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The Theatreguide.London Review

Under Milk Wood
Tricycle Theatre       May 2008

Dylan Thomas's love letter to Wales is given as bright and charming a production as you could wish for in this modest but sensitive revival by the London Theatre Company, playing only two weeks at the Tricycle but deserving a longer life.

With two narrators and six other actors playing thirty-eight named characters and innumerable extras among them, Thomas's play-poem takes us through a day in the mythical Welsh village of Llareggub, starting and ending with some eavesdropping into the villagers' dreams.

We meet Mrs. Ogmore Pritchard, doubly a widow, continuing to torment Mr. Ogmore and Mr. Pritchard in her dreams, and Dai Bread, bigamously married, continuing to satisfy both his wives while awake.

Henpecked Mr. Pugh dreams and daydreams of ways to murder Mrs. Pugh while Polly Garter happily lies down with any man who asks and joys in the babies thus produced, and blind Captain Cat listens to the footsteps of the living and the voices of the dead.

From opposite ends of the town Mog Edwards and Myfanwy Price write daily letters (which the postman's wife steams open and reads) declaring a love they will never carry any further, while Gossamer Beynon and Sinbad Sailors suffer silently from a love neither suspects the other returns.

All this and a lot more comes alive through the briefest of snippets, tied together by the two narrative voices and punctuated by songs ranging from Polly's lament for the one man she truly loved to the games of the village children.

Director Malcolm Taylor is wise enough to realise that his job is just to stay out of the way of the playwright's magic, and his actors just sit onstage, creating instant characterisations out of subtle changes in vocal inflections and body language.

I will single out Philip Madoc as the first narrative voice, but only for being the weak link. He has been directed or allowed to speak much too quickly, fighting the poetry and repeatedly threatening to descend into unintelligible gabble.

For the rest - Gareth Kennerley, Howell Evans, Cerith Flinn, Abi Harris, Jennifer Hill, Anne Rutter and Glyn Pritchard (and a brief guest appearance by the recorded voice of David Jason) - I have nothing but praise and gratitude for such a lovely evening.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Under Milk Wood - Tricycle  Theatre 2008


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