Timberlake Wertenbaker : Our Country's Good The Redemptive Power Of Theatre : How Does The Experience Of Putting On A Play Affect The Characters In Our Country's Good.

3519 words - 14 pages

When Wertenbaker began writing "Our Country's Good" (in 1988) convicts and prisoners were looked upon with more shame and distaste than they are today. She set the play in the 19th Century, and back then people were executed for stealing a biscuit! She was trying to point out the terrible flaws that occurred back then and she definitely succeeded. This, however, was not the full aim of the play. I think that the play's aim was to show convicts in a different light. In "Our Country's Good", many of the convicts are reformed by the end of the play. Because the play is based on real life, this probably happened in reality. This shows that convicts can become reformed, happy, sociable and nice people if they are just given a small chance to release their potential. Many people would have found this hard to take in and probably wouldn't have respected or believed it. "Our Country's Good" would have helped human rights a bit by highlighting certain points and displaying what really happened behind closed doors.As I have said, Wertenbaker based "Our Country's Good" on reality and she gained many unique insights into the life of an inmate through Joe White. Wertenbaker corresponded with White in the summer of 1988, after she visited the prison he was being held in to see a production of a different play. Later, White organized a production of "Our Country's Good" for his fellow prisoners. He wrote many letters to Wertenbaker explaining what it was like holding a play in the prison. He explains how acting can release any pain or sorrow that a prisoner can have."Prison is about failure normally, and how we are reminded of it each day of every year. Drama, and self-expression in general, is a refuge and one of the only real weapons against the hopelessness of these places."White explains that although the prisoners are subdued, beaten and bruised, when it comes to acting, they become completely different people. They truly take on their character's role. Wertenbaker carefully weaves this and many other real life points into "Our Country's Good". This makes the play quite unique as it takes real life situations and softly brings them into the world of the characters and the play.When we first enter the situation of the prison colony in Australia, we meet the officers in command. They are Governor Arthur Phillip, Judge David Collins, Captain Watkin Tench and Midship Man Harry Brewer. They all have small amounts of power, but Phillip's in command. They have very contrasting beliefs as to what should happen to the convicts. Phillip is the voice of reason. He says that the convicts should be given more rights than they have at the moment. He wishes that everyone at the colony was more humane and he doesn't like the idea of hanging at all. He says that he would prefer them to see real plays with fine language and sentiment because all the other officers believe that they find hanging to be there only form of entertainment. Phillip says this is so because they...

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