Our Country’s Good, honestly described as “a labour of love” by directors Conor Honan and Anna Simpson is a heavy and brutal tale of solidarity and redemption in an Australian penal colony.
The two-act-play tells the story of Second Lieutenant, Ralph Clark (Conor McKenna), a troubled officer with a kind heart who sets out to stage a production of George Farquhar’s comedy, The Recruiting Officer, with a cast comprised of convicts. As can be expected with the plot of Our Country’s Good, the play is a multi-thematic experience with moments of brisk comedy coupled with scenes of bottomless despair.
With an ensemble cast of ten playing twenty-two characters, Our Country’s Good was a staging dogged with production problems behind the scenes. However this did not inhibit the quality of the play. The minimalistic set relied on the powerful effects of lighting and sound, the belief in the characters and the quality of the acting.
The play at times, however, was subject to the overlap of characters lines, with a hint of uncertainty in the actors’ voices but keeping in mind the undertaking as a whole, these faults can be largely overlooked.
In a production of this weight and length (running at nearly three hours on opening night) the strength of the acting is paramount. It is difficult to choose just one performance that stood out with the talent on display relishing their roles and balancing the lightness and darkness with ease.
Memorable performances however come from actors Laura Linehan, Finbarr Doyle and Stuart Pollock. Linehan shows her range as the delicate Mary Brenham and in one (thankfully) short scene as the absolutely repulsive and aptly titled Shitty Meg. For two characters of such polar extremes her performance must be commended.
The consistently brilliant Finbarr Doyle shines as the damaged Harry Brewer and the cruel Jemmy Campbell. Finally, Stuart Pollock balances comic timing and humanity as the pompous Robert Sideway.
Hampered with a few production faults as well as an often too slow pacing, the interpretation of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s play is nonetheless further example of Dramsoc’s range and diversity of productions.