Venue 45 (Old Saint Paul’s Church Hall)
10-15 August, 13.00
Written in 1988 by Timberlake Wertenbaker, this powerful piece of historical theatre stages the journey and settlement of the first British convicts sent to Australia in the 18th Century. Her wrought and economic language probes painfully into issues of personal rehabilitation, the chemistries of unrequited love, the morally restorative powers of art, and most of all, the bitter ironies between the play itself and the play within the play (Farquhar’s ‘The Recruiting Officer’) performed by the convicts themselves.
Yet, disappointingly, the richness of themes on offer felt exposed, not explored, by New Resolutions Theatre Company. It ran fluently, but not convincingly, and needed a more composed tempo to sustain the emotive intensity.
The performance was staged in an intimate and atmospheric space, tinged with blue lighting, and minimal but inventively recycled props. In short, the set benefited from such stylisation, but the acting did not. Overall their performance was striking, but too mannered and too self-consciously delivered to penetrate the play’s grittiness. Only the part of Dabby (Bronte Tadman) conveyed the harrowing introspection inherent in all the main parts, with power, but also with subtlety and conviction. Yet such a performance was beyond her years. Indeed, perhaps this complex play is too much of a challenge for youth theatre. Although their effort, like those of the convicts’, was communicated, the result was lost on the way. In the words of Lieutenant Ralph himself, ‘it’s a good attempt sergeant, but you could try to be a little more natural’.