Written in 1938, it was pretty experimental for the time –with the character of the Stage Manager (a competent Simon Dobson in presen tday clothes) breaking through the fourth wall to address the audience directly whilst also dropping into the action to serve as a drugstore owner and a clergyman.

Most of the characters make only fleeting appearances over three acts and thirteen years from 1901 to 1913, with the focus mainly on the changing relationship between young Emily whose father edits the local paper and George, the doctor’s son.Between them, the ensemble of fourteen (drawn from a multitude of countries and performing with  varying degrees of conviction) play a host of other locals – from the milkman to the alcoholic church organist (whose misery is never explained) and from a university lecturer to a dead woman waiting to welcome another spirit to a different place.

Apparently this reminder to appreciate what one has and to make the most of one’s allocated time has been performed somewhere in the US every night forthe last 75 years. Tim Sullivan’s mildly diverting if somewhat underpowered production does little to explain why – but Zoe Swenson-Graham’s Emily glows with optimism in this gentle portrayal of ordinary American life at the turnof the century.

£15+, Kings  Head Theatre,
Upper Street, N1 1QN
Tube | Angel 

Photo: kingsheadtheatre.com