Star rating - 6/10
This Australian convict ship drama has an interesting plot, as it has a play within a play theme, and preaches the redemptive power of theatre - which I wholeheartedly agreed with. It is the creation of Out of Joints theatre company, and directed by Max Stafford-Clark.
The very small, and (it has got to be said) overheated confines of the Octagon Theatre stage in Bolton was certainly a challenge for the small ensemble cast, who each play about three different roles. Lieutenant Ralph Clarke has the brave and bright idea of trying to introduce a bit of culture into the not otherwise obviously enriched lives of the prisoners. Dominic Thorburn is great as the enlightened officer, who can't help but fall for one of the cast amidst all the dramatic tension. Amusing arguments ensue over who will play which part, and if they actors can be kept from the hangman's noose long enough to see out the performance at all.
However, some of characters seemed slightly stereotypical, and not fleshed out enough within the constraints of the action to illicit the sympathy the story seemed to be asking for. There were scene and costume changes galore, which were admirably done. After a bit of a slow start, it was very funny in places, but despite the good acting, I came away with more than a hint of the feeling of am dram, which is never a great thing.