The cast of Under Milk Wood. Picture by Robin Crossley.
STAGE REVIEWHow does one begin to describe the absurd, unique and extraordinary work that is Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood?
It is a radio drama in verse, set in an imaginary Welsh fishing village called Llareggub ("bugger all" spelt backwards). There are around 50 parts, including characters such as Willy Nilly, Nogood Boyo and Gossamer Beynon.
Through narrative and the characters’ own words, the audience discovers their thoughts, dreams and actions, as if we were observing what is happening in the minds of the villagers as well as the goings-on in the village itself.
It is wildly surreal, entirely unlike any other theatrical experience I have ever had.
I am doubly grateful to director Peter Boffin and the Apollo Theatre for introducing me to this wonderful play and for providing such a spellbinding show.
I was not surprised when my friend, who has accompanied me to dozens of productions, pronounced it "the best thing I’ve ever seen on the Island", before rushing home to listen to the 1963 radio production, starring Richard Burton.
Although Thomas wrote it for radio, the Apollo production was adapted into a stage play, with striking, monochrome set and beautiful costumes.
Two black-clad narrators, Ian Moth and Ginnie Gledhill, deliver the back story, while 12 actors take multiple roles.
The real star of the show is Thomas’s language, bursting with vivid images, evocative descriptions and rich wordplay. However, the cast deserve glowing praise for meeting the huge challenge of memorising and delivering the words clearly, at perfect pace.
The casting is inspired. The production is a real team effort and singling out players for special praise would be difficult and unfair. However, Heather Gale is delightfully lascivious as Polly Garter and Lily Smalls. Isabel Favell, doyenne of Island theatre, demonstrates why she is so highly regarded.
John Abraham displays comedy genius as the flamboyant Mog Edwards, while Rita Boffin is a convincing scarlet woman. Anthea Weekes is fey as the ethereal Gossamer.
The accomplished cast is completed by Simon Cardew, Danny Carmichael, Glenys Williams, Julie Read, Peter Gale, Steven Young and Colin Bish.
Sadly, on Thursday last week, the Apollo was far from full. I would urge CP readers to snap up any remaining tickets for tonight (Friday) or tomorrow night’s show.