Theatre Review: Black Swan's "Our Town" is "a celebration of universal truths"
A new Black Swan Theatre Company season is always something to be excited about, and Our Town sets the stage marvellously for the year ahead. Director Clare Watson and a fantastic cast and crew have brought a unique touch to one of the most performed plays in the English language.
A bit about the play. Our Town was first performed in 1938 to huge acclaim, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; one of three Pulitzer Prizes Thornton Wilder would win in his lifetime for his plays and novels. The play takes place in a small town in New Hampshire, USA, between the years 1901 and 1913. It explores the everyday lives of its residents, aptly illustrating how wondrous and dramatic everybody’s lives really are. It also utilises metatheatrical elements- there is no pretence of reality, you are always made aware that you are watching a play. The story centres on the blossoming romance of young lovers Emily and George across three acts, building to a powerful finale.
(photos by Daniel J Grant)
So, what is unique about Black Swan’s adaptation? Notably, almost every role in the production is played by someone whose real-life job corresponds with their character’s. For example, you may see professors’ Dr. Anne Aly MP, Prof. Dawn Freshwater, Ian Grandage, Paul Johnson, or Duncan Ord OAM take on the role of Professor Willard, and Dr. Jonathan Carapetis or Dr. Tajinderpal Singh as Dr Gibbs. Just as important and not to be forgotten are Uber Eats deliverers Robert Jackson or Kevin Nguyen as milkman Howie Newsome. This is just a handful of the community members taking stage, each adding a vital flare production. None of these names are career actors, but you would never tell (at least from the cast I saw). Granted, they may not slide as 1901 Grover's Corners residents, but the sense of real life community spirit is inimitable and palpable.
Beyond this unique approach, there are so many reasons you should definitely buy a ticket. Abbie-lee Lewis and Ian Michael excel as Emily and George respectively, playing their characters with such heart your heart will melt. Clare Watson’s vision shines through in this one; you can tell those involved were under the guidance of a brilliant leader. From wholesomeness to tragedy, Our Town has it all in spades. Across three acts, you will laugh, cry and fall in love- just like you will all throughout life. Our Town is a celebration of universal truths, and I don’t think I have ever witnessed a production as life affirming as this.