Our Country’s Good – Audition

Our Country’s Good

by Timberlake Wertenbaker

Director: Ruth Readshaw
Stage Manager: Gail Pittam
Musical Director: Jeannie Harrison

Dates: 1 - 6 Nov

Venue: Arts at the Old Fire Statoin

We are delighted to invite actors to audition for our production of Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker, scheduled for performance at the Old Fire Station, George Street, Oxford on 1 – 6 November 2021.

We are looking for eleven actors from all ethnic backgrounds to audition for any part, though the role of Convict Black Caesar (double) Captain W Tench and Native Australian must be an actor of colour. There are parts for five or six men and five or six women - this is an ensemble piece with all roles doubling up. See below for more details of the characters and casting guidelines.

Please complete the audition booking form as you will be allocated a time slot so that we comply with the latest Covid regulations.

For more information contact ruth.readshaw@oxfordtheatreguild.com.

Important Dates

First Round auditions:

Sat 12 Jun, 10:30 - 12:30 - St Margaret's Institute

Mon 14 Jun, 19:30 - 21:30 - St Margaret's Institute

Recalls (by invitation only):

Sat 19 Jun, 10:30 - 12:30 - St Margaret's Institute

Production:

Get-in, tech and preview opening: Mon 1 November

Rehearsals

Rehearsals will commence on 22 August 2021 at St Margaret’s Institute, Polstead Road, Oxford for 8 weeks – Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays in the evening and on Sunday afternoons. There will be a break from 1 – 8 October 2021. 

If you are interested in auditioning, but are unable to come to any of the given dates, please contact the director at ruth.readshaw@oxfordtheatreguild.com we will try to see you at another time, if possible.

Synopsis

“I have had great problems finding convicts who can act. Mainly the mad and stupid and the relentless villains have presented themselves, sniffing an advantage.” Ralph Clark, RM

Timberlake Wertenbaker wrote Our Country’s Good for The Royal Court and it was first performed there in 1988. It is based on the novel by Thomas Keneally, The Playmaker, about a group of convicts transported to New South Wales in the 1780s. The named convicts in the play were all real people who first arrived in Botany Bay over 250 years ago.

The convicts are persuaded to take part in rehearsing Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer, the first play to be performed in the penal colony. Much research was done by the playwright into the conditions faced by these wretched European rejects and the despair they must have felt at being banished, often for petty theft.

The Officers show little respect or regard for their charges, often brutalising them and handing out harsh punishments for any infringements. The Governor of the penal colony is an enlightened man and suggests that the men and women can be redeemed through the power of theatre. This is a recurring theme of the play.

Ralph Clark, one of the officers, volunteers to direct the play – Act One takes us up to the first rehearsal, and Act two ends with the opening performance of the play. We witness the journey taken by the convicts as they embark on the play rehearsals, hear of their former lives and misdemeanours, and see them bicker, fight and fall in love, before coming together as a theatrical company.

The Officers are a diverse group of individuals, many of them sceptical about the Governor’s experiment, believing the convicts to be little more than vermin. They attempt to thwart the rehearsals as we see them debate the nature of criminality and whether convicts can ever be rehabilitated.

There are two love stories between Harry Brewer and Duckling Smith and Ralph Clark and Mary Brenham which intertwine the story and drive the action.

All of the action in the play is witnessed by a native Australian. This character symbolises the trauma experienced by the indigenous peoples as their land was settled by Europeans. The character makes four speeches in different scenes where he tries to make sense of these interlopers through his Dreamtime beliefs, shattered at the end of the play as he contracts smallpox.

Castlist

Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark RM (Marine Regiment)

Ralph initially wants to put on the play to impress his Captain but soon realizes that rehearsing the play is changing him as much as the convicts. A kind, patient, inexperienced officer who has a strong sense of duty. He has a love scene with Mary Brennan and will need to partly undress. Involves a close simple choreographed movement sequence. An interesting, complex role.

Male, aged 25 to 40, Accent RP

Midshipman H. Brewer (double) Convict J. Arscott

Officer Harry Brewer: low ranking and suffers from loneliness. Haunted by the ghost of a man he hanged, which clouds his relationship with Duckling, a female convict. Overbearing and possessive in his loneliness. Interesting emotional part.

John Arscott: Convict with a determination to escape the colony. Uneducated and naive. While a relatively small role, he has two poignant speeches that highlight the plight of the convicts.

Male, aged 25 to 45, Accent Northern

Captain A Phillip (double) Convict John Wisehammer

Captain Arthur Phillip: The governor-in chief of New South Wales. Phillip is the highest ranking authority figure. Rules with a firm but fair hand and believes in reform. Supports the idea of putting on a play as it will give the convicts an education and the opportunity to reform. Educated, well spoken, standard English.

John Wisehammer: A convict with a quiet and gentle character. He loves language and poetry and is in love with Mary Brenham. Softly spoken. Londoner.

Male, aged 40 to 60, Accent RP/London

Major R Ross (double) Convict K Freeman

Major Robbie Ross: Officer who is against the play and believes the convicts are nothing more than animals, showing them no respect. Powerful threatening figure with imposing presence and voice. Scottish accent.

