Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Over Milk Wood

Spectacle Theatre Company , on tour.... , November 24, 1999
REMEMBER Mr Pugh, the rather dislikeable henpecked schoolmaster who understandably plots the poisoning of his wife in Under Milk Wood?

Here he is, the real Hugh Pugh, forced to flee the village that was the model for Dylan Thomas's Llareggub because of the blurring of reality and fiction following the broadcast of the play in 1954, by which time Thomas was had died in New York and could no longer exonerate the real Hugh Pugh.

From that amusing what-if scenario Dic Edwards has created a sprawling great play, part pastiche, part comedy, part ideological tract, part detective story, and collapsed it [with help from director Steve Davis] into a little gem of a touring show that this week provocatively plays in an around Thomas's Swansea before heading east to Abergavenny [0n Friday]
and Cardiff's Llanover Hall [on Saturday].

It is, I think the first time Dic Edwards, a fine playwright has not only written explicitly about Wales but actually addressed issues that many of his contemporaries have lived off all their careers: cultural identity, Welshness, the ambivalence of the Dylan heritage, secrets and lies. Because Mr Pugh's escape first to the Mumbles and then to the Bronx is both an attempt to exorcise the curse of being portrayed as a murderer, itself a double bind since inevitably it is also a metaphor for Wales trapped by its own mythology, and a voyage of self-discovery.

Mr Pugh battles with all sorts of demons, in fact. He is pushed into a madness by thinking as a non-Welsh speaking Welshmen he has been evicted from his own land. He is torn between "hiraeth" and hamminess.

It's often very funny and very moving, as well as rich in ideas and language, and Owen Garmon as Pugh, Karen Wynne as his Americanised Ulster-Catholic wife, who might be expected to have her own identity crisis.

And Rhodri Evan in a variety of comic cameos handle the complexities of the script with sympathy and skill.

Reviewed by: David Adams

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