Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Under Milk Wood

Clwyd Theatr Cymru , Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold then touring. , February 16, 2014
Under Milk Wood by Clwyd Theatr Cymru With it being not only the Dylan Thomas centenary year but also the 60th anniversary of the first broadcast of Under Milk Wood by the BBC it was inevitable that the play would get a high profile in 2014. It is of course a play for voices and not easy to bring off on stage. Too often it can be static while the voices are concentrated on or over-busy visually, so disrupting the rhythms of the words.

Happily neither of those states applies to Terry Hands' gloriously flowing production which brings Llareggub and its people to vivid life.

The words are magnificently taken care of with every member of the eleven-strong, all Welsh cast understanding each pause, emphasis, change of pace and each distinct individual voice.

Owen Teale's First Voice doesn't treat his lines like sacred poetry, speaking in a seemingly casual, confiding tone. Yet the poetry is always there as he introduces us to the people of the town with love but with no hint of sentimentality.

And there they all are, created by the cast with movement, mime and body language, as well as by the words. None of these movements are distracting, nor do they ever slow up the flow of the day's events.

I almost feel guilty picking out some actors and some parts because this is an ensemble performance that achieves the highest standard from start to finish.

However, here goes. Sara Harris-Davies essays a gloriously hysteric Mrs Butcher Beynon, a convincingly rotund Mrs Dai Bread One and tore my heart strings as Rosie Probert fading into the dead distance of forgetfulness.

Simon Nehan's Rev Eli Jenkins is a truly good man who utterly believes in the doggerel of his morning and evening prayers. Contrast that with his Mr Ogmore, quivering with terror. Equal terror is conveyed by Richard Elfyn's Mr Pritchard while his Mr Pugh oozes malevolence, behind his wife's back of course.

Katie Elin-Salt, as well as a suitably ferocious Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, is a delightful Polly Garter, wistfully singing for her lost lovers.

Ifan Huw Dafydd is an immense presence as Captain Cat. Nor must I forget Christian Patterson whose Second Voice adds a quiet dignity and wit to the narration. Steven Meo, Sophie Melville, Caryl Morgan and Kai Owen are the other members of the exemplary company, each of them contributing strong characters to the mix.

After its run in Mold the production tours through Wales. Try not to miss this Welsh play done proud by a Welsh cast, it's a fitting 60th birthday present to that first radio production.

Reviewed by: Victor Hallett

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