Theatre Young Company which was established only this year and seeks to give 18-25 year old olds in Manchester the opportunity to perform in a professional environment and this is their first production.

Our Country’s Good is based on real life events, following the arrival of the first fleet in Australia and the Officer’s decision to stage the comedic play The Recruiting Officer with a cast of convicts, only two copies of the play, a leading lady facing imminent death by hanging and opposition from some servicing Officers who do not believe the convicts are civilised enough to stage a play and dismiss the idea as a waste of time. The success of the play constantly hangs in the balance and the cast and director 2nd Lt Ralph Clark (Jonny Booth) constantly face a multitude of hurdles which throw the project in to chaos at every turn.

Performed in the round in a studio setting, the performance moves on at a good speed with a minimalist set with just a few multifunctional props as much of the action takes places in a rehearsal setting. This production is quite raw with the set being designed to allow the audience to imagine the scenes described and the lightening design very simple. This is really theatre stripped back to the basics and not one for anyone who wants to be dazzled by incredible light displays or intricate set designs. The focus is on the material and the performances and leaves the actors no where to hide.

This is a young cast in their first production for Northface and they can all certainly be described as passionate and dedicated with some particularly accomplished performances, notably Andrew Lambe as Governor Freeman/Ketch Freeman, Keegan Peacey as Capt David Collins/Robert Sideway, Tom Russell as Midshipman Harry Brewer although his performance as Capt Campbell who likes the odd drinks at times, is at times too farcical and can detract from some of the more serious scenes. Amy Tickle as Dabby Bryant provides some quality comedic moments and is particularly adept at projecting her voice across the space which is a skill many seasons performers would do well to improve.

The entire cast deserves praise for the production as most of them double up on parts convincingly and keep the tempo of the piece upbeat yet perform the more somber sections with conviction and the required intensity. To be a little picky there are some accent issued which could be a little sharper as during some of the heated a exchanges between the officers when discussing the fate of some of the convicts, the words become a little lost due to poor annunciation however this is really a minor criticism which can be rectified.

Runs until sat 7th Nov
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