Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Under Milk Wood - People's Theatre - Review

Under Milk Wood
People's Theatre
June 13th 2017

Staged as a radio play within a play, the People's Theatre production reproduces the original recording of the play by the BBC.  On stage we have a set designed as the recording studio, with organ and piano, sound effects crew, and the cast of 12 actors who will voice 45 characters from the imaginary welsh town of Llareggub.

As the audience arrive the cast are already taking their places on stage, as if they too are just arriving for the show. (in fact we saw some arriving in the bar, before we even got to the auditorium). They chat quietly together until a very plummy BBC announcer draws our attention and introduces the play. The lights dim and the recording of Dylan's "play for voices" begins.

And what a tour de force it is. We are instantly drawn in to the sleepy dreamworld of the inhabitants of Llareggub, as First Voice Frank Coles begins to recite Dylan's lyrical words. The town sleeps, dreaming of wild and and wonderful things, strange and mysterious thing, of love and lust and death and life. And gradually the sun rises and we meet the good people of the town.

The play flows through a day in the life of this little town, narrated by Frank Coles and Steve Hewitt, We meet its characters, we see glimpses into their past and their present, and perhaps their future, as heard by blind Captain Cat (Mike Smith). The words flow, beautiful and musical with lilting welsh accents and the images appear in our heads as the loving, and plotting, and gossiping carries on around us.

Photo by Paula Smart
There would not be much action to hold our attention in the reproduction of the recording of a radio play, you might think. But as the actors come forward to deliver their lines, they flounce, and slink, and creep around, casting knowing looks to the other actors, and to the audience, so we know what's going on, both in the town and in the recording studio - there are little rivalries and friendships. Ho ho!

The play is enhanced with sound effects - some recorded - bird song, cows lowing, a cart trundling by, while others are produced on stage by the actors - the rubbing of a brush against a box, the tapping of a pen against a glass.

The small details make the play. Inevitably there are some stumbles over lines - Dylan's words are almost tongue twisters at times, yet even this was skillfully fielded with a wry aside to the audience.
All of the cast do a remarkable job of remembering and delivering this beautiful, sensuous play.

Lyrical words, enhanced by a beautiful musical score, and soulful singing. Come along, lose yourself for a day in Llareggub.
You'll laugh, and love, and maybe cry a little. You may not understand all of it, but you will not forget it.

Under Milk Wood plays until 17th June. Time hurries on. Don't miss it.

Denise Sparrowhawk

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