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Review of Our Town by Thorton Wilder performed by The Masque Theatre at The Holy Sepulchre, Northampton

Our Town by Thornton Wilder is a very different play from any other I have seen to date. It is also
for me a very good play and its nice to know those Pulitzer Prize folk did as well, as they gave it the award for drama in 1938. The play centres around the inhabitants of an average New Hampshire town at the start of the 20th century. Their simple lives and indeed many of their untimely deaths.

We are introduced to the play by the stage manager (Ian Spiby), who remains very much a character throughout the whole performance. He gives us a comprehensive tour of the town, pointing out various landmarks, shops and houses, as well as some scenery (I was thankful there were no questions after), and yes I am happy for some scenery. He introduces us to the residents one by one, starting with Mrs Gibbs (April Pardoe) and Mrs Webb (Beverley Webster). It is an inventive approach and makes for an absorbingly interesting play.

The set is a very simple affair; a few chairs and a couple of tables (some benches later on), and the cast work hard with miming out the everyday actions and locations of the village. We have characters opening and shutting doors, climbing over fences and feeding chickens and mowing lawns. It is very different, but also works well.

The large cast features many excellent performance, not least Charlie Clee as George Gibbs and Rebecca Allen as Emily Webb. Their portrayals are a simple delight, portraying the burgeoning romance with shyness and obvious fondness. Clee and Allen work really well together and make the show for me. The rest of the cast are generally equally great, of the lesser parts I particularly liked Jof Davies' drunk choir master Simon Stimson's and his quite sublime backward leaning stagger, his character later in the third act was also superbly contrasted into a sombre, regretful air. Also as default I shall mention Lisa Shepherd, who once again for me in her teeny tiny role was great, especially during that disgraceful talking during the ceremony. Super fun once again.

It was interesting to hear during the interval that a few people were put off and struggling to hear a little from the American accents. Its true that I have had a little trouble myself with heavy accents in the last year (don't mention Cat On A Hot Tin Roof!). However during this, I didn't actually have much trouble. They were generally good, although a few moved in and out a touch. There was just one person that I am afraid I did lose quite completely on occasions (I shall not share here as this is an amateur performance after all, but if any cast or crew member wishes to contact me, I am happy to share), but they didn't have many lines so no real harm done. Accents are tricky things, but on this occasion, I personally applaud the efforts.

Director John Myhill uses the unusual round of the Holy Sepulchre well including the most perfect prop of the font. There is also never too much of a dominance of the performance facing one direction too much, which is always a danger of a performance in a round. Overall, this really worked for me. It is not only an excellently inventive play, but also once again benefits from a hugely spirited performance from this glorious bunch of "amateurs". Dedication sure does payoff when it comes to Masque Theatre. I loved it and shall hopefully go again later in the week.


Performance reviewed: 7th April, 2015 at the Holy Sepulchre, Northampton. 

Our Town is performed by the Masque Theatre and runs until Saturday 11th April, 2015 at the Holy Sepulchre, Northampton.

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