OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD to Begin 9/13 at Royal Alexandra Theatre
After an extensive tour across the U.K., including a sensational season in London, and fresh from a sold-out run at the prestigious Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis earlier this spring, Max Stafford-Clark's acclaimed revival of Timberlake Wertenbaker's Olivier Award-winning play, OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD, will play a strictly limited engagement at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, September 13 - October 26, 2014.
This wildly acclaimed co-production by Out of Joint and the Octagon Theatre Bolton celebrates the 25th anniversary of the play's celebrated premiere at London's Royal Court Theatre, before it transferred to the West End and then to Broadway and won the 1988 Olivier Award for Play of the Year. The U.K.'s Sunday Express calls OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD "one of the great plays of and about the theatre, staged with overwhelming warmth and humanity."
Based on Thomas Keneally's novel The Playmaker, OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD is the true story of British convicts, exiled thousands of miles from their homeland of England for "our country's good," as the magistrates who passed down their judgement explained.
The year is 1789. The new penal colony in New South Wales, in what is now the city of Sydney, is populated by Royal Marines and convicted petty thieves, murders and convicts. As a means of keeping the peace and creating a community, a young, married lieutenant named Ralph Clark decides to stage the classic Restoration comedy The Recruiting Officer.
The earnest young marine officer directs the play himself. With a ragtag cast of convicts, a leading lady who may be about to be hanged and only two copies of the play available, rehearsals aren't going well. Yet as the barriers between captors and captives break down, they start to discover each other, both onstage and behind the scenes.
This anniversary production stars Simon Darwen as Governor Phillip/John Wisehammer, Victoria Gee as William Faddy/Dabby Bryant, Sam Graham as Captain Campbell/Harry Brewer/John Arscott/Meg Long, Nathan Ives-Moiba as Ralph Clark, Cornelius McCarthy as Aboriginal Australian/Watkin Tench/Black Caesar, Richard Neale as Major Ross/Ketch Freeman, David Newman as David Collins/Robert Sideway, Kathryn O'Reilly as Will Dawes/Liz Morden, Anna Tierney as Lieutenant Johnston/Duckling Smith and Jessica Tomchak as Rev. Johnson/Mary Brenham.
OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD is designed by Tim Shortall (Out of Joint's Top Girls; La Cage Aux Folles - Broadway and West End; and Sweet Charity in the West End; with lighting by Johanna Town and sound by Andy Smith.
In 1987, director Max Stafford-Clark suggested to playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker that she look at adapting Thomas Keneally's The Playmaker into a play. Having seen theatre productions stage by prisoners and being knowledgeable about the 18th century from writing the Grace of Mary Traverse, which was a hit for the Royal Court, Timberlake went about learning more about the founding of Australia and examining the relationship between real life and and its recreation on stage.
Timberlake said, "I wanted to write about the strong emotional undercurrents that can occur during the process when life and a play become enmeshed. I was also by then watching Max's rehearsals for his production of The Recruiting Officer. All this fed into the play."
In additional research for the play, Timberlake and Stafford-Clark went to see a play performed by convicts at a prison and were inspired by how creating, rehearsing, and performing a play could transform the lives of the incarcerated.