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25th Jun, 2022

Review: Under Milk Wood

Malvern Editorial 14th May, 2014 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016

Lee Farley at Malvern Theatres.

Clwyd Theatr Cymru’s touring production of Dylan Thomas’ classic lyrical radio drama has been adapted into an absorbing theatrical treat by director Terry Hands.

The challenge of turning this poem for voices into an active theatre production is met brilliantly. The ensemble cast bring energy, intelligence and commitment to the work. Characters are instantly and dynamically created with sharp and clear physicality. Locations are constructed with chairs, atmosphere and sound effects are provided live by the cast. Martyn Bainbridge’s design plays its role perfectly – reflecting the environment of the play whilst providing interesting levels and areas for the cast to play with.

As we move swiftly through our day in the life of Llareggub (try reading it backwards) we become captivated by the town and its inhabitants. Characters re-appear, themes emerge and the company’s affection for the material becomes infectious. This is such an irresistible production, charming and magical.

Thomas’ drama is set in a world more than 70 years old. This might have resulted in a revival being merely an exercise in nostalgia, but Llareggub is full of contemporary customs. Characters gossip, reminisce, yearn for each other and yearn for a life they will never find. Like Ulysses, Under Milk Wood gives us the whole universe in just one day and these stories are packed with universal concerns – love, death, religion, community. It’s compelling, tender and funny. All human life is here.

The cast delight in every second of every story – Owen Teale and Christian Patterson’s genial narrators are amused and occasionally bemused by the characters, but there is affection and love in the relationship. Each character is believable and endearing. Hedydd Dylan’s Polly Garter delivers a heartbreaking plainsong of love and loss, Steven Meo brings expert comic instinct to Sinbad Sailor’s lovesick barman. The whole cast are faultlessly convincing. The world is not judged or mocked, but presented honestly and with real heart.

Clwyd Theatr Cymru’s passionate, astute and animated production achieves theatrical clarity from its poetic source material. The production runs in Malvern until Saturday – I strongly recommend you try to get a ticket.

 

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