- Gareth K Vile
- 24 August 2018
Guns and weed and responsibility
Our Country is an ambitious journey into the new wild west created by the complex legal status of marijuana farming. Since it is now accepted for medical purposes, there is an industry, but the legal status of the farmers is open to debate, in a hinterland where the law is corrupt and carrying a gun is a symbol of self-assertion. A sister is asked to be a character witness for her brother, a man who sees violence as intrinsic to self-respect, and their conversations open a debate about whether the USA might just have to accept that its history is a tragedy.
Based on autobiographical detail, Our Country has a unique dramaturgy that encloses the audience within a massive blanket fort, echoing both childhood games and the cave of Antigone – the tragedy that provides many of the allusions – and lends a claustrophobia to the sibling arguments. The script wanders across westerns, recorded conversations, fragments of Antigone and movies, focussing on the brother's insistence that while he may have done illegal things, he is not a criminal. The sister, meanwhile, revisits the trauma of her teenage years, and the trauma of being taken away from home and placed into the care of organisations that would later be revealed as negligent. The scars of childhood and the pressures of contemporary life merge into a tentative recognition of the fundamental anguish of the American dream.
The narrative wanders at times and the substance is sometimes lost in the arguments: the ethical debates are frequently confused by the mention of a specific childhood argument, and the personal and the abstract fold in and reflect each other. It's difficult theatre, unwilling to follow a formula and constantly shifting emphasis and perspective, yet its refusal to offer answers and draw together conflicting ideas is an admirable first draft at sketching the ache of the North American psyche.
Summerhall, until 26 Aug, 5.15pm, £15 (£12)