Camden Fringe 2011
Sporting spectacular performances from its renowned cast members, Country Life represents the world of blackmail and murder, giving this creation a strange Mafia like feel.
Barbara and Jim have not seen each other since their childhood days and when they meet up again in their old age, they reminisce about the time gone by. Their conversation is soon interrupted by Barbara’s nosy neighbour, Kenneth who takes an instant dislike for Jim. Soon it’s a race against time to discover who will win Barbara’s heart, who is not such an innocent, graceful lady herself. But, why have they come together, only towards the end of their lives?
The style of the dialogue in Country Life mimics the traditional conversational style of the British older generation although the content gladly chooses deviates from common habit. The themes explored throughout the performance include sibling rivalry and favouritism between Barbara and her sister, who both fought for the love of their parents with only one succeeding. Murder has been a common occurrence for the one unexpected individual and so the killings are definitely not going to stop now, even in old age. Romance is clearly not dead, as throughout the play, the love for our leading female intensifies between our two leading, but very different male characters. There is a very female focus throughout the play with Barbara’s mother still pulling the strings in her old age, the adoration of Barbara by the old men, Kenneth failing to move on after the loss of his wife and Jim, just getting over the death of one of his female lovers.
Loss is deal with differently in the play by these main characters whether it is through the emotions of anger, revenge or happiness. Whilst showcasing these diverse, yet delightful themes in the performance, Briffa also does well to create characters that have different characteristics but all have one thing in common. The stage, thorough being designed as a garden patio, provided the perfect backdrop for this story where two individuals are sitting in their picturesque back garden enjoying some cake and a nice spot of tea. However, this backdrop is only suitable for the beginning of the play although there is no change of set design when the content and dialogue in the play changes.
The later harsh dialogue against the natural beauty of the garden successfullyl indicates to the audience that all is not always as it seems and adds to the overall feel of the play. In addition, Briffa has to be commended for his casting, actors who conveyed different acting styles throughout the performance whether it was melodramatic, realistic or the very physical performance between Kenneth and Jim. The sound design at the beginning depicts beautifully the peaceful, outdoor feel of the garden and later on, the music used separates the play cleverly into different sections, each different tone signifying a change in content, dialogue or acting style.
The play got more enjoyable as it went on and the language used by the characters was not a barrier to the audience overall understanding of the performance. Country Life does not have to be dull and life does not end at old age. This is where the fun starts…