Under Milk Wood
This article is from 2009.
A group of girls from Youth Arts Leicestershire, all in their late teens, all dressed as wood nymphs, rock slowly back and forth as we file into the theatre. Their synchronized movements suggest the ebb and flow of the tide.
'To begin at the beginning,' announces one. 'It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black...' The opening lines of Dylan Thomas's play - subtitled 'A Play for Voices' - are here shared between eight voices: the night-time voices of the town, the wood and the 'sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishing-boat-bobbing sea.'
In this production, these creatures are our guides. It is they who lead us, Puck-like, on our surreal journey through a day in the life of the Welsh fishing village of 'LLareggub' (try saying that backwards). These woody creatures don bonnets or aprons to 'act out' some of the characters in their tale (the starchy, twice-widowed Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, for example). Other characters they reduce to objects, which they control puppet-like to comic effect (so Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard's deceased first husband is a pair of nodding spectacles on a stick). Such characterisations - in the hands of these wood nymph narrators - bring out the dream-like qualities of the script.
The young actors' movements are confident, even balletic, and rehearsals have evidently been many. But the emphasis is on choreography not poetry. Though our narrators slink across the stage caressing tree-stumps and each other, they do not 'caress' the playwright's words (as Richard Burton did so well in the early radio play version).
Quaker Meeting House, 220 6109, until 29 Aug, 6.30pm, £7 (£5).