By Martin Crimp
Directed by Denis Moore
With Verity Charlton, Laura Gordon & Dion Mills
Set Design by Peter Mumford
Lighting by Stelios Karagiannis
The Country (July 13 – Aug 13, 2005) Catherine Lambert, Sunday Herald Sun 24/7/05
The hostility that often simmers below the surface of social pleasantries reaches boiling point in The Country.
Leading UK playwright Martin Crimp is at his taut best. He presents a respectable London couple who have become so mannered in conversation they have lost all ability to communicate.
Questions are answered with questions in this world of self-doubt, anger, frustration and fragility.
All attempts to resist argument and uphold civility are maintained with such steely resolve that niceness becomes a form of aggression.
The actors maintain the tense pace and razor-sharp lines with wonderful alacrity, tempered by profound resentments.
It is often challenging for actors to suppress emotion and Verity Charlton shines at this. Eyes remain downcast in her resolve. She plays Corrine, wronged wife to her doctor husband, Richard (Dion Mills). He has shifted his family to the country to maintain an affair wth an American girl, Rebecca (Laura Gordon).
The English countryside becomes the setting for the spoiling of all naturalness in domestic life.
The veneer of respectability masks a sordid world of drug addiction, infidelity and cruelty.
It is a path that cannot be mended as the cold pleasantness in Corrine’s marriage seeps through to her soul. She not only loses the ability to communicate, she loses all capacity to love.
Red Stitch offers the best fringe theatre in Melbourne and this is yet another fine display of sophisticated writing performed and directed brilliantly.
Helen Thomson, The Age 27/7/2005
This play by acclaimed British playwright Martin Crimp is just what Red Stitch Actors Theatre excels at – a tight, subtle and intimate thriller that irresistibly brings Harold Pinter’s plays to mind. Its setting in the country and theme of attempted but futile escape from urban problems, along with a spare, rhythmic dialogue, also reminds us of Chekhov.
Director Denis Moore with meticulous attention to timing, has produced a series of dialogue from the three actors that resonates in an almost orchestral sense. Each exchange, simple on the surface, is rich with unspoken meanings, unanswered questions and significant gaps, which sustains extraordinary tension.
From the first scene between Corrine (Verity Charlton) and her doctor husband Richard (Dion Mills), a sense of dread is created. Richard has brought home a young woman, Rebecca, (Laura Gordon) he claims to have found unconscious on the road.
A fourth character only known through reported conversations and the telephone, Morris, is Richard’s medical practice partner.
Crimp demonstrates, as he did in Cruel and Tender, which was staged at MTC earlier this year, an absolute mastery of dramatic structure.
Revelations, some of them devastating and sinister, come to light almost accidentally, but accumulate to build up a second version of reality in our imaginations. This is the secret to the successful thriller. The horror is never explicit, but sufficient clues are given to create a sense of the unspoken being where horrors lie. The spoken words become a delicately maintained pattern whose function is disguise.
Corrine, the wronged wife, may appear a victim, but by the last scene it is clear she is complicit in what has gone on, trapped in deceit and guilt.
All are condemned to simulate normality, something that returns us to the first scene in which such strenuous attempts were being made to do exactly that.
Mills is as taut as a bow-string throughout, establishing a character with real desperation fuelling his attempts to stay in control.
As Corrine, Charlton creates an ambiguous response essential to the suspense, while Gordon’s Rebecca exudes reckless danger. Altogether an enjoyably gripping production.