West Yorkshire Playhouse
The problem with a play that comes with a reputation such as this, is that it can be treated with such reverence that a new production fails to grip it by the throat.
Of course all plays need not be gripped about the neck, some need to be caressed into life, but when you have a script as visceral, brutal and earthy as Timberlake Wertenbaker’s, kid gloves are not what are needed.
Fortunately the original director, Max Stafford-Clarke, is on hand to ensure the play is not just revered. but staged. Unfortunately, he doesn’t quite find the earthy tones of the piece.
Our Country’s Good tells the story of a ragtag cast of convicts landing in early Australia and working under a young officer to stage a play. It is, rightly, considered one of the great plays of the last century and it is both a passionate and eloquent argument for the power of drama and what it brings to our lives. Which is timely to say the least.
What this production lacks is a strong enough heart. The performances are all perfectly good and the script is entirely robust to make its argument to this day – with seemingly every day bringing more news of cuts to our arts, it is more important a message than ever. The problem is that it all feels quite detached, as though Stafford-Clarke is presenting us with an intellectual argument rather than one that is dragged from inside his soul – which is where this play should come from.
To November 24.