It is fitting that the backdrop for Black State Swan Theatre Company’s Our Town is the actual city of Perth itself. While the narrative of the play follows the lives of characters peppering a US fictional town – Grover’s Corners – the dynamics between its characters and the situations each finds his or herself in is vastly universal.
Instead of hiring professional actors, a teacher is actually played by a teacher, a newspaper editor by a newspaper editor, a doctor by a real doctor, and even an undertaker by an actual undertaker.
Our Town is so relatable, in fact, that amid all of the goings-on between Fringe and Perth Festivals, the season has still managed to sell out.
But if you think the storyline is relatable, if not at times commonplace, you’ll be gobsmacked by the tactic producers have adopted to make this play really stand out.
Here, instead of hiring professional actors, a teacher is actually played by a teacher, a newspaper editor by a newspaper editor, a doctor by a real doctor, and even an undertaker by an actual undertaker.
Ironically – and perhaps not so surprisingly – each individual actually comes across as more authentic than any professional actor might. The audience, meanwhile, is each wearing a pair of headphones, sensing as though they are in the actual rooms with these characters; a fly on the wall in their domestic but chaotic worlds.
Written by Thornton Wilder, Our Town has won a Pulitzer prize, and deservedly so. It covers many aspects that everyday folk have to go through to cope in an ever-increasingly maddening world. And while it may be set in a fictional small town, the ups and downs in emotion and situation of individuals and families ring as true as any story about a cat on a hot tin roof or an angel in America.
What one might critique about this particular production is that it doesn’t include references to our very own city, instead everything from location to accent is firmly stuck in the heart of America. This is par for the course when theatre is franchised – for want of a better term. Basically, what they’ve seen on Broadway, we are subjected to seeing here.
Still it’s a great play, but unfortunately, due to its current season being sold out, you may not get to witness this innovative brand of citizen thespianism. But do bookmark it if it ever appears on festival programs again. ★★★1/2
‘Our Town’ is on until February 23, 2019.
For more information on Black Swan State Theatre Company productions visit www.bsstc.com.au.