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Our Town

Published October 20, 2014

What’s it all about?

Life, but isn’t all theatre?

More specifically, the gentle-paced life of a tiny rural American town – the kind where everyone knows what everyone else had for breakfast or said to the vicar last Sunday – over the course of a decade; the minutiae of daily life, the balance of relationships and the fleeting moments of unrecognised pleasure that pass us by.

Who’s in it?

Director David Cromer, who first staged this acclaimed production off-Broadway five years ago, leads the UK cast as the Stage Manager.

Though that may be his character’s title, he’s really rather more omnipotent narrator than SM. With a dryness and warmth usually reserved for cactus-growing camel habitats he welcomes the audience to his home, deftly describing all from awe-inspiring sunrises and picturesque mountains to the precise placement of local stores, adding comment and colour to the lives of the characters.

An impressive ensemble plays the varied townspeople, with little more to aid their performances than a few tables and chairs. Laura Elsworthy stands out as the teenage Emily Webb, forthright in her views, confident in her abilities but unsure of her looks.

What should I look out for?

London’s most casual ‘Turn your phones off’ announcement.

Thornton Wilder’s Act II wedding day, riven with awkwardness, panic, fear and love.

The powerful moment in Act III when the proverbial penny drops about what lays before you. And, once you’ve recovered from that, the stunning second lurching moment that near smacks you in the face shouting ‘Wake up and pay attention’.

In a nutshell?

While everything and nothing changes in Wilder’s American classic, Cromer’s outstanding production could genuinely be life-changing. It certainly feels that way. How long that feeling lasts is up to you.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@MJManley1971 Congratulations @AlmeidaTheatre – #OurTown is wonderful! The third act is genius. I’ll be thinking about that for days!

@GrantMGillespie Congratulations to @AlmeidaTheatre @AndyBCasting and the entire cast of #OurTown. Theatre will never feel the same again. Simply brilliant.

Will I like it?

Don’t let the chummy narrator and endearing characters with their gentle lives fool you, Our Town is full of challenges for the audience. From the style of the production – minimal set and interrupting MC are not for everyone – to the moral running through the show that you are thumped with at the denouement, it makes you work and think. But what a pleasure it is to be asked to do so by a show so paradoxically simple and complex, unassuming and philosophical.

Our Town runs at the Almeida Theatre until 29 November. You can book tickets through the venue’s website.

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