Trav­el­ling back to 20th cen­tury Hamp­shire life

Rochdale Observer - - WHAT’S ON WITH ALL ACROSS THE ARTS - Steve@aata.me

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

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