NANCY NAPPER CANTER makes a harrowing trip to The Country.
Corpus Playroom, 28th February – 3rd March, 9.30pm, £5-6
Directed by Oliver O’Shea
Affluent urbanites Richard and Corinne move en famille to the countryside. Think bucolic bliss: rolling hills, bees, and a beautiful country house. So far, so façade. Because in the country, there may be meadows, but there are also ditches. And in one ditch, lies Rebecca (Deli Segal), an unconscious drug abuser. (Or so Richard suggests.) The pastoral idyll has run amok.
Hellie Cranney as Corinne gave a compelling performance. Of the three, Corinne had the best claim to the audience’s empathy, her unsettledness seeping over into the audience. Corinne is right to question Richard’s supposedly innocent rescuing of Rebecca. But Cranney’s performance was subtle. Playing the suspicious wife, she communicated not only mistrust, but also – essentially – love. The Corinne who demands answers and the Corinne who demands kisses were both credible.
Photographs by David Ponting
George Johnston’s edgy Richard also worked well. His unpleasant condescension towards the two women contrasted in a dichotomy with his twitchy and short of breath on the phone to his boss. Johnston emphasized Richard’s nervous paranoia, hinting nicely at a personality prone to the addictions behind the whole mess. In an overwhelmingly serious play, Johnston was, however, at his best when bringing out moments of levity. His vexed explanation of ‘shower noise’ finally provoked laughter, where before there had been only a smattering of snorts from the audience.
But Deli Segal was the real highlight of the evening. Her portrayal of the sententious, pretentious arts student Rebecca was as captivating as it was repellent. Segal not only had a flawless American accent, but had a real essential tang of Americanness about her. She embodied perfectly the American confidence that makes Rebecca so threatening. In the place of a laugh, Rebecca’s self-satisfied giggle was uncomfortably disarming. It formed part of a girlish faux-naivety that, chipping away at Corinne’s security, was particularly sinister. Her scenes were cruelly brilliant.
Though acting was strong, the production was let down by the technical side of things. The set was disappointing. It is important that the house (which is, in fact, a granary: nothing is as it seems in The Country) is beautiful. If Richard can afford to tip Sophie, their childminder, so generously that it frightens her, he definitely has money to throw about on some decent furniture. The Playroom just looked a bit shabby – nothing a rug couldn’t have solved.
The Country is a clever play. It is an unsparing portrait of middle-class anxiety, full of biting ironies. Tense and insidious, with relentlessly circuitous dialogue, it is not an enjoyable play. O’Shea’s production is well-acted and thought-provoking. You’ll be on a grim ride, but a trip to The Country is thoroughly recommended.