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Two Thornton Wilder plays at the King's Head

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE HAPPY Journey to Trenton and Camden and The Long Christmas Dinner, a double bill of one-act plays by Thornton Wilder, will be performed at the King’s Head Theatre from Tuesday, December 11, 2012 to Saturday, January 5, 2013.

In The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden, a family sets off on a Sunday drive in New Jersey. They motor on in the face of a ­recent tragedy in a testament to the strength and endurance of the human spirit.

A portrait of Depression-era America, the play’s 1993 Broadway production won both Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Revival.

In The Long Christmas Dinner, three successive generations celebrate the holidays as 90 years pass by in the Bayard household. As America expands around them, so too does the family, as the old make way for their children to follow in their footsteps.

The play inspired Orson Welles to steal his friend Thornton Wilder’s concept of accelerated time for his film Citizen Kane, as well as an opera by Paul Hindemith, set to Wilder’s text.

Tim Sullivan directs a cast that includes Stephanie Beattie, who starred in the King’s Head Theatre’s critically acclaimed London premiere of Arnold Wesker’s Denial in May this year, Rosy Benjamin, Simon Dobson, Ben Fuiava, David Gerits, Tamarin McGinley, Carole Street and Rita Walters.

One of America’s greatest writers, Thornton Wilder won the Pulitzer Prize three times, for his novel The Bridge of San Luis Ray, his absurdist play The Skin of Our Teeth, and his seminal classic Our Town, the latter having the distinction of being performed somewhere in America each night since its debut in 1938.

His play The Matchmaker was the basis for the musical Hello, Dolly! and Alfred Hitchcock hired him to write Shadow of a Doubt, which was the filmmaker’s own personal favourite of his works. Wilder’s novels include Theophilus North, Ides of March and The Eighth Day, which won the National Book Award for Fiction.

In 1963, Wilder was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by John F. Kennedy.

This Thornton Wilder double bill is produced by Savio(u)r in association with the King’s Head Theatre.

Not only the first London revival in over 30 years, this will be the first time the plays have been produced together. The King’s Head Theatre’s Artistic Director, Adam Spreadbury-Maher, said:

“Wilder is one of the most celebrated American playwrights of the 20th century. We look forward to offering London audiences a rare opportunity to see two of his best short works in advance of our 75th anniversary production of his Pulitzer Prize-winning Our Town at the King’s Head next summer. After the King’s Head work with playwright’s Arnold Wesker and Tennessee Williams this year, we are honoured to welcome Thornton Wilder to celebrate Christmas after what has been an extraordinary year for the venue.”

Tickets: £16 – £25, previews (December 11 to 13): all seats £10. Tickets are available from the box office on 020 7478 0160 or online at www.kingsheadtheatre.com/.

Times: Tuesday – Saturday at 7.15pm, Sunday at 3pm.

Also at the King’s Head Theatre over Christmas: Starchild.