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Greater London
posted/updated: 07 Jul 2019 -
Our Country's Good
Timberlake Wertenbaker
society/company: Garden Suburb Theatre (GST) (directory)
performance date: 06 Jul 2019
venue: Little Oak Wood Open Air Theatre, London NW11 6QS
reviewer/s: Samantha Cartwright (Sardines review)


Walking into Little Oak Wood open air Theatre is like I've entered into a secret enchanted garden that nobody knows exists. The quaint seating area in front of the enclosed arena makes the most of the natural, beautiful surroundings the wood has to offer.

Garden Suburb Theatre is putting on Our Country’s Good, by Timberlake Wertenbaker, a true story of the first penal colony in Australia. The play introduces us to the hard times and conflicts of both the convicts and guards. A Lieutenant decides he wants to impress his superiors by directing a play, he uses the convicts as actors. Not everyone is impressed with this idea of course. We follow both sides of the community, the convicts and the guards, and realise how easily life can change direction without us being able to control it.

As I'm watching this play its clear the group are blessed with extremely talented actors. All twenty-two parts are shared by ten actors, sometimes having to change roles right before our very eyes, they swap a jacket or a wig and continue into the next character without a second to pause. Some characters are challenging and intense and to go from one to another how they do is credit to how good these actors really are.

Anna Rolfe (Second Lieutenant William Faddy RM, Dabby Bryant, Meg Long) has the audience captivated as soon as she speaks, her stage presence and character acting is outstanding, she has the right balance of humour and grit that her character portraits. Emily Hill (Lieutenant Will Dawes RM, Liz Morden) is so believable as her character Liz Morden, I wanted to reach out and help her, it seems she understands how complex the character is meant to be, angry and violent yet so vulnerable, superb acting.

The set is very simple but is moved slightly to create scene changes, to be honest the acting is of such a high standard I feel I'm in a different scene regardless of material methods. I am impressed by the costumes - Frances Musker, they are in keeping with the era and are designed for quick changes, sometimes on stage.

Director, Kayne McCutcheon, and assistant director, Michael Reffold, have created a really interesting play to watch, the open-air staging whilst being beautiful, must bring restrictions with it, but the whole production has been put together so well. Quite a complex script is made to be clear, understandable and enjoying.

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