Within a timber frame, the first sign of a colonial civilization, the redemptive story of the first group of convicts to be transported to Australia is brought to life in Our Country’s Good, directed once again by Max Stafford Clark. Under his direction is a stellar cast. Dominic Thorburn and Laura Dos Santos make a lovely couple as the scrupulous Ralph Clark and the reserved Mary Bryant, as they gradually find a role in this developing penal society whilst putting on the colony’s first theatre production, ‘The Recruiting Officer’.
Joining the play-within-a-play is Matthew Needham as Robert Sideway, who provides the funniest moments during the rehearsal scenes as he acts with grandiose theatrical postures. Helen Bradbury plays a haughty Dabby Bryant, and her rivalry with Kathryn O’Reilly as the demented Liz Morden is impassioned. Ian Redford is quite a disconcerting Harry Brewer as he struggles to have a relationship with the seductive Duckling Smith, played by Lisa Kerr.
Yet the oppressive world the convicts find themselves in appears to be toned down. The first whipping scene takes place off stage, thereby losing to some degree a sense of the atrocities of transportation, and Claran Owens could be more threatening as Major Ross. However the rest of the cast, together with the redemptive story, is what makes Our Country’s Good well worth seeing.