Review: Our Town, King’s Head Theatre, N1

Our Town is at the King's Head until July 20.

Our Town is at the King's Head until July 20. - Credit: Archant

The 75th anniversary production of Thornton Wilder’s highly acclaimed and Pulitzer prize-winning play is airing at the King’s Head. We are told that it is the most often produced play – after Shakespeare. This three-act play is unusual in style and somewhat tricky to get into. But once it takes hold, it is well worth while.

Beginning in 1901, it involves ordinary people living out their lives in a fictional small town – Grover’s Corners in Massachusetts. Very much a small town story – 9.30pm and all the lights are out!

From the start, the Stage Manager as narrator, played by Simon Dobson, breaks down the fourth wall and addresses the audience directly in a manner rarely seen in 1938 except in a music hall. This does not apply to the characters who carry on their roles regardless, without props or scenery, miming all the actions. Dobson makes no attempt to reproduce the accent of the original but uses his native dialect.

This is true of the entire cast who come from every continent on the planet and use their own natural voices. Small towns exist everywhere in the world!

Two families form the main characters, with special emphasis on the two teenagers – George Gibbs and Emily Webb. It is their relationship that forms the whole of Act Two. The young lovers are played with heartbreaking charm and a kind of ecstasy by Zoë Swenson-Graham and Stewart Clegg. There is also a recognisable scene between Emily and Mrs Webb (Rita Walters), with the girl asking if she is pretty and her mother evading the issue.

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Giovanni Bienne as Simon Stimson, the scandalous alcoholic choirmaster who bullies his choir, is one of the comedy highlights of the evening.

Fourteen actors play around 30 characters and there are so many charming and insightful scenes that apply to mankind in general and even a touch of fantasy towards the end.

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This production is beautifully acted and excellently directed by Tim Sullivan. It is a play everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

Until July 20.

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