A HUNDRED years after the birth of Dylan Thomas, it was fitting that the English Literary Society and KCL Radio collaborated with an affecting production of his radio play, Under Milk Wood.
The omniscient narrator, Steffan Rizzi, took to the candlelit stage, followed by an impressive cast of actors and actresses, half of Welsh descent.The other half learnt the accent specially for the show – and credit to those who did: I couldn’t tell them apart.
Inviting the audience to listen to the dreams and desires of the inhabitants of Llareggub, Rizzi led a narrative which undulates smoothly around the small Welsh fishing village.
The montage was punctuated and guided by well-crafted contributions from the narrator, whether that be the hilarious Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard relentlessly nagging her two dead husbands or the beautiful, bereaved Polly Garter.
Director Imogen Free sees Under Milk Wood as a “piece so bizarrely defiant in structure and tone that it sits comfortably among modern experimental theatre.
The cast gave gestural nods to one another, emphasising a connection between certain characters, but the layout was simple; ten people reading from scripts, one cellist, one pianist, and a film projected onto the back wall.
The play was made for radio, so I was curious to know whether stagecraft would be important to this production, or even exist at all.
The film neatly tied the narrative episodes together, providing animation which was otherwise absent from the production. The montage, edited by Freya Espie and Arazoo Kadir, moved slowly between pub scenes and street corners, alcohol close-ups and wide shots of still fields. It was a worthy asset to the production, embodying Thomas’s 1954 vignettes.
Each character blew out candles surrounding their respective chair to signify their passing towards the end of the production, bringing the play to a measured close.
For all the expected stillness of a ‘play for voices’ Under Milk Wood was a dynamic production, brilliantly executed.
Available on-demand here.