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Season Info

Our Country's Good
By Timberlake Wertenbaker

Clayton Whitfield, Jonathan Palmer, Bonita Friedericy, and William Joerres

Melissa Hanson, Patricia Cullen, and Lisa Beezley

Scenic Designer
Lighting Designer
Sound Designer
Costume Designer
Technical Director
Assistant Director
Stage Manager
Light Operator
Sound Operator
Graphic Art
Set Construction

Scenic Artist
Master Electrician
Light Rigging

Light Progarmming

Fight Choreographer

David Rose
Barbara Beckley
Bradley Kaye
Matthew O. O'Donnell
John Fisher
Dana R. Woods
Michael Camp
William Joerres
Lavinia Arriaza
Peter Falco
Nathan Clark
Larry Ianacone
Bob Lapin
Ray Gougela
Greg Baggett
Peter Falco
Robert FitzGerald
Johnny Painter
Peter Falco
Gregg Baggett
Charles Brown
Nathan Clark
Amanda Diamond
Nick DeGruccio
The Officers
Royal Navy (RN) - Royal Marines (RM)
Captain Arthur Phillip, RN
Major Robbie Ross, RM
Captain David Collins, RM
Captain Watkin Tench, RM
Captain Jemmy Campbell, RM
Reverend Johnson
Lieutenant Will Dawes, RM
2nd Lieutenant Ralph Clark, RM
2nd Lieutenant William Faddy, RM
Midshipman Harry Brewer, RN
Charles Howerton
Jonathan Palmer
William Joerres
John Ross Clark
Clayton Whitfield
Blaise Messinger
Kelly Foran
Todd Nielsen
Nick DeGruccio
Lego Louis
The Convicts
John Arscott
Mary Brenham
Dabby Bryant
Black Caesar
Ketch Freeman
Meg Long
Liz Morden
Robert Sideway
Duckling Smith
John Wisehammer
John Ross Clark
Michelle Duffy
Lisa Beezley
Ken Elliott
Kelly Foran
Patricia Cullen
Bonita Friedericy
Blaise Messinger
Melissa Hanson
Nick DeGruccio

Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker 
is based upon the novel 
The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally

Director's Notes

Aboriginal Australians look upon their lives as a re-enactment of the journeys and quests taken by ancestor heroes in the Tjukurapa - the Dreamtime - before which the earth did not exist. It took less than 75 years of white settlement to wipe out most of the people who had occupied the Australian continent for over 40,000 years. The hardships faced by their ancestors could not have prepared them for the boatloads of disease and destruction that landed at Botany Bay in 1788. 

In the twenty-eighth year of the reign of King George III, the British Government sent a fleet to colonize Australia. Eleven ships, carrying supplies and almost 1,500 officers, seamen, marines, and convicts, traveled for eight months before reaching New South Wales. Few of the convicts on board were dangerous criminals. Contrary to popular belief, of the 736 convicts shipped out in 1787, not one was convicted of murder or rape, although more than a hundred had been convicted of thefts in which violence or threat had played some part. No woman on the First Fleet, legend to the contrary, had been transported for prostitution, as it was not a transportable offense. Over half the women were domestic servants by trade. The vast majority had been convicted of a minor theft. The penalties were severe - generally death by public hanging. Most of the First Fleet convicts had been found guilty of stealing, been sentenced to hang, and then had their sentence commuted to seven years transportation, with the understanding that this was essentially exile for life. 

The basis for Ms. Wertenbaker's play is the novel The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally (author of Schindler's List). The source for both play and novel are the letters and journals of Ralph Clark, Watkin Tench, David Collins, and other First Fleet officers. The characters in this play - convict and officer alike - did indeed exist. The 1789 convict production of Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer, directed by 2nd Lieutenant Ralph Clark, is a matter of historical record. But it is more than that. By the accounts of these First Fleet officers, it is also a remarkable tale of the power that theatre has to transform and humanize - even those whom society considers unredeemable. The severe adversity Ralph and his players overcame to realize the first Australian production of a play is a fascinating chapter in the history of this dawning nation. 

The subsequent history of the convicts depicted in Our Country's Good is no less interesting.

  • When Ralph Clark was assigned to the Norfolk Island convict camp, he ensured that Mary Brenham was one of the convicts transferred to that outstation. She bore him a daughter in 1791. When Ralph set sail for England at the completion of his commission, Mary and her child were shipped to a convict outpost north of Sydney and then disappeared from the public record. 
  • Nancy Turner, the convict on whom the character of Liz Morden is predominantly based, lived to be pardoned and have a large family by a watch thief named Stokes. 
  • Duckling Smith was shipped to the penal colony at nearby Norfolk Island. The reason was not punishment, but Governor Phillip's decision to shift a number of convicts elsewhere as the famine in Sydney worsened. 
  • John Wisehammer, thwarted in his love of Mary Brenham, began farming and trading at the end of his sentence, married a convict woman, and grew to be a respected merchant in Sydney. 
  • James Freeman was finally exempted from further hangings, found a convict wife, had seven children with her, and lived into his sixties. 
  • John Arscott was shipped out with Ralph and Mary to Norfolk Island. It is recorded that he behaved bravely when their ship ran up on the rocks there, and helped extinguish the fires which had started in the galley. Eventually pardoned, he married a friend of Dabby's, and accumulated enough wealth through his carpentry skill to return to England. 
  • Dabby Bryant did indeed escape by boat with her family and sailed all the way to Kupang, in the Dutch East Indies. There she was re-captured and returned to England to stand trial for escape. Through the generous efforts of James Boswell, she was eventually pardoned, and returned at last to her beloved Devon. 
  • And seven years after his performance in The Recruiting Officer, Robert Sideway opened his own theatre. 
  • As for Ralph Clark, the playmaker, he was fatally wounded by gunshot in 1794 while serving on a military vessel in the West Indies. His advice to the convicts-players after a particularly savage beating, as recorded in his journal, will serve as the final word: "I ask you to keep in mind the play, to cling to the play as the thing which will give you your spirit back.
  • (Sources: The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, 
    The Playmaker by Thomas Keneally)
    --David Rose
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