Standing ovation for Armagh Theatre Group; as reported in the Armagh Observer Dec 1st
When Armagh Theatre Group decided to mark their 50th anniversary, it was always going to be momentous. But they could never have anticipated the reception their golden jubilee performances would receive. They chose to recreate their first major production-'Our Town' by Thornton Wilder, first performed in 1966. Back then they were known as Armagh Players and 'Our Town' was staged under the direction of theatrical stalwart Seamus Mallon in Armagh City Hall. Having graduated fifty years later to the state-of-the-art Market Place Theatre 'Our Town' is set in New Hampshire USA, around 1900 and the three accts move gently through birth, marriage and death. An ageless classic, comfortable in any era, the play broke the mould in stage productions, as it continues to do today. 'Our Town' could indeed be any town , any society, or any timeframe .The sets are sparse - just enough to create the bear minimum. The actors do the rest. This type of theatre allows actors to truly portray their characters and evoke emotion, bereft as they are of props and scenery within the performance. And Armagh Theatre Group know how to put on an evocative performance! Aside from activity on stage almost the entire auditorium was utilised, with actors emerging from various off- stage entrances and a Choir practice scene set in the front stalls. This drew the audience into the performance beautifully as they too became part of life in 'Our Town' , if only for a short time-rejoicing in births ,smiling at innocence, celebrating lives and grieving at death. All ages were involved, as the play's theme dictated , and there were outstanding,disciplined performances from young actors who thrived on their characters. The soft tones of 'The Stage Manager'(a character as opposed to an operative) who acts as narrator throughout, kept the audience informed of the comings and goings of town life, as if from an invisible watchtower. His descriptive bulletins created scenes and settings, with characters stepping in and out along the way. Life in 'Our Town' is a journey of twists and turns, heartswell and heartache, life never totally ending and always renewing. But having shared the lives and loves of the folks of 'Our Town' the final act deserves a special mention. The audience fell pin-drop silent whilst the cast performed with powerful, overwhelming emotion. A scene of bereavement, the tragic loss of a young woman in childbirth is tempered with the solace of those who have gone before her and offer comfort as she reluctantly leaves her devastated family. A deeply moving scene but gently and sensitively portrayed. The cast were rewarded with a spontaneous standing ovation - a much sought honour, but so rarely bestowed. There is little more which could sum up such an enthusiastic, polished and timeless production. Congratulations to Armagh Theatre Group on a truly outstanding performance. Here's to the next 50 years!