UNDER MILK WOOD
by Dylan Thomas.
Mercury Theatre To 1 May 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 1 May 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01206 573948.
review: Timothy Ramsden 28 April.
Dream of a production.
All the day’s doings in Llareggub are here embraced in The Sailor’s Arms. The pub spills across the stage, from back door via bar to lounge in Sara Perks’ set. Early morning, as Dylan Thomas begins at the beginning, David Tarkenter’s landlord clears-up while delivering the scene-setting narration. It’s a sign director Gari Jones intends to incorporate the melancholy, grotesque, everyday and lyrical within a coherent style.
His staging presents a dream – a dream about the people, and the dreams of the people. Tarkenter‘s narrator breathes-in the town around him, other characters occasionally interjecting phrases from their visions as they sleep-off the night before in the pub’s armchairs.
Later, old salt Captain Cat’s observed crying in his retirement. It’s a casual observation for the locals, but Jones takes us into the captain’s memories; his drowned comrades’ bodies glimpsed as vague shapes and lost voices through the pub’s translucent windows.
His dead love Rosie twice appears, in sea-coloured clothing, twisting like a marine plant in the tide. Then there are the sudden snap changes in lighting and soundtrack as the disastrous Pugh marriage veers between his submissiveness to perpetual nagging and the enactment of his murderous imaginings.
Always, the mood – consciously dreamlike or everyday – carries a strong sense of the reality, either of town-life or of individual minds and emotions. For realistic scenes play their part – a comically fraudulent clairyovant cheating a gullible neighbour – alongside theatrical images, like sexy young Polly Garter’s life as she hauls a bucket, babies strapped to stomach and back, walking along the platform running across the auditorium to scrub steps. It’s here too, amid the audience, the most comic scene’s played, showing the grotesque embarrassment of a children’s kissing-game.
It’s not an entirely untroubled dream: Charmian Hoare’s dialect work hasn’t rubbed-off equally on all cast members, and there are moments where poetic incantation takes over from clarity. But there are many fine performances, Richard Godin’s lighting focuses attention while enhancing the dreamlike, vividly-etched scenes, and the shamefully uncredited music in Marcus Christensen’s sound-track is a major factor in creating the evening’s various moods.
Cast: Christine Absalom, Ignatius Anthony, Pete Ashmore, Miranda Bell, Roger Delves-Broughton, Clare Humphrey, Gina Isaac, David Tarkenter, Emily Woodward.
Director: Gari Jones.
Designer: Sara Perks.
Lighting: Richard Godin.
Sound: Marcus Christensen.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.