Dakota Collins (C’23) in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good. Photos by Lucy Wimmer (C’20).
By Jeremy O’Neill
October 10-13 was a busy time at the Tennessee Williams Center, as the months of preparation culminated in multiple impressive performances of the Timberlake Wertenbaker play Our Country’s Good. The play deals with difficult questions of nationality, imperialism, criminality, captivity, and homesickness. It is set in Victorian-era Australia, as British convicts are transported on a ship to Australia, to provide labor for the new colony. The cast is divided into soldiers and convicts, with one Aboriginie character, who occasionally comments on the events, and focuses on the continual power struggle between between the cruel and dehumanizing officers and the prisoners.
The plot centers around one British officer’s desire to put on a production of a play which features soldiers and convicts performing roles alongside each other, in, at first, an attempt to please the commanding officer. Slowly, the relationship between the author and the convicts shifts as he starts to recognize and acknowledge their individuality and their humanity. A captivating set, short and packed scenes and frequent action kept the audience intrigued throughout the entirety of the three hour performance.
“I attended the Thursday night show and I loved it. Every show I attend there surprises me in a new way. I love how they transformed the black box theater, and I was happy to see my friends fold into these foreign and weird and complex roles so thoroughly,” said theater-goer Lucy Rudman (C’22).
The Tennessee Williams Center’s black box theatre, converted into a representation of Victorian-era Australia.
Rudman continued by saying, “Overall, it touched on a lot of important issues regarding the treatment of the convicts as sub-human, and showed how far an attitude of respect and kindness can go. It was all too relevant, and it was a pleasure to watch.”
Caleb Thorne (C’20) was the percussionist of the play, and supplied the sole instrumental accompaniment throughout. Thorn cited a few challenges in his experience, chiefly, learning to play the didgeridoo.
“None of the music I played was written into the script,” said Thorne. “So I got together with Crawford to work through some ideas. He gave me quite a bit of license to experiment to find the best possible sound. I particularly had fun trying to find a balance of the order of military style music and more tribal sounds.”
The various accents of the play proved a challenge for actors to master, as various English from posh to cockney, Irish, and Scottish accents were required. Sewanee drama continues to impress audiences with the levels of its acting and the complexity of its performances, and students look forward to producing more excellent shows.
For Caroline Jacobs (C’23), who played the role of Liz Morden, the difficulties of her part led to a more powerful experience. Jacobs, who had never acted before her role in Our Country’s Good, stated that the play pushed her out of her comfort zone “in the best way.”
Caroline Jacobs (C’23) as Liz Modern.
“Playing such a powerful part, especially as a freshman, was an amazing experience. So being surrounded by such a cool group was definitely a plus…there were so many talented, brilliant people involved in the play, ” she concluded.