The play follows a group of soldiers and convicts sent from England to found a penal colony in Australia, which would be the first English settlement in Sydney. With the direction of a young officer hoping to be promoted, a group of convicts rehearses a production of George Farquhar's comedy The Recruiting Officer.
As an actor, I found quite a lot to like in the depiction of these hardened, hopeless convicts learning lines and taking direction. There are a number of funny lines and good observations about theater in Timberlake Wertenbaker's script. But the play also touches on issues of crime and punishment, the possibility of rehabilitation, the dehumanizing effects of extreme punishment, and even a bit about the effects of colonization. It's a lot to fit into a play, even at 2 1/2 hours, so it lapses occasionally into preachiness.
|The cast of Our Country's Good|
The show also made me think about other plays about the transformative power of theater. A post for another time, perhaps!