Fascinating true story

OUR COUNTRY’S GOOD, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne.

One of the most fascinating plays I have ever seen is playing at Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne this week.

Timberlake Wertenbaker’s award-winning play Our Country’s Good is a true story. It is set in the first British convict colony in Botany Bay, Sydney in 1788. On Sunday 17 May 1787 736 convicts set sail from Portsmouth in a rat-infested ship. Eight months later after battling heavy seas they arrived in Australia, a hot and barren country, many of them had only committed a very minor crime like the 84 year-old woman who was deported for stealing one biscuit so she hung herself.

All the characters in the play were real people and many of the things they say in the play were words spoken by them.

Alastair Whatley’s production is so good you actually feel the prisoners’ pain and despair as soon as the curtain goes up. Instead of punishing them 2nd Lieutenant Ralph Clark goes against his senior officers’ wishes and persuades the Governor of New South Wales, Captain Arthur Phillip to let him stage a play, George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer and that is the plot of Our Country’s Good.

The women prisoners were amazingly strong and they were superbly played by Emily Bowker, Emma Gregory Rachel Donovan and Jenny Ogilvie. Several of the cast doubled up parts but you never got confused. Aden Gillet made a great Governor but was also excellent in the contrasting role of the Jewish prisoner John Wisehammer.

Christopher Harper captured Ralph Clark’s insecurities and Jack Lord gave a very funny performance as the born actor who overacted all the time Robert Sideway, but you never thought of Sideway when he played Captain David Collins.

For anyone who loves history and good drama this is definitely a play to see.

Review sent in by Amanda Wilkins