UNDER MILK WOOD
by Dylan Thomas.
Richmond Theatre Little Green TW9 1QJ To 12 July 2014.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7651.
Review: Timothy Ramsden.
Lyrical flights over earthy experiences in vivid production.
Two visual images encapsulate this production of Dylan Thomas’s ‘play for voices’. On the programme cover a fairytale town spirals colourfully, reflecting Martyn Bainbridge’s set. Inside, a photo shows an untidy garden with prams and washing in 1967 Laugharne, one of Thomas’s homes and part-basis for the play’s fictional Llareggub.
It’s a hundred years since Thomas’s birth, and sixty since his play’s premiere, but this is no dutiful revival. It’s a reminder that director Terry Hands (also Artistic Director at the production’s Mold home, Clwyd Theatr Cymru) ran the Royal Shakespeare in a glitteringly innovative period.
Milk Wood’s first First Voice, Richard Burton, noted it is about religion, death and sex. The last two are out in force here. Though protective of the place (the ‘Guide Book’ speech comes in a BBC-English patronising voice) Hands has an incidental character’s line hurtle to our attention; “There’s a nasty lot live here when you come to think.”
Owen Teale, in one of two standout performances amongst a skilled, committed cast, begins at the beginning in factual tones, making details clear before lyricism develops. For Milk Wood, through its fine linguistic flow, catalogues its inhabitants’ misery, meanness and loathing for their lives, with love only for what’s dead or unattainable.
The Pughs sit poisonously close at meals, while Myfanwy Price and Mog Edwards yearn for each other from opposite ends of the village. Teale’s Voice lives among these people, affected by their behaviour.
One joy is seeing regular Mold actors bring the confidence and detail developed within the company to the detailed, energetic performances. So, Steven Meo contrasts the happy pub-pump-pulling Sinbad, with his Nogood Boyo, stereotyped by the village yet wanting to be good.
The other standout performance, also from the social rejects, is Hedydd Dylan’s Polly Garter – the woman who’d be fallen if she’d ever been raised, creating a poignant intensity with Daniel Jones’ song of lost love as she scrubs the floor for respectable women.
In contrast, Hands has a high old time with Mr Waldo’s saucy song, creating a pub-full of drunken disharmony before closing-time in this splendid revival
Captain Cat/Mr Waldo: Ifan Huw Dafydd.
Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard/Mrs Utah Watkins/Polly Garter: Hedydd Dylan.
Mog Edwards/Mr Pritchard/Lord Cut Glass/Mr Pugh: Richard Elfyn.
Rosie Probert/Mrs Willy Nilly/Mrs Organ Morgan/Mrs Butcher Beynon/Mrs Dai Bread One/Bessie Bighead: Sara Harris-Davies.
Gossamer Beynon/Mrs Pugh/Mrs Dai Bread Two/Mrs Cherry Owen: Sophie Melville.
Organ Morgan/Ocky Milkman/Nogood Boyo/Willy Nilly/Sinbad Sailors: Steven Meo.
Myfanwy Price/Lily Smalls/Mae Rose Cottage/Mary Ann Sailors: Caryl Morgan.
Jack Black/Mr Ogmore/Butcher Beynon/Rev Eli Jenkins: Simon Nehan.
Evans the Death/Utah Watkins/Dai Bread/Cherry Owen: Kai Owen.
Second Voice: Christian Patterson.
First Voice: Owen Teale.
Director/Lighting: Terry Hands.
Designer: Martyn Bainbridge.
Assistant director: Lora Davies.