Lyttelton Arts Factory, Lyttelton

18/01/2019 - 26/01/2019

Production Details

Written by Thornton Wilder

Lyttelton Arts Factory

One Play. Your History. An Eternal Story.

“Choose the least important day of your life. It will be important enough” – Thornton Wilder

This summer Lyttelton Arts Factory brings you a brand new production of OUR TOWN- Thornton Wilder’s life-affirming, iconic play- with a twist! Our Town is Lyttelton, NZ.

Our Town follows the daily lives of young lovers Emily and George; their families and the close community that surrounds them. With them we witness love, life, death and everything in-between.

With a 21-strong cast, ranging in age from 7 to 70, headed up by Tom Trevella and featuring a haunting soundtrack written and performed by violinist Anita Clark, (Motte, Devilish Mary and the Holy Rollers), this bold and imaginative take on a true classic is a powerful evening of theatre not to be missed.

Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer prize winning play became America’s most produced play with over 4000 productions in the last decade alone and for him, ‘our town’ means ‘any’ town- but LAF’s bespoke retelling set within our busy port town in the midst of social unrest and industrial change brings this moving story a lot closer to home.

This universal tale about what it means to be human is as relevant, entertaining and stirring today as it ever has been.

LAF’s Creative Director Mike Friend explains “Everyone has a town they call their own. Everyone lives, falls in love. Some have families. We all die.”

But Friend insists, “This play had to be adapted to be about our town. Not someone else’s town. So Peter Llewellyn and I have set it at the beginning of 20th century in Lyttelton. We hope this adaptation captures the beginnings of Lyttelton and its occupants”.

Ullyart, independent actor and theatre maker from the UK, is returning to LAF through their artist exchange programme with East Riding Theatre to co-direct Our Town alongside Friend. She says, “I’m excited to be co-directing this wonderful play. It is a project close to my heart and a choice of drama very much tailored to Lyttelton with a true universal message which I believe everyone can relate to. It’s about people, community, life itself- then, now, forever.”

East Riding Theatre’s manager Sue Kirkman explains “ERT’s connections with LAF provide UK artists with opportunities to showcase ERT’s work on an international platform whilst productions taking place at LAF offer local artists to new perspectives and opportunities for professional development.”

Ullyart who you may have seen performing in LAF’s The Butler Dresses Again (Jan 2018) or her critically acclaimed solo play The Ballad of Paragon Station (April 2018) said one of the main draws of returning to Christchurch is in working with such a large, local community cast.

“During my time spent working with and witnessing the work produced at LAF I was hugely impressed by the rich pool of talent so apparent in this part of the world – kids and adults alike. There is such a rich sense of place and community here – if we can capture even just a little of that on our stage we’re onto a winner. It was important to me to represent the unique musical talent of the area also so I am delighted to have Anita on board. It’s going to be very special.”

While Ullyart will develop her directorial skills alongside Friend, the cast of Our Town will get to experience of working with a RADA trained professional UK artist who is passionate about her craft and working with LAF and the community.

The Show Opens 17 January 2019 (preview) and runs for 8 performances only so book early!

Lyttelton Arts Factory
18 – 26 January 2019
(No shows Monday or Tuesday)
Or at www.laf.co.nz

Eruption Brew Bar MEAL DEAL:
In addition to our standard ticketing options below you can now spend a little longer in Our Town! Buy two tickets for $75 ($37.50 each) that will include a pre-show pizza from Eruption Brew Bar. You must book for two tickets on any night of the show, and we’ll reserve you a spot at Eruption Brew Bar at 6pm to enjoy a pizza beforehand. We will email you a separate confirmation following your booking. Visit www.eruptionbrewing.com to view the pizza menu options.

Hester Ullyart, Co-Director
Mike Friend, Co-Director
Tony Geddes, Set Design
Peter Llewellyn, Historical Adaptation
Anita Clark, Live Musical composition
Michael Carlton, Lighting Design

Tom Trevella:  STAGE MANAGER
Sam Primrose:  DR. FRANK GIBBS
Jane McLauchlan:  MRS. JULIA GIBBS
Fraser Robinson:  GEORGE GIBBS
Briana Coppell:  REBECCA GIBBS
Coco Buckingham :  YOUNG REBECCA GIBBS
Karen Hallsworth:  MRS. JESSICA WEBB
Freddy Thornton:  EMILY WEBB
Sofia Boggiani :  YOUNG EMILY WEBB
Jono Larking:  WALLY WEBB
Greg Larking:  JOE CROWELL (Gravedigger)
Orry Cockburn:  JOE CROWELL JNR (postboy)
Daniel Greggs:  SI CROWELL (postboy 2)
Marilyn Ollett:  MRS. SOAMES  
Dougal Frame:  SAM CRAIG

