Regent's Park Theatre (venue)
24 May 2019 (released)
24 May 2019
What do you notice of your normal daily life at the time you are living it? And yet how much would you recall and yearn to live again when you’re no longer present? These are amongst the questions we are invited to consider whilst watching the three acts of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Our Town.
The ‘Stage Manager’, ably played by Laura Rogers, stops scenes to jump to critical points and provides narration – telling us at the outset the destiny of some of the key characters. It’s no spoiler to say we all die in the end.
But even with the full awareness of that fact, we drift through our lives, filling them with ‘busyness’, as do the fictional townspeople of Grover’s Corner in New Hampshire: beans to destring by hand, milk to be delivered by horse, church to be attended, meals to be cooked, houses to be cleaned, gardens and menfolk and children to be tended.
We stare at the characters on their plain set of an empty theatre, and they stare back at us. The actors appear in their own drab clothes, with – at first – minimal props. They mime the activities of daily life, a life where time is marked by school bells and steam train whistles. Nothing stands out. The visual palette is so limited that at one point the appearance of a pair of luscious whipped cream and cherry-topped strawberry ice cream sundaes upstages the action around it. But this is deliberate in Rosie Elnile’s clever stage design which illuminates the play’s ideas – only what is noticed by the characters is colourful and real. The baseball and baseball jacket of the school’s star player George Gibbs, in a superb performance by Arthur Hughes. The wedding dress of heartwarming Emily Webb (Francesca Henry) and the clouds of colourful confetti. It is only at the end of the play, when it is too late to be enjoyed without pain that we glimpse what it is to live with active awareness.
In the magical setting of the Regent’s Park Open Air theatre, Ellen McDougal’s revival of Our Town is an understated gem.
Until 8 June.