Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Under Milk Wood

Clwyd Theatr Cymru , New Theatre, Cardiff , March-13-14
Under Milk Wood by Clwyd Theatr Cymru If we knew the curious, busy people we were going to meet in the frenzied world that Dylan Thomas had created for our feast of comedy, we might have crept quietly into the theatre auditorium. There we were met by a bird’s eye, miniature view of the beautiful, ugly town of Llareggub, lying under Milk Wood, high up on the back wall of the stage. The harbour wall swept down, circling the floor of Martin Bainbridge’s warm inviting set.

Owen Teale, first voice, also warmly invites us closer in to meet the slightly lost, but rescued by the beauty in Thomas’ writing, the diverse Llareggub town dwellers. Polly Garter, who buys silk garters, with bows but wears no stockings, thanks God that life is such a terrible thing and goes on having babies. She nurses them, gently in her entwining arms. Katie Elin-Salt gives us a flawless interpretation of the role, her clear, very moving singing voice, telling us of her great love, Little Willy Wee who is dead, dead, dead, is one of the highlights of the performance. Elin-Salt’s comedy expertise comes through delightfully when she becomes Mrs Ogmore Pritchard insisting that both her husbands carefully stow their pyjamas.

Most of the actors in this well-linked ensemble play several parts slipping in and out of different roles with great aplomb. Simon Nehan almost makes us feel sorry for him as the embattled Mr Ogmore. He assumes a little more authority but retains his comic effect equally finely when as the Reverent Eli Jenkins he reminds his maker, “We are not wholly bad or good/Who live our lives under Milk Wood. Richard Elfyn again demonstrates his versatility, his Mr. Pritchard knows, in the words of Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard his cold bath is good for him! He gives Mr. Pugh a sinister air, tongue in cheek sinister, as he mixes poisons for his nagging wife. Sophie Melville as Mrs. Pugh doesn’t hold back. And as one half of the Dai Bread miniature harem she brings an almost innocent yet seductive twinkle to the role, as she does to her other two characters, Gossamer Beynon ever seeking love or something stronger, and the less successful in love, Mrs. Cherry Owen, which she embraces with a delightful gusto.

Kai Owen joins the comedy gang with his own brand of enthusiastic laughter making. Adversary to Melville’s Mrs Dai Bread as well as the snoring husband of her Mrs. Cherry Owen. Christian Patterson moves with a smooth charm and introduces us to the bravura comedy and engaging warmth of Ifan Huw Dafydd’s Blind Captain Cat and his Mr. Waldo who likes his stout with no egg in it. Whilst his Pembroke City song could have had a better focus but together with the whole cast we get a clear and smile raising rendering of the goings on of Johnnie Crack and Flossy Snail and their baby.

Sara Hariss-Davies gives us strong and telling performances of all her six very different roles and she goes in for physical comedy wholeheartedly. Steven Meo another captivating multi performer, his No Good Boyo has a wink in his eye that tells us he really is up to no good. He pulls a good pint in the Sailor Arms. He organs away as Mr. Organ Morgan and has plenty of opportunities to banter with the ladies of the town both as Ocky Milkman and as Willy Nilly Postman. We first realise that this is a sideways and fantasy look at life in a small Welsh town when Caryl Morgan’s alluring Myfanwy Price falls into the arms of Mr. Edwards, yet another cameo from Richard Elfyn.

Young boys buy kisses off girls for a penny or give them a penny to save themselves a dunk in the river. The stage is full of movement waddling and funny walks throughout bringing great gales of laughter from the capacity audience. This was a very physical performance often bordering on the farcical. The usually astute Terry Hands hasn’t quite managed to capture the beauty of Dylan Thomas’s poetry to bring a fully rounded completeness to the production.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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