Sunday, 15 April 2012

Our Country's Good (drama)

Thurs 5th April, Underground Theatre, Eastbourne

A rare delight - my sister came down from London to join me for Our Country's Good as we had both previously enjoyed the Bootcamp production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

After eating too much at Buffet Time in Terminus Road, we got to the Underground Theatre early and shivered for a few minutes awaiting the Opening of the Doors.

Neither of us knew anything more of the play than had been headlined in the promotional material. The tale, set in Australia in 1789, follows a young lieutenant as he attempts to lead newly transported prisoners to Culture by putting on a comedy play in a convict camp.

I love the way Bootcamp use the available space in their productions. For Our Country's Good, audience chairs were lined up in a single row across the front of the stage, facing into the room, and in several rows on the opposite side of the room facing back towards the stage. The play took place in the central 'corridor' space, successfully drawing the audience in to the action as the actors were practically within arm's reach. And as we filed in, convicts were already aboard ship, lying dazed and sick before us, sounds of water splashing against the ship's sides adding to a claustrophobic atmosphere.

Our Country's Good is not an easy play to watch. Some scenes are humorous and the struggle of the cast is ultimately uplifting, but the glimpses of shocking violence and madness reminded us of the terrible conditions that were endured. This uncertainty over what might come next helped the audience to understand the continuous fear of the convicts and the increasing insanity of Midshipman Harry Brewer (Michael Keegan) was a particularly haunting performance. I was also impressed by the delicate vulnerability of Mary Brenham (Jenny Cooke) and Major Ross (Steve Scott) was played with wonderful relish.

Bootcamp Theatre's next production will be The History Boys by Alan Bennett, 22nd - 25th August 2012. Casting is on Tuesday, 17th April, 7.30pm, at the Underground Theatre.

If you missed the Bootcamp production of Our Country's Good, a touring Original Theatre Company production is coming to the Devonshire Park from Tues 17th to Sat 21st April.