Under Milk Wood

Well meaning but blank voices speak lines of densely poetic language trying but failing to connect with the power or rhythm behind Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas’ perceptive and often comic, examination of Welsh life. Thomas’ compassion for the small dramas of the everyday and belief that what is commonplace unites us is underscored by the delicate beauty and transformative power of the language he bestows on each inhabitant of Llareggub (the joke is in reading it backwards). Sadly this transformative power is not self evident in Shed Theatre’s production.

Originally a radio play and then adapted for the stage and screen, Under Milk Wood is an orchestration of voices, images and sounds that conjure up the dreams and waking hours of an imagined Welsh seaside village from sunrise to sunset.

Shed Theatre have tried to bring Thomas’ text to light with a number of theatrical devices saying that ‘the actors use contemporary dance to great effect to bring the dream sequences alive’ and ‘unusually, the entire cast is on stage at all times making for gutsy chorus moments’. Unfortunately I cannot say that either of these things occurred. The movement sequences were wishy washy and brief and the chorus moments obscure in placing, and usually performed with a half hearted sighing not ‘gusty’ roaring. Moreover the chorus standing limply along the edge of the stage are looking out in what I can only imagine is supposed to be a ‘neutral’ fashion. Having a chorus on stage can absolutely work but they have to be engaged at all times, living and breathing the story and constantly communicating with the audience. Instead what transpires is blank staring which is quite off putting and not a little dampening.

All lines are spoken in a... line by line... different actor... line by line... different actor... process and so the rhythm of the language is never played with or varied and the young cast are unable to infuse Llareggub’s colourful inhabitants with life in this halfhearted landscape. Instead of this being due to a lack of talent however, I believe that it is down to misguided direction. Under Milk Wood is an incredibly difficult play to stage and with this English sounding and static presentation of text, a limp chorus and halfhearted musical and movement moments, Shed Theatre have well and truly bitten off more than they can chew with Thomas’ ‘Play for Voices’.

Reviews by Honour Bayes

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The Blurb

Guy Masterson's world acclaimed interpretation of Dylan Thomas' enchanting masterpiece brought rivetingly to life in 'one of the most remarkable inventive performances of the decade!'

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