Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Magical Hands

At Theatr Clwyd

Under Milk Wood- Clwyd Theatr Cymru , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , April 11, 2014
At Theatr Clwyd by Under Milk Wood- Clwyd Theatr Cymru Design at its apex works on three levels. The players have their framework for movement and support. The set encapsulates and speaks of the play. And it may bring a dimension of suggestion and metaphor. Martin Bainbridge’s set in full has only a single sideways-on image in the public domain. Its full representation may only be experienced, rightly, in a theatre and as theatre. It is variously an aerial view of Thomas’ Llareggub, the lid taken off a community, an open clamshell, the cycle of a day, a question mark, a stopwatch.

The company on stage comprises a cast of eleven. Owen Teale and Christian Patterson as the Voices are dressed in jacket and shoes. The village inhabitants are barefoot and similarly informally clothed in subdued colour. The impression that “Under Milk Wood” exudes is of a company at ease with itself. It is a flavour that is, of course, achieved in part by a group of actors who know each other of old and in part by an intensity of application. When one player extends his piece of comedy the others begin to smile too. The observer may only guess what may happen when it comes to director’s notes but it is a moment of relish for the audience.

No performance on the tour is quite like another. Terry Hands has oxygenated the production with small variations in the cast. Indeed one of Clwyd Theatr Cymru’s most accomplished stalwarts is to be seen in the third row observing his fellow actors. Ifan Huw Dafydd is a constant, perched on high as Captain Cat. His other roles include over-libidinous Mr Waldo. Richard Elfyn's voice turns to a squawk for his declaration of love for Myfanwy Price. Simon Nehan is Butcher Beynon with his dubious weekly mince menu.

Thomas’ tour is an haunting epic through sixty characters, young and old, living and dead. Katie Elin-Salt puts on the meanest of tyrannical scowls for Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard’s demands that her two departeds repeat their set of domestic instructions. Caryl Morgan’s Mae Rose Cottage has a rush of beguiling freshness in her invitation to “Call me Dolores/ Like they do in the stories.” Sophie Melville is a Mrs Pugh of high querulousness.

A late moment of comedy has Organ Morgan on a night walk mistaking an inebriated Cherry Owen for his revered Bach. Steven Meo is also Nogood Boyo up to no good in the washroom and Willy Nilly, spreading gossip assisted by his steaming open the village’s correspondence. He also for a few seconds deliciously plays a member of a dairy herd.

“Under Milk Wood” has attracted a full house for its first night in Aberystwyth. The attention is total. When Polly Garter sings her lament for Willie Wee who is six feet deep you could indeed hear the dew fall.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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