A Nottingham Playhouse Production in Co-Production with Ramps on the Moon
Our Country’s Good: Timberlake Wertenbaker, based on The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally
Birmingham Rep Theatre, The House
Runs: 3h, one interval, till 2 June 2018
Bham Rep BO: 0121 236 4455
Review: Rod Dungate, 25 May 2018
Convicts with convictions, and some officers with convictions too
Ramps on the Moon is a most interesting and inventive company, dedicated to providing challenging work and integrating actors with disabilities into the mainstream theatre. Their battle is hard, and they have some distance to go, but their production quality is excellent. I remember with great fondness their witty production of The Government Inspector. Here, in coproduction, they are in slightly more serious mood with a production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s e Our Country’s Good.
The play is based on Thomas Kealey’s novel The Playmaker, and tells the story of a group of convicts shipped to Australia in 1789; it is a brutal, brutal regime, but under the enlightened leadership of a couple of military officers, a group of convicts are encouraged to perform Farquhar’s 1706 comedy The Recruiting Officer.
Wertenbaker’s version (and can one dare to say this?) is not perfect. There is a complex set up and the story takes far too long to engage us so that we really care. It may be, too, that this production could do with a bit more pace in its earlier scenes.
However, once it gets going it is marvellous. The story is disturbing as the cruelty of the State is drawn in front of us. Moreover, we are struck too at the sheer beauty of some of the writing, excellently placed before us by this company, and by the play’s politics. It is a powerful mix.
This is a strong ensemble company, but it is not just the camaraderie that pulls us in, it is the commitment and intensity with which all the company play. They clearly understand the importance of the debate and wish their production to mean something. Everyone has a great moment or two. Tim Pritchett’s Ralph Clark is a terrific combination of naïveté and gentle boldness. Gbemisola Ikumelo is a mesmerising Liz Morden. Fergus Rattigan (Ketch) and Tom Dawze (Wisehammer) bring particular warmth and often humour to their characters.
At a time when funding for arts is diminishing at a speed only superseded by that which art is disappearing from education, we should note that this powerful play is not only about justice and power, but also about the redemptive power of art – and, yes, drama.
Colin Connor: Major Robbie Ross
Tom Dawze: John Wisehammer / Lieutenant George Johnson
Jarrad Ellis-Thomas: Captain Jemmy Campbell
Dave Fishley: Captain David Collins
Fifi Garfield: Dabby Bryant
Keiren Hamilton-Amos: Caesar / Second Lieutenant William Faddy
Gbemisola Ikumelo: Liz Morden
Kieron Jechinis: Governor-in-Chief, Captain Arthur Philip
Sapphire Joy: Mary Brenham
Will Lewis: John Arscott . Captain Watkin Tench
Milton Lopes: Aboriginal Australian / Audio Describer
Alex Nowak: Robert Sideway / Reverend Johnson
Caroline Parker: Meg Long / Captain Will Dawes
Tim Pritchett: Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark
Fergus Rattigan: James ‘Ketch’ Freeman
Garry Robson: Midshipman Harry Brewer
Emily Rose Salter: Duckling Smith
Director: Fiona Buffing
Designer: Neil Murray
Lighting Designer: Mark Jonathan
Composer / Sound Designer: Jon Nicholls
Associate Director: Simon Startin
BSL Creative Consultant: Paula Garfield
Assistant BSL Consultant: Kamaldeep Deo
Audio Description Creative Consultant: Alison Crake and Ruth James
Audio Description Script: Milton Lopes
Fight Director: Phillip d’Orleans
Movement Director: Cydny Uffllndell-Phillips