Friday, April 26, 2013

UNDER MILK WOOD

Directed by Duncan Ley
Written by Dylan Thomas
 Canberra Repertory Society, Theatre 3
April 12 to 27, 2013

Review by Len Power 17 April 2013



Written originally as a radio program in 1952, Dylan Thomas’s poem about a day in the life of a Welsh village would seem to be a daunting prospect for the stage.  Not a problem, though, if you have an imaginative director of the calibre of Duncan Ley and a cast of experienced performers to bring his vision to life.

Duncan Ley retains the sense of a stark reading of the poem at the beginning of the show, but when the lights go down, the magic starts and a captivating pageant of humanity awakens before the audience.  It’s a bit like ‘Brigadoon’ without the music.  I’m not going to spoil it by telling you how this is done. It’s something you’ll have to see for yourself.

Duncan Driver leads the fine cast as ‘First Voice’, essentially the narrator of the show.  He pops in and out as narrator and occasionally plays a character here and there as well.  His expert delivery of the words is more real and less actorish than the famous Richard Burton recording.  He would have made Dylan Thomas proud.

The ten member ensemble, including Geoffrey Borny, Peter Holland, Erin Pugh, Steph Roberts and Graham Robertson expertly play the full emotional range of a myriad of characters.  Every member of the ensemble has their moment to shine and all give memorable performances.

Anne Kay has designed a clever, finely detailed and atmospheric set for the production and Heather Spong’s costumes are just right for the period.  The lighting design by Chris Ellyard and sound design by Neil McRitchie are especially notable in this production, creating quite a haunting atmosphere.  Helen Vaughan-Roberts has done an excellent job with the huge number of Properties required and the stage crew, co-ordinated by Stage Manager, Carmen King, keep the magic going with their silent set changes.

In less expert hands, this poem-as-play could be a rather uninteresting experience.  Duncan Ley brings his imaginative flair and great sense of theatre to this production and I found myself more interested in the way the play was being done, rather than the actual play itself.  However, if you love the words of this poem already, Duncan Ley’s magic will double your enjoyment of this show.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 21 April 2013


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