Metatheatrical Possibilities in a Re-Consideration of Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good
A discussion of metatheatre in Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good illuminates interpretive possibilities beyond the scope of its original British contexts. Though not conceived in Australia, the play was first performed in the Australian Bicentennial year and was based upon Australian author Thomas Keneally’s The Playmaker (1987), a novel about the first British colonial theatre production in Sydney. Our Country’s Good boasts an extensive, international, production history. It has assumed canonical status in the UK where it was first staged under the direction of Max Stafford-Clark at the Royal Court and is now taught regularly in British secondary schools (Bush 2013: 118-19). Due to its thematic relevance to Australian postcolonial history, this work also occupies a place in Australian theatre that, while recognised, has been little examined. Despite wide recognition of its Australian origins in Keneally’s novel, reception of the play has been guided by the multiple contexts – theatrical/industrial, political and social – of its first production in Britain. Despite Sara Soncini’s recognition of the usefulness of metatheatre to the play’s critical discourse (1999), the question of how metatheatre relates to the play’s Australian elements remains largely under examined. This discussion of Our Country’s Good repositions it within the context of Australian drama. By offering a closer examination of metatheatrical strategies in Our Country’s Good, including in the play’s Australian productions, the article demonstrates how metatheatre contributes to the work’s distinctively Australian cultural value. In particular, it argues that the role described in the dramatis personae as the “Aboriginal” can be understood as one of the play’s metatheatrical interventions. A more thorough understanding of this role as metatheatrical is vital to a full realisation of the play’s critical capacities.
Keywords: metatheatre; Timberlake Wertenbaker; Our Country’s Good; Australian theatre
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