Theatre Review: Under Milk Wood

By Julia Parry | 24th April 2015

UMW Photo Catherine Ashmore

UMW Photo Catherine Ashmore

The Dylan Thomas Centenary Production by Clwyd Theatr Cymru.

Dylan Thomas’s life and work have since his death created a legend; he died amid alcohol and debt in New York aged just thirty nine.

The ‘play for voices’ Under Milk Wood is a work of genius; ripe with vitality, rich in humour and populated by sublime, eccentric characters. Dylan Thomas haunts the imagination, giving his writing a broader appeal than could ever have been imagined during his lifetime. Written from the heart, it offers an unforgettable journey into the roots of language and the soul of Wales.

Terry Hands directs this new production of Under Milk Wood to mark the centenary of Thomas’s birth in 1914 and also the sixtieth anniversary of the play’s British Premiere. The ensemble cast of eleven is magnificent, seamlessly playing sixty eight roles. We are introduced to the inhabitants of Llaregubb (bugger all backwards!), a small Welsh town by the sea where their lives, hopes and thoughts are laid bare in the dreams of a night and the rhythm of a day.

The people of Llaregubb are as funny, sexy, sad and real today as they were sixty years ago. This production and cast have brought Under Milk Wood into the 21st C with such vitality and vigour; Thomas’s words sparkle in the actor’s mouths like champagne bubbles dancing off the tongue. Owen Teale (Game of Thrones, Stella) as First Voice leads us through all the characters dreams and waking lives with their many and varied situations. The comedic timing of Steven Meo (Gavin and Stacey) is perfect; his scene stealing performances of all five of his roles are all hysterically funny. The whole ensemble are wonderful, they are clearly relishing working together in such a fine production.

Martyn Bainbridge has designed a set which keeps the whole cast on the stage within a slanted, raised spiral like construction mirroring the harbour of the bird’s eye view of the town facing the audience, it gives a feeling of the claustrophobic feel of a small town, full of gossip and speculations.This production is pure brilliance, if you only see one Dylan Thomas play this year – please make it this one.

Showing at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 26th April.

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