08 June 2019 (released)
08 June 2019
This June, Simon Stephens’ 2004 play, Country Music, is revived under director Scott Le Crass’ patient stewardship at the Omnibus Theatre.
The story follows Jamie, an 18-year-old working class lad from Gravesend who commits a crime that will send ripples reaching far and wide into the next 20 years of his life.
The play gives us a glimpse of Jamie at three waypoints on his journey from initial crime, to punishment, to partial redemption. Each mini-act is brought to life in a simply staged yet intricately woven two-hander; first with his childhood sweetheart Lynsey in the car Jamie has just stolen, then with younger brother Matty who visits him in jail, and lastly in a bedsit in Sunderland as Jamie tries to rebuild a relationship with his estranged daughter, Emma.
The play is well acted across the board but Cary Crankson is utterly beguiling in the lead role. I found myself transfixed by his transformation from the volatile teen we see at the play’s beginning into the mournful ex-con we meet 20 years later; struggling to reconnect with his daughter like a man trying to converse in an alien language. It’s rare to witness a performance of such depth that it can make you root for and revile the same character, practically in the same moment.
Le Crass does the script a great service, using long silences to exploit the heightened tension that an intimate venue offers, and thereby giving his actors the chance to express without dialogue that which words alone never could.
At times I found myself having to work a little too hard to piece together what had happened in the interluding years of Jamie’s life - no doubt a symptom of the play’s restricted format coupled with a heavy reliance on exposition through dialogue. But all the keys plot points seemed to land and running at just 75 minutes, one can’t help but admire the achievement of a play that communicates so much in so little time.