Preview: Old Town at the King’s Head Theatre, Islington
- Credit: Archant
The American playwright Thornton Wilder’s most celebrated play has been gracing US stages every night since it was first brought to audiences 75 years ago.
But Old Town, which was pioneering in its time for recounting the story of an average town’s citizens without any props or set, is little known and rarely performed this side of the pond.
That’s now set to change as a theatre company has created its own version of the play and is bringing it to audiences at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington with the backing of the Thornton Wilder estate.
Savio(u)r, which dubs itself “Britain’s American Theatre Company”, resurrected the play on UK shores in October for the first time in 20 years at The Last Refuge in Peckham Rye, south-east London.
It was a powerful adaptation which drew the attention of bosses at the King’s Head, and of the head agent of the Wilder estate, which has made it the official UK play to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winner.
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Boston-born Tim Sullivan, artistic director of Savio(u)r, which performed two other Wilder plays at the King’s Head in December as a prelude to Old Town, said: “The company is dedicated to uniting British and American actors and directors here in London. And Our Town is known as the classic American play but actors here just aren’t that familiar with it.
“So we thought it was a good opportunity to bring it to audiences here. It hadn’t been seen here for 20 years, which is incredible as growing up in the US it’s one of those things everyone has to read in high school – everyone knows it, it’s always on somewhere.”
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The three-act play is set in the fictional small American town of Grover’s Corners but this latest production takes on a new city.
Sullivan, a London resident for five years, said: “I think everyone who approaches Old Town has to bring their own town to it, and that meant London to me.
“What excites me about this city is that people from all over the world come here and we really wanted the production to replicate that.
“We’ve got 14 actors from 11 different countries from across the globe – it speaks to everyone no matter what town you’re from.”
Sullivan, 28, adds: “What was great about Old Town is that it originally didn’t have a lot of set or scenery, as it would have been overwhelming.
“We couldn’t be more excited about this play, the King’s Head has an incredible reputation and the audiences there are fantastic.”
Our Town is at the Upper Street venue from Tuesdays to Sundays until July 20.
n For more details or to book tickets, priced £10 to £25, visit www.kingsheadtheatre.co.uk or call 020 7478 0160.