The King’s Head Theatre is quickly becoming my most frequented venue for Fringe Theatre; there is a pub attached to a good sized studio space with comfortable seats. What is not to love? Therefore I was happy to return to Islington to see Savio(u)r’s latest offering at the venue, following a successful season over Christmas. This time the Anglo-American theatre company is presenting the official 75th anniversary production of Thornton Wilders Pulitzer Prize winning play, Our Town. Yippe!
So, a classic American text brought to London with 14 actors from 11 different countries – weird? I guess not, this is fringe and also America has become infinitely more diverse than it was 75 years ago. Basically, you either role with this and enjoy the show or you don’t and spend at least half an hour questioning the accents. I chose the former.
I was unable to attend on press night and having read a couple of initial reviews I am glad as it seems that now, toward the latter end of the run, the cast have really come into their own. I would be lying if I said that there weren’t a couple of weak links in an otherwise unbreakable chain of actors, but this was more than remidied excellent performances from Siu-See Hung as the brattish Rebecca Gibbs, Simon Dobson as the omnicient Stage Manager and the acting powerhouse that is Zoë Swenson-Graham as Emily.
The set was simple yet effective; humble like the plays focal characters. The simplicity allowed for some real stand out scenes, such as the window exchange between Emily and George, who gaze longling at each other from the top of rustic looking ladders. For this and many other fine examples of staging, director Tim Sullivan should be congratulated.
Our Town’s three act structure was perfectly presented into three bite sized chunks that, emotionally speaking, get harder and harder to swallow. Act one is perfectly pleasant escapism into “daily life” in Grover’s Corners which leaves you happily reflecting throughout the first interval. The Second Act, “Love and Marriage” leaves the heart aching slightly as Emily professes “I just want someone to love me forever and ever.” Gah. The Third Act is the real killer (no pun intended!) I won’t give the game away, but it’s called Death and Eternity. This is where Swenson-Graham, complimented by Tamarin McGinley as the deceased Mrs Gibb, really comes into her own and the tears start rolling.
Our Town was originally a microcosm for small town America, whereas in Savio(u)r’s production it becomes clear that “Our Town” may as well be “Our World,” which renders what initially seemed like some very strange casting decisions, completely relevant and poignant. We are expanding, diversifying, living, dying. This is life.
Our Town runs at the King’s Head Theatre from 26th June – 20th July 2013.
For tickets visit www.kingsheadtheatre.org