God's Own Country won its author, Ross Raisin, the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award in 2009, as well as being shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and drawing comparisons to A Clockwork Orange. In it's adaptation by Kyle Ross and Joel Samuels, the harrowing story of Sam Marsdyke is given its stage debut.
Sam (played alternatively by Ross and, on this occasion, Samuels) is a troubled Yorkshire Farmer, that is until a girl arrives in town, relocated by her 'snob' parents from Muswell Hill. The couple grow closer as Sam teaches her the ways of farm life until, after a falling out with her parents, the pair run away together and everything goes downhill from there.
Samuels gives a confident and versatile performance which is literally breathtaking in its blistering pace. Unfortunately, the production starts with an intensity so high that leaves little room for development, this combined with the thick Yorkshire accent means it's a hard play to settle into. On top of this, Samuels barely moves from his centre stage spot, his energetic performance confined to a 1 meter square area like an enraged sheep cornered in it's cage. Disappointing direction (or lack of) from Anthony Lau whose credits include work at Chichester, the Young Vic and Royal Court.
Overall this is a fine example of storytelling with a spirited performance from the lead actor and, with better direction, the three stars attached to this review could easily be four or even five.
God's Own Country runs at Zoo Southside until 25 August.