Darryl Cribb:  Production Manager
Kate Anastasiou:  Marketing/Producer
Lachlan Morris:  Tech Operator

Theatre ,

Everything is tinged with genial nostalgia

Review by Erin Harrington 19th Jan 2019

Lyttelton Arts Factory’s adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s canonical Pulitzer Prize-winning play Our Town does something quite unusual: it uplifts the play from its fictional setting of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire – a sort of small town Anywhere, USA – and relocates in in the small port town of Lyttelton, which is just over the hill from Christchurch.

Lyttelton has a strong character, a dedicated community and a colourful history. The creative team, led by UK-based director Hester Ullyart, has worked with historian Peter Llewellyn to ensure that the fine details of the script reflect the port’s history. LAF also has a strong tradition of working with locals, and for locals, so it is appropriate that the large cast feels like it is well-rooted within the community.

Wilder’s 1938 modernist play is metatheatrical, drawing attention to its use of theatrical conventions. It is ‘hosted’ by a fourth wall-breaking Stage Manager (charismatic LAF regular Tom Trevella), who speaks to us warmly as narrator, tour guide and observer, and who guides our attention throughout. There is minimal set; the emphasis is upon the players and human connection. The play itself is set between 1901 and 1913, as we watch the childhood friendship, and later courtship, of neighbours George Gibbs and Emily Webb, moving through acts that focus on daily life, love and marriage, and finally death and the eternal.

The cast are committed and work together as a clearly supportive team. I’m particularly taken with the character work by some of the youngest members of the cast, who connect beautifully with the older versions of themselves.  

Set designer Tony Geddes has dressed the deep black box space with bits of every day detritus suspended from the ceiling – wicker chairs, watering cans, hats, a ship in a bottle. The simple, atmospheric lighting, which seems to gently pick up these small details of everyday life, and the well-considered costumes and small set pieces, all work together to create a marvellous sense of space. There’s an intermingling of the personal and the specific with a more general sense of being upended in time. There’s a neat conceit, too, with some umbrellas and a projection. It’s gorgeous.

My favourite part of the production is the yearning, looping, sometimes optimistic and sometimes melancholy music provided live by Anita Clark, who sits with her violin and a sound desk tucked at the back of the stage. The looping delay of the violin, which blurs folk music, ambient noise and electronic production also feels very appropriate for a port town.

My plus one and I both really enjoy the production. It’s beautifully presented, sympathetically directed and often quite charming, and I remain convinced the Lyttelton Arts Factory is possibly the best kept secret in New Zealand theatre. Yet I am left very curious about the intention and process behind this adaptation, and what its criteria for success might be.

We are presented with the form and structure of Wilder’s well-known play, although the tone, message and outcome are quite different. The relocation from a fictional, hypothetical small town to real-world Lyttelton is a fascinating proposition. It offers up terrific opportunities to think about how the play’s ideas might be applied to the Pākehā inhabitants of a relatively young but quickly growing town of settlers, workers and chancers – at least compared to the 350-year history of Grover’s Corners. The original is there in the staging, which retains the play’s lovely, barebones aesthetic. I am unsure why this production introduces props into a play in which action, and the persistent slog of daily industry in which even moments of rest are spent working, is usually mimed, emphasising a world of people, and not things.

The script has also been heavily edited. Apart from slashing the running time considerably, this has resulted in the loss of some of the play’s emotional richness and complexity; its melancholy, its philosophy, its detailed relationships and most importantly its subtext, in which forgetting is as important as remembering. In its place we have a community of mostly cheerful, relatively satisfied people, and a warm-hearted celebration of a set of families in a particular community, and a gesture towards the space in which we sit. Everything is tinged with genial nostalgia. There’s nothing at all wrong with that in and of itself, but I do wonder what Wilder would make of this adaptation.

The production also drops some key metatheatrical aspects, such as the experts who come in to discuss the town and the characters who ask questions of the Stage Manager from the audience, and this feels like a loss. Overall LAF’s production is much less interested in a more even-handed, even distanced consideration of the wonder and difficulty of life, of the magnitude and insignificance of us all, and – to paraphrase the Stage Manager – of a world in which we are all straining away to make something of ourselves. Whether that’s a problem is really up to the spectator. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council