Under Milk Wood

To begin at the beginning: there's a bizarre pre-set in this Under Milk Wood in which the cast, dressed in tasselled tie dye and leggings, drift about the stage aimlessly, wafting their arms about trippily with the look of a 4am Glastonbury reveller in their eyes. This sets the tone for the rest of the piece – insistently eccentric, theatrical but faintly endearing.

An enduringly popular choice at the Fringe, Dylan Thomas's oft adapted radio drama Under Milk Wood follows the inhabitants of the fictional Welsh town of Llareggub (read it backwards), surreally celebrating the rural mundane with a host of colourful characters. These include a woman constantly nagging her two dead husbands, a policeman who relieves himself into his hat, and a blind sea-captain haunted by dreams of his drowned shipmates.

This production's enormous cast alternate between narrating the story - often in unison - and playing the various inhabitants of Llareggub. It's a strong ensemble and they have a relentless, even exhausting energy that prevents the piece from dragging but there's little variation in tone - it's all played up, directly out to the audience, carefully enunciated in fairly monotonous stage-voices that often miss the subtleties of Thomas's humour. The number of various British accents attempted by the Canadian cast is also distracting, as amongst the Irish and English patter some hit convincingly close to a Welsh lilt and others veer dangerously into Jamaican territory.

The staging is imaginative and not over-ambitious, with interesting use of mask and some enjoyable dance. The sound design also adds a dreamlike quality, and it's all pulled off without a hiccup. However, the sheer number of people onstage make this show feel a bit of a mess despite the obvious effort that's gone into the arrangements and it ends up a series of overplayed sketches that don't entirely piece together.

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Performances

The Blurb

Dylan Thomas’ timeless, lyrical, green-leaved sermon on the innocence of men captures the quaint, witty essence of a charming Welsh town in whimsical, delightful storytelling recounted lovingly like an action-packed screen saver of cartoon sketches.

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