Country Music - a ★★★★ act of atonement

☆★★★★ Country Music 

Cary Crankson
It was interesting to overhear so many conversations after the performance of Simon Stephen’s 2004 play, Country Music, discussing the timeframe of the piece. Captivatingly the action takes place over twenty years, and we are quickly drawn into a series of events which define the present, impact on our development and ultimately define the future.

Dario Coates and Cary Crankson
Set in Gravesend in 1983, we know that Jamie has committed a crime but without really being told too many details. Over the period, we see how the event has impacted on his life, his time in prison, his family and those closest to him. The story warrants a spoiler-alert but rest assured I will not be revealing the plot twists. And many will keep you fascinated until the final denouement. 

Cary Crankson and Rebecca Stone
Written by Simon Stephens, whose work includes the multi-award-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Country Music is neatly constructed, and slowly and cunningly draws you into feeling great empathy and sympathy for the ruffian that is Jamie. Without doubt praise for this smart multi-layered performance must go to Cary Crankson, who managed to portray the various aged snapshots throughout the story and the undoubted impact of time and relevant experience on life’s outcomes. This is unquestionably a highly-nuanced, delicate, absorbing and fascinating performance.  

Cary Crankson and Frances Knight
The ensemble deserves praise too, each forming and telling an integral part of Jamie’s story. Rebecca Stone as Lynsey is excellent as his long-term and long-suffering girlfriend of many years. She gives a performance that is captivating, irresistible and heartfelt, yet she is undoubtedly one seriously tough operator. Dario Coates as Matty, Jamie’s younger brother, plays the part with a confused strength and terrified vulnerability as he deals with his clearly psychopathic brother. Frances Knight as Emma portrays the tension, confusion and fear inherent in a seventeen-year-old in an invidious yet fascinating predicament. All are compulsive to watch and elicit conflicted emotions from the audience as the layers of Jamie’s story are peeled away.  

Scott Le Crass expertly directs with incredible pace and sharpness, yet with a filmic tension that beautifully suits the clipped apprehension and anxiety inherent in the narrative. This is decidedly a fascinating and, at times, genuinely menacing and uncomfortable piece of writing but where redemption, atonement and hope must spring eternal. 

Country Music plays at the Omnibus Theatre, Clapham until 23 June 2019
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