REVIEW: Under Milk Wood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

This article was originally written for The Public Reviews at:

Writer: Dylan Thomas

Director: Gareth Nicholls

Composer: Michael John McCarthy

Choreographer: Kelly Lloyd Jones

As Welsh as rarebit, leeks and daffodils, Dylan Thomas’ 1954 radio drama Under Milk Wood is still 24 hours in the life of the sleepy village of Llareggub (read that backwards) but in this production from the Tron Community Theatre Company staged for the Home Nations Festival 2014, it’s given a more universal treatment.

Some of the copious, colourful characters in Thomas’ original text have been cut to trim this version to a neat one hour performance. That said, there is still a large and vibrant ensemble to bring the story to life. The cast grapples well with the wordy text but it must be said that from the top of the auditorium, a large proportion of the dialogue was lost which rendered the narrative difficult to follow and hard to engage with fully.

The language is rich as befitting a piece written for radio, but for all the talk there is little action, a fact director Gareth Nicholls has addressed by including choreographed sequences and songs by Michael John McCarthy which prove to be the highlight of the piece. The set and lighting design by Charlotte Lane and Dave Shea, score high on atmosphere and the rustic bar, wooden chairs and tables, earthy-coloured costumes and onstage three piece band are very reminiscent of the West End musical Once with its simplistic setting and integrated sequences of movement. The whole production evokes a ceilidh-like feeling, those traditional Scottish, impromptu, intimate, traditional, storytelling, song and dance sessions.

As entertaining as it is in parts, in choosing to stage the production in the native accents of the performers (for the most part Scots, with a smattering of English regional and North American), the identity of the piece is lost and so is some of its charm. This piece has never truly succeeded in the transition from radio to stage; there is just something more satisfying in letting your imagination fill in the detail of the eccentric village residents. However, this is a perfectly entertaining production well executed by this community company and an interesting start to the Home Nations Festival.

Image: John Johnston

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