As soon as we entered the theatre there was an immediate atmosphere which gave a great first immpression. In order to achieve this they used drama techniques such as a well thought out and interesting set consisting of a worn out flag of England and a map of Australia made into one. This allowed the audience to know that the play was about English people in Australia which was effective as it looked important but didnt move any focus off of the actors.
The actors also gave a really good first impression, as soon as we walked in, they were acting from the moment we say them, not by speech however they all looked very proffesional, especially with their costume and make-up. The make-up on one of the actors back allowed the audience to know that the play was to be quite brutal as he writhed in pain,whilst we could see his back covered in cuts and blood, this was done very well and helped to set the grusome scene of the prisoners.
Their costume got it across to the audience that the play had been written about and set in the past (1788) round about the 18th century, the audience were aware of this at the very beggining of the play which helped them alot to understand the concepts of the play. Scene 1 was very effective and gave very good first impressions as the actors were very focused and the way in which the convicts huddled together really showed how very much in fear they were of what their next punishment might be, their body language and facial expression was a key part of conveying this fear.
The lighting also helped this as at this point it was fairly dark, almost a purpely colour which also gave out a creepy, scared atmosphere to the audience. The part which expressed the fear most in the setting / first scene was when one of the convicts recieved a punishment that consisted of a series of whips to his bare, bloody back. The pain that this man suffered was conveyed by the use of vocalisation and body language of the actors for example the grunts and screams that the man being whipped used and his body language was as he was being whipped as his body writhed in pain , his head was down showing the hummiliation of it.
Overall the first scene was percieved by the audience very well giving a good impression of the production so far. The Set was effective as it looked good and gave out good perseption of thier production values as it was multi-purpose, effective and it set the eliments of the ship well. The fact that the actors used the set for multi-purposes made them seem more skilled as actors as they used something simple as more than one object allowing the audience to use their imagination which allowed them to concentrate on the performance more.
The production was performed on a thrust stage, this made the audience feel as though they were actually there with the actors not just watching them. The actors used all of the stage and it didnt matter where you sat as the actors enabled the whole audience to see everything on stage as well as possible to make sure nothing was missed by them. The Staging of the play worked very well as there wasnt one part of the stage that wasn’t used. This gave the audience a good impression of the production and made the actors and director look very skilled in what they were doing.
People often get the idea that it is bad for actors to turn their backs to the audience when performing however the cast of “Our Country’s Good” used this concept very well and managed to turn their backs to the audience and for it too look good, it was used in the last scene where the convicts and the major performed their play to shift the main focus on stage to the very back of it, this worked really well. The actors all seemed very skilled and talented, however some of them were better than others.
Personally i think that the best actor in the production was the man who played the irish convict (Ketch Freeman) and also plays the character of Major Ross beacause he was able to convey the emotions and thoughts of each character through his stance, voice (he used great accents) and body language . It wasnr easy to notice that it was the same man that played both parts as he was such a good actor- to me this makes a good actor as he showed that he was committed to each character by making each stand out.
Each character was very different aswell showing that he can play a range of roles not just one. The girl who played the part of Liz was also a very good actress as she used her body language and voice to make her character really seem grotty and as vile as she possibly could, she really got accross the status of that particular character and enabled the audience to feel empathy with her when she describes in Act two scene one when she tells the other convicts her story of how she was arrested and what for.
The actor who played the part of Harry was very good however he needed to be clearer when he acted out being possesed by Handy Baker as it was hard for the audience to know whether he was talking as Handy Baker or Harry, for this to be clearer he should have changed his voice more when talking as Handy baker and left more of a pause after each line from a different character even though he did not do this completely successfully i still think he tried hard however he did not show that he was really in depth with his role.
The girl that played Duckling i felt was not as much of a strong actress as the others were, as she was not very enthusiastic as it seemed she was not performing with a passion for her role, it seemed as though her character didnt come across as much as others such as Liz and Dabby who did seem to give it there all. I dont think that the girl playing Duckling used facial expression to get across her emotions to the audience as much as the other actors and actresses and this gave the audience a bad immpression of her acting skills and of her committment to her role.
However as an emsemble the cast showed good rappory. They worked well together especially when mistakes happened. In the beggining of the play on the scene where the upper status people are shooting birds one of the parts of an actors shoe fell off and it wasnt only him that tried to cover up this mistake it was another actor stood close by on the stage who improvised and picked it up and then mimed a small conversation with another about it.
Another example of working well together was the scene when Harry and Duckling were on a rowing boat, one of the oars fell down however Duckling and Harry still carried on regardless and went to pick it up discreetly later, not affecting the audiences focus at all, i thought this was very proffesional of them. The lighting and sound of the play were very effective in the way that they created a change in atmosphere and mood aswell as a change in time (day and night) aswell as scene change being made more aware to the audience. The use of sound effects was really good aswell in creating a different mood or atmosphere.
The sound of water on the rowing scene allowed the audience to imagine as though the actors were really on water more than they would if it was not used. The use of Gobo’s was very effective and made the lighting seem at a high standard and showed that the lighting technichian had a good skill as it was used well and at the right times, you have to be carefull when using gobo’s so that the focus isnt moved off of the main focus, However in the play Our Country’s Good the use of gobo’s did not effect the focus on the actors and speech.
My favourite part of the production was the scene when the actors have their second rehersal of their play when Ross humiliates Sideway, Dabby and Liz. I think this scene was done really well and the actors worked really hard into making sure their humilliation came across. This scene really made the audience feel hatred and disgust towards Ross and Campbell and feel empathy for Sideway, Dabby and Liz. This scene is when the audience really see’s the characters true colours and Campbells real cruelty.
So for me the characters tone of voice in this scene was crucial to get across to the audience what they are realy like- for me they did this really well, especially campbell as he was really able to convey his anger and cruelty in his voice, the dynamics in his voice really helped it. The Actors interpretation of the play was wrong in the sense that they didnt stress how the play was about the redemptive power of theatre.
The importance of the scene in which all of the majors, captains and vicors were talking about putting on a play using the convicts as the cast , was lost as the scene was too naturalistic and the main focus was supposed to be how the theatre might change the civilliasation of the convicts but instead the focus was all over the place , sometimes being on the man looking at the stars and sometimes people having drinks etc. If they were to perform this play again they should make this scene of more importance and make it less naturalistic so that the focus is on the redemptive power of the theatre.
Also the jewish character that wished to be a writer, Wisehammer, The scene in which he offers his prologue to Ralph had lost importance in their interpretation of it. When Wisehammer reads out his prologue it should be of alot of importance to the audience and it should be a real remembered moment in the play and in this version of Our Country’s Good the importance of this was also lost. All focus should have been put on to Wisehammer at this particular moment instead there was too much going on on the stage. They did interpret some things right like the emotions of each character and the relationships and chemistry between charaters.