Travelling back to 20th century Hampshire life
ROCHDALE Council Chambers were packed as Our Town came to our town.
The Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of the play Our Town premiered way back on Broadway in 1938 and had been specially adapted to be performed in this unique setting.
The audience was fully representative of our diverse community with many young people experiencing their first live theatre.
The play, by Thornton Wilder, was written in the 1930s, in the middle of the Great Depression, looking back to smalltown rural life at the turn of the century. It is in no way nostalgic and deals with issues that resonate in our communities today. The cast, with no props or scenery, without the usual lighting or sound, transformed the council chambers into rural New Hampshire in the early years of the 20th century.
Actors such as Graeme Hawley, known for his roles in Coronation Street, Benidorm and Peaky Blinders, and Carla Henry, of Moving On, Scott and Bailey and Queer as Folk, demonstrated the art of acting at the highest level.
Members of the audience were enthralled and engaged throughout the two acts and all returned after the intermission after more than 100 minutes of the first act. The performance was introduced by Royal Exchange Theatre executive director Mark Dobson, who I caught up with after the performance to discover how Our Town had come to be in our town.
He said: “The Royal Exchange Theatre works regularly across Greater Manchester all year round.
“Alongside on-stage productions, our work also takes place in schools and communities throughout the region and we’re proud that we are able to do this with funding and support from the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities.
“We are always trying to do more, be more creative and do things differently. At the moment, and with thanks to Paul Hamlyn’s Test and Explore funding stream, we are looking at how our theatre might become resident in parts of Greater Manchester and what new and rich relationships might develop – we are beginning this work in Rochdale.
“We are going to try out some bold things, this unique production of Our Town, our current mainstage show, here in Rochdale in the beautiful council chamber, is one of them. We were thrilled by the welcome and the reception to the show and the support we have received from Rochdale council and look forward to more exciting projects in the future.’
●●A scene from Our Town