So you think you know Dylan Thomas? Maybe for his work and his volatile mindset through drinking, but have you ever wondered what his wife Caitlin really thought of him? We find out in this dynamic one-woman show,
a realistic and down-to-earth interpretation of a woman on the edge of a breakdown
It needs to be noted from the word go that Caitlin is not for those triggered by issues such as domestic abuse, alcoholism and broken families. Kempell does beat around the bush with this role as she blatantly shows the very harsh reality Caitlin lived in when she was with Thomas, in love and marriage. She portrays a broken woman who had to fight back to survive in a world in which she was judged for marrying a poet, not a rich suitor as her family had hoped. She joined her husband in drinking and quickly learned to fight back when he had affairs. But the reality was that through her brokenness, she became someone who was no saint herself. Likewise, she had affairs and beat Thomas up in retaliation for what he did to her, but rather than us hating her for it, Kempell taps into her darker emotions and makes us feel for her as we identify with her anger, frustration and more through the clever use of physical theatre. A simple set of a long wooden table, two chairs and a thick shawl create a realistic and down-to-earth interpretation of a woman on the edge of a breakdown.
Caitlin is performed in such a way that with each insight we gain, we also get a comedic slant on little sayings that this wife had when irritated or annoyed. Kempell's soft Welsh accent is so inviting and mesmerising that when she starts swearing or observes something that is not to the point - like the nasty interfering mother-in-law's behaviour for instance - the comedy slides in so naturally that it hits like a ton of bricks and makes us laugh heartily. This, when it comes to the more intense dramatic moments, makes the character more relatable and leaves us wanting more.
I cannot recommend Kempell's performance highly enough. It is so refreshing to see Dylan Thomas from a perspective we don't normally acknowledge when learning about poets and the brazen honesty was so engaging and memorable it will stay a long time. A real treat from the Brighton Fringe which I hope will go on to bigger and better things.