Monday, 5 May 2014

Flawless Llareggub: Clwyd Theatr Cymru present Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood" Exeter Northcott Theatre Tuesday 29 April - Saturday 3 May 2014

Clwyd Theatr Cymru
Dylan Thomas
: "Under Milk Wood"
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Tuesday 29 April - Saturday 3 May
Director: Terry Hands

First Voice: Owen Teale
Rosie Probert, Mrs Willy Nilly, Mrs Organ Morgan,
Mrs Butcher Beynon Mrs Dai Bread One, Bessie Bighead:
Sara Harris-Davies
Jack Black, Mr Ogmore, Butcher Beynon, Rev Eli Jenkins:
Simon Nehan
Evans the Death, Utah Watkins, Dai Bread, Cherry Owen:
Kai Owen
Gossamer Beynon, Mrs Puch, Mrs Dai Bread Two, Cherry Owen:
Sophie Melville
Organ Morgan, Ocky Milkman, Nogood Boyo, Willy Nilly, Sinbad Sailors:
Steven Meo
Captain Cat, Mr Waldo: Ifan Huw Dafydd
Myfanwy Price, Lily Smalls, Mae Rose Cottage, Mary Ann Sailors:
Caryl Morgan
Mog Edwards, Mr Pritchard, Lord Cut Glass, Mr Pugh
Richard Elfyn
Mrs Ogmore Pritchard, Mrs Utah Watkins, Polly Garter
Katy Elin Salt
Extra and Cover: Brandan Charleson
Second Voice: Christian Patterson

Ann Reed

Open Univeristy Graduates

meets Jenny Hogg
Exeter Northcott Media Officer
for a matinée performance of
"Under Milk Wood"
Llareggub, according its Minister the Reverend Eli Jenkins, is a tiny fishing village of fifty houses, at the mouth of  the baby river Dewi and the foot of  the mole-hill, Llareggub, crowned by the diminutive dingle of Milk Wood.

Llareggub, as any schoolboy knows, is a palindrome suggesting that the village is - not very much.

Dylan Thomas grew up in a much larger community, Wales' second largest city, Swansea. Following the destruction of Swansea by the Luftwafffe in 1941, he moved to London. From there, the increasing threat of 'Vergeltungswaffen' led him to move, with his wife Caitlin and baby daughter Aeronwy, to the tiny village of New Quay in West Wales.

Thomas was entranced by his new environment and drew heavily on the characters and experiences of the village to write his world famous theatrical masterpiece, "Under Milk Wood".

 For the year of Thomas's centenary (his birthday will be on 27 October) Exeter Northcott Theatre have arranged a special performance of "Under Milk Wood" by the excellent Welsh theatre company "Clwyd Theatr Cymru".

A Magnificent Set
On Thursday there was a special matinée performance for schools and Ann Reed of the Association of Open University Graduates arranged for a few of the graduated to come along as well.

Schoolteachers giving pupils time off lessons to come to the theatre, would have considered it time extremely well spent. The production brought to life the classroom favourite that every child should know

The set included a bass relief, representing the village of Llareggub, as a back-drop. The houses each had tiny windows and lights inside which came on for the night scenes. The spot-lighting was adjusted throughout the play to indicate the time of day.

Owen Teale was our first narrator, one of only two actors with ties or shoes. His dignity and bearing were imposing, and his delivery of the descriptive narrative was both polished and down-to-earth, as Thomas intended. Christian Patterson was even more smartly dressed, and equally eloquent as 'second voice'.

The character players were all dressed in the same drab beige as the set. The men sported trousers with army braces (plus a waistcoat for the very precise Mr Pugh). The women wore very simple shifts. Nothing was included which might detract from the word pictures created by Thomas for his 1954 radio broadcast. All the characters were eye-catching nevertheless, owing to their extreme mannerisms.

The handful of chairs, which were the only props, were pressed into use to illustrate each scene. 
Captain Cat's rocking chair was a constant source of anxiety, rocking near the edge of the floating steps on one side of the stage. As he groped his way blindly down the stairs for his first appearance, it seemed he really was blind, and must surely miss his footing and fall off the stage.

Each actor played many characters, but there was never any confusion about who they were. Steven Meo's comic interludes were outrageous as they were delightful. The direction had left him plenty of latitude to interupt and delay the two narrators with additional 'business'. The voices were authentically Welsh, and the unforgettable song of "Little Willy Wee" was performed spectacularly by Katy Elin Salt to a spell-bound audience, and cast.

A great addition to the Northcott's spring season, and a great choice by Ann Reed as her last project for AOUG. Clwyd Theatr Cymru is a theatre company whose name will not readily be forgotten here in Devon.

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