The Randolph Academy present a double cast for Our Country’s Good at the Annex Theatre in Toronto
Tuesday night was the opening of the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts‘ production of Our Country’s Good at the Annex Theatre. Eight months ago I hadn’t ever heard of the play; since then I’ve seen two productions. One last night and the other in September at The Royal Alex.
I enjoyed last night’s performance more.
The Annex Theatre is an intimate space. I wondered beforehand how well it would work for Our Country’s Good, a play with a large cast and a fair amount of movement. It worked really well; I think it was the intimacy that I enjoyed.
The actors didn’t have to declaim and emote — except in the rehearsal scenes for the play within the play when declaiming and emoting is the order of the day. I love a play within a play. Not that I can remember one where we actually see the play; it’s all about the rehearsals.
Our Country’s Good, by British playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker and based on Thomas Keneally’s novel The Playmaker, tells the story of a group of Marines and convicts in Australia who stage a play because the Governor believes that culture has a civilizing influence and wants to test his theory.
I liked so many things about this production that it’s hard to know where to start.
Bill Corcoran designed a minimal set that worked well. Space and objects like tables and chairs were defined using wooden crates of various sizes. The cast and costumed stage hands moved them on and off stage. There were also long canvas panels suspended from the ceiling. They were weighted and when they were lowered they made a very satisfactory sounding thump.
Alex Amini’s costumes suggested the deprivation of the convicts without being too precious. A lot of the cast play two roles which require some fast changes. Instead of changing the whole costume, just the tops were changed. I liked it because it helped me keep track of who was playing what double role. (Not that you need to track that, it’s just something I do.) The transformation of the convicts at the end, when they’re dressed for their parts in the play, was wonderful.
Anyone who’s ever been to a play with me when the actors had to use accents and didn’t do them well knows that badly done accents will turn me off a show completely. Either the accents got better ten minutes into the show or it really didn’t matter, the performances were so strong that I stopped noticing.
And… here’s the thing, some of the actors had to do three accents. One for the part they played as an officer, one as a convict, and a third as a cast member in the play within a play. They really did amazing jobs.
There were a couple of performances that stood out even in this outstanding ensemble.
Bradley Delarosbel was chilling as Major Robbie Ross. I could almost see the venom dripping from each word. His clipped presentation and deadpan facial expression added to the dread that I felt when his character was speaking. He embodied cruelty and hatred.
As I was walking to the subway I heard the woman behind me say to her partner “The woman who played Liz was absolutely amazing, wasn’t she?” Veronika Slowikowska was amazing as Liz Morden, a convict who is sentenced to hang. Her body bristles with anger and defiance. She also plays Lieutenant Dawes, something I didn’t realize until I read the program this morning.
I did find that the military characters were fairly one-dimensional but I think that’s the play, not Darlene Spencer’s direction. I found that with the Mirvish production as well. The convicts are more rounded.
There are actually two casts who perform on alternate days. I doubt that it matters which one you see given the level of talent I saw last night. Go see either one. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the evening. Buy your tickets as soon as you can. Thursday evening is sold out and there aren’t many tickets left for the other performance.
- Our Country’s Good is playing at the Annex Theatre (736 Bathurst St) until April 4
- Performances are at 8 pm with a matinee at 2 pm on Saturday
- Tickets are $22.00
- Tickets are available online or at the door.
Photo of cast members of Our Country’s Good by Raphnogal