Review | Our Town

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This review was written for the Londonist

“I regard theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being” — Thornton Wilder in the Paris Review, 1956.

Hear, hear. And it’s simply being human that Wilder’s play Our Town explores, gently ranging across the years 1901 to 1913, describing the very ordinary lives of the residents of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire.

Actor/director David Cromer’s staging of Wilder’s play has just transferred to London after a long and successful run off-Broadway. In America the play is well known and loved; here, not so much. This run at the Almeida will no doubt change that. It’s a funny and poignant piece of theatre — with strong performances from the entire cast — that’s worth your time and money.

Split into three acts, it deals with daily life, love and marriage, and death. There’s no stage and the space between the actors and the audience is fluid. As Wilder intended, there are no props and lots of thin air. And so there’s room for simple words convincingly delivered to conjure up everything from a terrible moon to the scent of heliotrope; words to make you laugh and cry. And there’s also room for a wonderful twist in the staging of the final act that draws a gasp from the audience.

Not much happens in Grover’s Corners but that’s the point. This is real life, circa the early 1900s, and there’s something deliciously cosy about it. Who needs fictional dramas, when life itself — ordinary life not extraordinary life — is enough of a story in itself.

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