"Strong production of modern classic"
by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 25/10/18

Timberlake Wetenbaker’s “Our Country’s Good”, currently running at the Bridewell Theatre, is a favourite of schools and universities. Set in eighteenth century Australia, at a time when it was a penal colony, it tells the story of the officers and convicts. With the encouragement of the Governor (Simon Hill), Second Lieutenant Ralph Clarke (Sam Pearce) attempts to put on a production of George Farquhar’s ‘The Recruiting Officer’, in order to give the convicts a sense of purpose and unify the entire camp at a time when rations are running out. However, he runs up against the antipathy of the military establishment in the form of Major Robbie Ross (John Irvine).

Traditionally ‘Our Country’s Good’ is performed as a tragicomedy. However, director Chloe Robertson has chosen to emphasise the comic elements, ably drawing every ounce of farcical comedy from the audition and rehearsal scenes. This is aided by strong performances from Kat Novkovic as Dabby Bryant, Josh Yard as the flamboyant Robert Sideway. Pearce is also convincing as Ralph Clarke, who starts out as uptight and nervous, but later is transformed by the experience of directing and organising the play.

While the tragic scenes could have done with a little more darkness, they still have an impact, thanks to the quality of the cast. Matt Tylianakis is strong as Midshipman Harry Brewer, wracked with guilt due to his involvement with the executions, and in a doomed relationship with his mistress Duckling Smith (Jamila Jennings Grant). John Irvine also delivers a powerful performance as the malevolent Major Ross, taking particular pleasure in his taunting of Novkovic and Sophia Papadopoulos. The possibility that Liz Morden (Jessica Withey) will be hanged provides an additional element of jeopardy.

Overall, this is a strong Sedos production of a modern classic.

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