Nottingham New Theatre Interview – Our Country’s Good

This week, Impact Arts speaks to Laura Thornton and Joe Strickland, director and producer respectively of the New Theatre’s latest in-house production: Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker, adapted from Thomas Keneally’s novel The Playmaker.

Firstly, what is ‘Our Country’s Good’ about?

Joe: Our Country’s Good follows the lives of some of the convicts and officers in 1780s Australia. One of the officers trying for a promotion decides to put on a play with the convicts as the actors. This splits the officers and helps to reform the convicts

The play is about the transformative powers of theatre, so what is it about Wertenbaker’s adaptation that you think works for student theatre in particular?

Joe: With the large amount of varied parts there are so many different characters to play, so you get more variety in the production and it’s more interesting to watch.

Laura: Theatre has many transformative powers which I feel are great for students, mainly the idea that theatre gives people confidence. The confidence in themselves and their abilities and secondly the confidence to perform to a large audience.

The play was written to be multi-rolled, have you and the cast found this challenging at all?

Joe: The multi-rolling has made us focus on the different characters with the actors more. This has allowed us to really give the characters life.

Laura: I wouldn’t say it has been challenging – we have a very talented group of actors. The main problem is getting them to change clothes quickly enough!

Many critics have pointed towards a Brechtian influence on ‘Our Country’s Good’ due to the way it places political and social issues on. Have you drawn upon Brecht at all in your interpretation? And if so, in what areas of the production?

Joe: Our play has many Brechtian influences. Our set is very simplistic and minimal and the actors spend the whole time on stage, using gestus to come into character.

Laura: Live music is a very Brechtian aspect of our performance, as well as having our cast be our sound effect system – inspired by Total Theatre. More importantly we have tried to focus the attention of a few scenes by repeatedly breaking the fourth wall, even before the play has begun.

What do you think is the play’s message, if indeed it has one?

Joe: Lots of productions of this play focus on the themes of colonisation and redemption, but we’ve decided to emphasise the treatment of women and western cultural influences.

And finally, if you could summarise your version of ‘Our Country’s Good’ in one sentence, what would that be?

Laura: Ambitious.

J: An interwoven tale of joy, sorrow, hates and fear that will have you both rolling in the aisles and reaching for the tissues.


Charlotte Van Rhee

Our Country’s Good runs from Wednesday 26th-Saturday 29th November, with performances at 7:30pm each night and a 2:30pm matinee on the Saturday. For more information see here

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