Epic story that is right fit for Crucible project

Our Country's Good, Ramps on the Moon
Our Country's Good, Ramps on the Moon

Our Country’s Good, based on the true story of a group of convicts rehearsing and performing a play in the early settlement of Australia, is ideal for the Ramps on the Moon project, according to director Fiona BuffIni.

It is the third production integrating disabled and non – disabled performers and practitioners created for a consortium of six regional theatres including Sheffield Theatres.

Ramps on the Moon's show, Our Country's Good

Ramps on the Moon's show, Our Country's Good

The tour of Our Country’s Good, which features the creative use of audio description, BSL and captions, reaches the Crucible next week.

Playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker has taken the extraordinary true story of the convicts and a young officer who rehearse what is recorded as Australia’s first theatrical production as the inspiration for her own imagined version of events.

It was Nottingham Playhouse’s turn to be responsible for this year’s production and Fiona Buffini is their associate director.

“We have full rein to select a play within certain criteria,” she explains. “It should be a known title and Our Country’s Good has been on the syllabus since it was first written. And it’s a much loved play since it was put on at the National Theatre and so from that point of view it is the right choice.

Thematically it absolutely aligns with the Ramps on the Moon ethos

“It also needs to have a large cast and it is a really epic story in an epic historical setting. The convicts and the officers who are guarding them and their struggle not just to survive but to set up a brave new world in Australia and to build a new colony.

“And thematically it absolutely aligns with the Ramps on the Moon ethos. The play is all about giving people who have never had the opportunity to perform or have access to things. It’s about learning to see people as human beings and not labelling them. So it is perfect for Ramps on the Moon.

“The remit is that at least 50% of the cast should be deaf or disabled and I think we are hovering around 60% but as you know many disabilities are invisible,” she continues. “It’s a really integrated cast and it’s diverse in all kinds of ways as well. We have actors who are in their late fifties and we have a young lad who is straight out of drama school. It’s diverse across the board, it’s a really wonderful company.”

Working with an unusually large cast has been another bonus afforded by being part of a consortium. “We wouldn’t be able to produce this kind of work on our own,” she points out. “ It’s not just the cast but we have four BSL interpreters, we’ve had caption consultants in the room, we’ve had audio script consultants in the room so it’s been a big rehearsal room as well.”

Fiona Buffini, director of Our Country's Good

Fiona Buffini, director of Our Country's Good

There were a couple of unforeseen problems, though. “In Our Country’s Good the convicts are putting on a play {The Recruiting Officer} which was written in the 1700s and the language of that is archaic and it is very difficult to translate that into modern sign language. The script of the day to day part of the play is very clear and you can do but the play within a play was a surprise.

The second thing, which I should have realised, is that actors who use BSL as their first language when they are on stage they have to be facing out. We just had to work in a slightly different way to accommodate that.”

The Crucible presents a particular challenge as the only wrap-around auditorium on the tour rather than end-on. But the technical team have already worked out in advance what changes need to be made for each venue.

At the Crucible it’s not as problematic as it sounds and I’m quite pleased at the way it fits into the space,” she says. Our Country’s Good, Crucible, Monday to Saturday.