Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Dylan Thomas in America

Peter Read , Edinburgh Fringe 2005 - Venue 13 , September 1, 2005
www.edinburghguide.com
Drams None needed for Read's Dylan.
Reviewer Guy Woodward, 9th August

“Thomas the Voice, Thomas the Booze, Thomas the Debts, Thomas the Jokes, Thomas the Jokes, Thomas the Wales, Thomas the Sex, Thomas the Lies,” wrote a somewhat exasperated Seamus Heaney ten years ago, “ in fact there are so many competing and revisionist inventions of Thomas available … that one asks whether there is still any place on the roll call for Thomas the Poet.” Gwynne Edwards’ Dylan Thomas in America starring Peter Read gives us all of the above. It is heartbreaking and hilarious in equal measure. Double measures, you might say.

Adapted from the poet’s letters home whilst on tour in the States, the monologue describes the various sexual exploits, financial difficulties, writer’s block and sense of dislocation that Thomas encountered on the road in what he describes as “this cancerous Babylon” and “this vast, mad horror”. “And so it goes on,” he wails at one point, “this journey of the damned,” and his boredom and hatred of America and Americans, of the monotony of press junkets, of inane questions and soulless hotel rooms, is impassioned.

A good deal of the show is also taken up with the tortuous composition and nerve wracking first public performances of Thomas’ most famous work, Under Milk Wood, and offers a fascinating insight into his anxieties and fears at the time. We feel his pain, and begin to see the shambling wreck cowering behind the tousled libertine of myth, torn between women, poetry and the bottle, soon to be torn apart. In what is a hugely demanding role, Read as Thomas is exemplary, gradually uncovering over the course of an hour a performance beautifully nuanced in both delivery and movement.



British Theatre Guide,
Rating – 4 stars
Reviewer - Philip Fisher
The major impression that one gets from this excellent monologue developed from the letters and poetry of Dylan Thomas is of a contrary man. One pities his wife Caitlin, who had her own problems. Thomas is like a greedy schoolboy who always wants to have his cake and eat it. Well, not so much cake as wine, women and song!
Peter Read plays the ageing writer convincingly though he doesn't really look or sound the part. Thomas was a natural poet and almost every sentence, whether poetic, dramatic or apparently mundane is packed with lush language and memorable symbols.
He initially braved the long sea voyage to the USA just over fifty years ago. He did so because he needed money and by taking his "Pilgrimage of the damned" helped to fund his expensive habits. He described himself as a voice on wheels as he travelled thousands of miles in search of dollars.
While there, he railed at and missed Caitlin in equal measures and, when she wasn't there, consoled himself with numerous surrogates including his secretary Liz, a woman with whom he was really in love. There is little doubt that he also shared much time with that other love of his life, the bottle.
This "professional Welshman" had a love/hate relationship with his homeland, "This sick, sad yet fond Wales of mine". He described Swansea as a "dingy hell" but was more comfortable once he had moved to Laugharne. Despite his reservations about Wales, he also admits that "I love it more than anywhere".
Laugharne was also the site, as Llareggub, of what is probably his greatest achievement and source of financial comfort, the tone poem for voices, Under Milk Wood.
Director Owen Gruffudd ensures that his actor is comfortable with carpet, comfy chairs and lectern. Peter Read returns the favour with a strong performance that conveys the bewildered sadness of the man and recites the poetry well, especially the deeply appropriate "Do not go gentle into that good night/Rage, rage against the dying of the light".
Eschewing the fireworks of so much of the Fringe programme, Dylan Thomas in America is a thoroughly professional and enjoyable play that is deservedly drawing in large numbers of delighted Dylanites. It may create a few more too.
Three Weeks
Rating – 5/5
Reviewer – LC

If you love, like, or have ever even heard of Dylan Thomas, you absolutely must see this play. Peter Read brings Thomas so completely to life in his one-man show that he sparkles. After the performance you feel you have actually spent an evening with the self-proclaimed “son of a sloth and a turnip”. Arriving in the US, we follow the “voice on wheels” as he tours the lecture theatres of America, both offending and charming everyone in sight. The poets’ legendary alcoholism and promiscuity are illustrated with tact and hilarity respectively. Catch this while you can, its only running for a couple more days and you really will be missing out if you don’t see it. Brilliant.

Reviewed by: various reviewers

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