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Theatre Review: Country Music @ Omnibus Theatre

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A play in which one actor transforms from an 18-year-old boy to a 38-age-year old man takes one hell of a performer.

But Cary Crankson, playing Jamie in Simon Stephens “Country Music”, manages to transition through these different stages of a man’s life with ease and commitment, building the foundation of this dark story of wasted human life.

Image courtesy of Country Music

When the play starts Jamie is a troubled teenager who has stolen a car, picked up his girlfriend (Rebecca Stone) and is planning an unrealistic escape to Southend, after having committed a crime. Teenage Jamie at first glance comes across as violent and a bit manic, but as the plays moves along Crankson develops his character both in age and energy, until the audience starts empathising with this unfortunate human being. 

Dario Coates plays Jaimie’s little brother, Matty, as he visits a now 28-year-old Jamie in prison. The scene between the two brothers is loaded with unspoken emotions, and though it is difficult to believe Coates's version of Matty as being from the same background as Cary Crankson's Jamie, their connection is so real that it stops mattering.

We meet Jaimie’s daughter Emma (Frances Knight) 20 years after the play’s beginning. Knight battles anger and intrigue of meeting her long-absent father under a calm surface, not willing to let Jamie, her father, know what she is feeling. This seems befitting of a teenage girl in such a situation.

Image courtesy of Country Music

Though the play handles its emotional moments well, it sometimes lacks a bit of speed, especially in the scene changes. As the dialogue is driven by their silences, the scene changes need to feel smoother, with Jamie changing his clothes on stage. The idea fits perfectly in the first scene change, where Jamie goes from being free to being a prisoner: here it feels very fitting. But after that, it becomes a bit repetitive and loses its effect. But it’s a small thing, from an otherwise very strong and smooth production.

Scott Le Crass has directed this bravely and efficiently, with long pauses that let the silences tell the story, giving a portrait of a boy from a rough background who doesn’t get the chance to turn his life around until he is a grown man. The play leaves us wondering what will happen to Jamie now, and the characters stay with you after the fact, which takes great acting and storytelling.

The play is running at the Omnibus Theatre until 23rd June, and tickets can be purchased here.




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