Theatre in Wales

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Time held me green and dying/Though I sang in my chains like the sea

The Best of Touring Theatre

Clown in the Moon- Miles Productions , Theatr Mwldan , February 16, 2018
The Best of Touring Theatre by Clown in the Moon- Miles Productions Actors astonish. Rhodri Miles a couple of weeks was on the Riverfront stage to accept his award for 2017's “Sieiloc.” The lights go up on the Mwldan stage and he simply is Dylan Thomas. He has the penumbra of hair, the braces, the rounded contour of figure. His stature has become that of the five foot six inch poet.

The structure for “Clown in the Moon” is a retrospective from a nineteen-fifties' recording studio. It does not attempt dramatic crescendo and does not employ metaphor as an integrating mechanism. The title, that of a very early poem, does not feature as a thread. The chronology requires that the full life be edited. Some episodes that illustrate the personality do not appear; no fisticuffs with Augustus John in Carmarthen, nothing of the wartime Newquay episode. The eternal immaturity is not stressed. It is illustrated in Thomas' failure to attend the wedding of Vernon Watkins at which he is best man. The play does not seek to judge or condemn.

In Rhodri Miles' magnetic representation it swirls through a series of vividly evoked tableaux from the life. The formative background plays out in the intellectual fizz of the Kardomah cafe. London, “a city paved with poems”, beckons. Thomas plunges into the literary life. Empson, Lehman, Romilly, Grigson, Morton all feature. He meets his first admirer Pamela Hansford Johnson. The five foot author enthuses about the Marquis de Sade, raising possible expectation, but the precocious nineteen year goes home chaste.

Thomas is present to see Salvador Dali's near-suffocation within his diving suit at the Burlington Gallery's epoch-making exhibition of surrealism. Author Gwynne Edwards is on double home territory here having written on Dali and Picasso. His Thomas recalls that the Daily Mail saw nothing in the exhibition but the threat of moral disorder.

Thomas falls into the Thames and is hauled out with the aid of a billhook. Much of the London action takes place in the triangle of the Fitzrovia Tavern, the Wheatsheaf and the Marquis of Granby, which has a closing time half an hour later than its neighbours. Tenby-born Nina Hamnett is an abiding presence, her sexual preference being men of the sea. Thomas combats the effects of drink by eating chrysanthemums belonging to his flat-mate Alfred Janes. The flowers are washed down with the water from the vase.

Caitlin, Laugharne, children, the wartime scriptwriting with Strand Films follow. He views a new-born, part-blue and part-green, and comments “I hope that age improves him.” Celebrity, the draining tours- “the pilgrimage of the damned”- the fourteen curtain calls accompany the ill-health into early middle age. Rhodri Miles captures to perfection the register of the rhythmic declamation that were the public readings and made Thomas a regular on radio request shows.

Another American tour beckons. “I think this shall be my last” he says. A single light illuminates the actor's face from below for “Rage against the dying of the light.” If that is one clarion call there is another moral to be had from the words of the teenager. “Ambition, I felt, was critical.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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