Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Our Town

In the fifteen years or so that I have subscribed to the Sydney Theatre Company only once have I arrived at the theatre to find a performance had been cancelled. Otherwise performances have proceeded and done so promptly or at the least within minutes of the scheduled time.

Tonight a performance was delayed by half an hour for circumstances beyond 'our' control, according to the announcement. Who 'our' is was not explained. What happened? Had a performer been delayed in traffic? Or thrown a hissy fit and refused to perform? Or...hope springs eternal...been caught 'in flagrante delicto'? Well, we never found out because the 'circumstances' were never revealed.

For years now I have seen American movies in which a High School has been said to be performing Thornton Wilder's 'Our Town'. I had begun to wonder whether this play was not real but simply a device to denote a play in the same way that American movies use the telephone prefix 555 so as not to inadvertantly advertise an actual telephone number to the world in general.

So it was with interest that I came to the Sydney Theatre Company's production of 'Our Town'. I must not have been alone in my interest as amongst the audience tonight were the famous wife of an even more famous Prime Minister, the state's controversial Director of Public Prosecutions and a number of other lumineries.

'Our Town' is a play in three acts, set in the early years of the 20th century in a small fictional regional town, Grover's Corners, a sort of every town where life is simple, familiar and unthreatening. The first act introduces the town and it's folk, the second act covers love and marriage and the final act moves to death and regret. It is easy to see why this play would be a favourite of schools if only because the staging is so simple. No set to speak of, with the actors miming the objects that they use.

It took me a while to settle into this style and once I did I found the first act interesting and amusing. The second act was very amusing but the final act - 'the message act' - I found fairly dour. Basically the message seemed to be 'enjoy life whilst you can'.

The most impressive aspect of this production was the beautiful use and timing of sound effects. It reminded me of my pre-teen days when my parents took me to see several radio plays performed and I marvelled at how the sounds I had always assumed to be real were actually created.

1 comment:

  1. Our Town is considered a classic of American theater, I believe. Most of us had to read it in high school, and, as you observed, many schools actually perform it. I think part of the appeal of the play is the small town America feel that it evokes, something that has pretty much faded into myth.