I’m currently directing “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder as part of MK 50’s “Home Sweet Home” project with Grid Arts (a collaborative group which has delivered several MK50 projects this year).
This is a joint project for my two theatre companies Pepper’s Ghost and The Play’s The Thing.
Pepper’s Ghost is an inclusive company and anyone can join us as an actor or get involved backstage and be mentored by one of our professional creative team.
The Play’s The Thing is fully professional. That means they do it for a living (not just a hobby) and they are paid Equity rates. For “Our Town” the two companies are working together. We thus have local community actors and the production team are professional. We have always been keen to offer people a chance to get on the ladder to professional work if they so wish. Others just want to work with a company which has high production values.
The play itself is a favourite of mine. Although set in small town America in a place called Grover’s Corners at the turn of the last century, it could be anywhere. Thornton Wilder tried in this play to endow individual experience with cosmic significance and “Our Town” is not just an affectionate portrait of ordinary people in a small town; it is also an attempt to find value in the smallest events in our daily life. The themes are universal - the strength of community, the importance of joy of everyday things and how everyone has a story. As such it could be Milton Keynes we celebrate its fiftieth birthday.
Much goes into producing the theatre show. Even a show which has simple staging like this one has to have an aesthetic. We want it to look and sound good. We want to create the world of the play. Much of this is done in “Our Town” through sound and music. Well, today I was in the sound studio creating the sound track with my wonderful BBC colleague of thirty years Steve Hoy.
You may have noticed an interview which has gone viral with Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling in the last couple of days. There’s a sound guy sorting out their mics at the beginning. Well that’s Steve Hoy. He’s a master at what he does and I worked with him on many BBC documentaries ( TV and radio) and he now works on my theatre shows, but he also works on news, features and with celebrities. He gets on with the job. Everybody loves him and he always gets it right. A consummate professional.
Today we were sorting out train whistles form 1901 America. We found actual train whistles from the American Train Museum! The sounds are authentic. We also wanted factory whistles, voices in a soda bar, wedding church bells in a small church, a horse and wagon delivering milk and children coming back from school. This all takes time. It can’t be just any chattering voices or any factory whistle. They mustn’t sound too modern. Some also had to sound distant. So we spent many hours putting it together and the result is really atmospheric.
I’ve also chosen some Aaron Copland music to set the scene as the audience come in and for the curtain call. I love this attention to detail. The audience may know the music and know it was written by an American composer who was born in 1900 or they may not. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is it feels right for the play. That is all part of creating the world and that is what is so satisfying.
I look forward to working not just with the actors but the creative team and this show promises to be very touching and poignant.
It’s on at Stantonbury Theatre on 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th November 7.30pm with a matinee on 4th November 2.30pm.
Tickets are £15 and £13 (concessions) and are available now.
or call the Box Office: 01908 324466.
Don’t miss it!
Director and Producer