Ketch Freeman: An Irish convict who straddles the line between the officers and the convicts and fits in with neither group. He is, himself a convict, but ordered to take on the job of ‘hangman’, which ostracises him from the convict community. Irish accent.

Male, aged 30 to 50, Accent Scots and Irish

Captain D Collins (double) Convict R Sideway

Captain David Collins: Former Judge, well respected and the voice of reason among the authorities. Collins listens to others, seeks a fair court and is forward thinking. Intelligent, well spoken.

Robert Sideway: Pickpocket, born and bred in South London. Has an affinity for the arts and leads the way in showing the convicts how to perform (albeit melodramatically). He is a comic character but has more tragic moments including his flogging. Cockney accent.

Male, aged 20 to 50, RP and London

Captain J Campbell (double) Convict M Long

Captain Jemmy Campbell: Scottish officer who doesn’t manage to say very much that is coherent and he is usually very drunk. He does, however, like to stir up trouble and slurs responses to cast his disdain for the convicts and play, often supporting the views of Major Robbie Ross.

Meg Long: Described in the play as being ‘very old and very smelly’. A comic cameo role. A woman with no sense of boundaries and hygiene. She provides a moment of comic relief.

Female, aged 30 to 65, Accent Scottish/Any regional accent

Convict Black Caesar (double) Captain W Tench, Native Australian

Black Caesar: Convict who originates from Madagascar and hates the idea of dying in Australia. Caesar is a representative of the many outcasts from society and longs to return home. He pledges his duty to the play in order to join with others. A comical cameo role with poignant undertones. French accent required.

Captain Watkin Tench: An opinionated officer who believes that convicts are criminals and cannot be redeemed. He is sceptical about the play. Educated, well spoken English accent.
Native Australian: A small role in term of dialogue, but an important part as it serves as a reminder that Europeans colonised the land with devastating results for Native Australians. The role will be present for many of the scenes, commenting through emotion, movement and gesture on the action of the play.

Female/Male, aged 20 to 60, French, RP. The actor must be a person of colour.

Convict Liz Morden (double) Lieutenant W Dawes

Liz Morden: A hard, stubborn and assertive female convict with a challenging history. She has a strong sense of pride and loyalty and will not lose face in front of anyone – even at the expense of her own life. A very challenging role with a monologue. Cockney accent.

Lieutenant Will Dawes: A minor character. An officer, preoccupied with the stars and the wider universe. Standard English pronunciation.

Female, aged 25 - 50, Accent Cockney/RP

Convict Duckling (double) Lieutenant G Johnson

Duckling Smith: A convict who has a complicated relationship with the officer Harry Brewer. She is a feisty character, but dead inside. She is in love with a man who tries to control her. Duckling is Harry’s comfort in times of distress but she does not realise that he is hers until after she has lost him. Requires a close simple choreographed sequence with Harry - an emotional part.

Lieutenant George Johnston: A minor character, one of the officers.

Female, aged 20 – 40, Accent Country/RP

Convict Dabby Bryant (double) Lieutenant W Faddy

Dabby Bryant: Optimistic and likeable convict who can turn nasty and intimidating in an instant if challenged. Dabby is loyal and proud and misses Devon. She takes Mary under her wing and is possessive of her friend, talking for her, bossing her around and teasing her in front of others. Devon accent.

Second Lieutenant William Faddy: A minor character. He is the same rank as Ralph and determined to remind Ralph about this. A cynical and bitter personality. Standard English pronunciation.

Female, aged 20 – 50, Accent Devon and RP

Convict Mary Brenham (double) Reverend Johnson

Mary Brenham: A young, sweet, shy but determined girl who loves rehearsing the play. One of the few convicts that can read and she speaks well. She forms a strong attachment to Ralph and has a love scene with him where they perform a close movement sequence together expressing their desire for each other.

Reverend Johnson: Referred to as the ‘moral guide’ on the colony. He naively supports the choice of play because it ‘sanctions holy matrimony’. Young, pompous, RP English accent.

Female, aged 18 – 35, Accent any regional, Heightened RP

Audition Process

There will be 2 first round audition sessions and then recalls by invitation only. 

Auditions will be pre-booked on Eventbrite in groups of up to four. We will send you the audition pieces which you can print out and download. You can also download the zipped files here:

Our Country's Good audition pieces

There is no need to prepare anything in advance. Each slot will last 20 minutes.

You will not be required to prepare anything in advance. Our aim is to assess your potential rather than to immediately consider you for specific characters. It will be a relaxed and informal process – so please try not to get too anxious. Easier said than done, of course!

We will be aiming to timetable this to enable us to see as many combinations as we can – and, of course, give you as much time as possible to shine.

Accessibility concerns

If you have any specific needs with regards to access or any other issues, please do get in contact with us and we will help if we can.

What if I can’t make those dates and times?

If you are interested in auditioning, but are unable to come to any of the given dates, please contact the director at ruth.readshaw@oxfordtheatreguild.com we will try to see you at another time, if possible.

All OTG auditions are run according to the OTG audition policy and harassment policy.