Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Our Country's Good

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars
There are few directors in Scotland who have more fun with large-scale
acting ensembles than Gerry Mulgrew, whose mixing up of theatrical
forms has defined his Communicado company for more than thirty yeas
now. Seeing Mulgrew apply this approach to such a multi-faceted text as

Timberlake Wertenbaker's 1990 look at how transported convicts in an
eighteenth century Australian penal colony find emancipation through
theatre is a treat, then, in the Tron's second collaboration with Royal
Conservatoire Scotland for the theatre's Mayfesto season.

In a world where a hanging is the only entertainment going, liberal
Second Lieutenant Clark convinces his superiors to allow him to produce
a play with the convicts put in his care. After facing initial
resistance on all sides, Clark decides on George Farquhar's restoration
comedy, The Recruiting Officer, as his directorial debut for a company
of thieves, prostitutes and hangmen, all of whom eventually find a
purpose through play-acting that takes them beyond their misdemeanours.
This, of course, terrifies the authorities, and only a liberal approach
from on high allows it to continue. An aboriginal woman, meanwhile,
watches from the sidelines as hers and her homeland's dreaming looks
set to be sullied forever.

Wertenbaker's remarkable treatise on the power of art to change lives
is dexterously played by RCS's post-graduate acting students on Hazel
Blue's twin-platformed set. Seen in an era where the current government
would rather prisoners weren't allowed books, the play becomes an even
more vital text. Beyond the words, Mulgrew provides a set of lovely
theatrical flourishes, not least of which comes in a final junk-yard
musical cacophony that shows the true power of unity, onstage and off.

The Herald, May 12th 2014


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