AT THE THEATRE
Edinburgh Fringe 2018: Our Country @ Summerhall
This ambitious two-hander play is set in California’s marijuana country - a kind of “new frontier of opportunity” for those attempting to grow and sell the weed for medicinal purposes. Annie (Annie Saunders) conducts a long distance conversation with her brother Ray (Max Hersey), the latter of whom has landed himself in legal trouble. The rest of the play flashes back to moments through their younger life which reveal how their once close relationship deteriorated.
This production begins outside of the room where it is staged, as actor Hersey interviews each person in the queue, asking them about any experiences that they remember with their own siblings and taking audio recordings of their responses. It effectively sets the scene, establishing an explicit emotional connection between the audience members and the content of the play itself. The production’s inventiveness continues throughout as we are treated to a childlike silhouette finger gunfight and a set change via a huge patchwork tent being opened right over the audience’s heads. The audio interview motif is also cleverly woven into the whole.
Childhood nostalgia and pain is also interwoven with the Ancient Greek Antigone legend (Annie sound a bit like an abbreviation of Antigone) as well as the Wild West as portrayed in all of those old movies. It’s an elaborate and layered work which would be commendable even if its only merits were on a technical level. Luckily, it has plenty of heart as well, courtesy of actors Saunders and Hershey as well as the vivid, incident-filled script. There’s a real sense of both passion and stubbornness in their performances, making the tensions between them seem all too believable. Their sparring is amusingly playful during the early stages but becomes more aggressive and violently physical as the story goes on, ultimately taking on a sad, semi-tragic air.
It’s a fine, evocative portrait of that inevitable struggle between a long-developed sibling bond and long-fermenting differences in perspective, personalities and moral viewpoints. At the end of the day, one of the two dynamics has to win out over the other.
Watch a video:
Tickets are available from the following link: