Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. Olivier Theatre, London . 2** stars. William Russell.

Turning the Olivier into a theatre in the round made good economic sense since the extra seating compensates for some at least, if not all, of those in the auditorium lost to the Covid restrictions. But when you stage something in the round you have to ensure that all the audience hears what the actors are saying and in this admittedly clever and handsome production directed by LindseyTurner that is not the case. Speech after speech is inaudible – at least from my seat in the circle half created at the back of the stage. The cast is sound, there are all sorts of clever pieces of furniture wheeled on an off, including a table which manages to change its cloth and what is on it in full view in the flash of a mement. But they do not compensate for not being able to hear in whatr understand the words in what Thomas called “a play for voices.” The other disappointment is that Michael Sheen, looking extremely unkempt, as his mode at the moment, simply does not command the stage as he who takes us through what is going on in the dreams of the folk of Llareggub playing someone called Owain Jenkins and looking like an actor doing a bad impersonation of another great Welsh thespian on an off day. His character seems to have been invented by Sian Owen who has framed the old radio play with scenes set in an old folks home, apparently to breath fresh life into it. In fact it just adds to the confusion the inaudibility creates as the cast are playing yet another character – there is a lot of doubling going on – so that one is often not sure who is who, other than that is Cleo Sylvestre or Sian Phillips. Sheen seems none to interested in what is going on as he strides in and out of the scenes. But it is certainly good to look at. If only it had been good to listen to as well it would have been a much, much better hour and 45 minutes.
Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard/Gossamer Benyon/Mrs Dai Bread: Susan Brown.
Mr Waldo/Organ Morgan/Dai Bread/Butcher Veynon: Ifan Huw Dafydd.
Mr Pritchard/Mr Pugh: Alan David.
Mrs Willy Nilly/Mary Ann Sailors/Mrs Dai Bread 1/Bessie Bighead: Gillian Elisa.
Mr Edwards/Mr Ogmore/Lord Cutglass: Michael Elwyn.
Rosie Probert/Mrs Cherryu Owen: Kexerena James.
Richard Jenkins: Karl Johnson.
Evans the Death/Utah Watkins/Sinbad: Andrew Macbean.
Nogood Boyo/ Willy Nilly/ Jack Black: Lee Mengo.
Miss Price/Lily Smalls/Mrs Organ Morgan: Gaynor Morgan Rees.
Captain Cat/Preacher: Anthony O’Donnell.
Mrs Utahg Watkins/Polly Garter/Mrs Benyon: Sian Phillips.
Owain Jenkins: Michael Sheen.
Mae Rose Cottage/Mrs Pugh: Cleo Sylvestre.

Directir: Lindsey Turner.
Set and Costume Designer: Merle Henset.
Lighting Designer: Tim Lutkin.
Sound Designer: Domato Wharton.
Movement: Imogen Knight.
Dialect Coach: Hazel Holder.

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