BWW Review: COUNTRY MUSIC, Omnibus Theatre
Country Music starts in 1983. Jamie and Lynsey are in a car, barely 18 years old, driving away after he's committed a crime. While he's convinced that this won't have any effect on the future he dreams for them, the young women isn't so sure. The audience then meets him twice over the years, his life entirely changed by that act.
Simon Stephens's play debuted at the Royal Court back in 2004 and was then left quite forgotten until now. Directed by Scott Le Crass, it's given new heart by a precise cast led by Cary Crankson as Jamie. The director exacerbates the stillness of the piece by nearly removing all kinds of movement, concentrating the energy on the dialogues and installing silences that speak more than the script.
The textual element is the major issue here, as the writing feels sluggish and heavy even with such accomplished performances. It isn't much of a gripping story and presents a pace that's far from engaging by its own terms but what Le Crass does on Liam Shea's gorgeous set is quite impressive given the situation, nonetheless. He has Crankson deliver a performance reliant on power dynamics and his subsequent struggle, revealing a damaged character who strives for redemption.
Dario Coates, Rebecca Stone, and Frances Knight act as juxtapositions, offering compelling portrayals that unfortunately reiterate the gaps in the script. It's a show that doesn't answer any of the questions it poses, but perhaps that's its true strength. It introduces a simple man whose life has been marred by a single action taken when he was a stupid boy.
He wants nothing but to be accepted by his family and for the world to remove him from the state of alienation he's been forced in. All in all, Country Music is an ordinary tale of atonement and acceptance but doesn't soar to exceptional levels bar some striking performances.