Milking the best of Dylan Thomas in Company of Ten production

Under Milk Wood

Under Milk Wood - Credit: Archant

In his programme notes, director Chris Bramwell says there is nothing like Under Milk Wood in British literature.

Under Milk Wood

Under Milk Wood - Credit: Archant

And I have to say I have seen nothing like it on the stage of the Abbey Theatre in St Albans in the many years I have been reviewing productions by the Company of Ten.

For Dylan Thomas’s lyrical poem, translated to the stage, could have bombed because there is no real story to it just a series of vignettes telling of a day in the life of Llareggub.

It is performed on a sparse set in which the entire cast are present throughout and the whole essence of the play is the lyricism of Thomas’s words.

But it is absolutely compelling. No matter that there is a mixture of accents, not all of them Welsh, it is funny, vibrant and clearly directed from the heart as well as the head by Chris Bramwell.

Under Milk Wood

Under Milk Wood - Credit: Archant


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His team of actors, all of whom play several roles, rise to the challenge impressively.

They play old people, young people, children, sea salts, vicars and many more with an impressive sense of timing which looks easy but probably took a huge amount of rehearsal.

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They have to run across and up and down the stage before returning to their original positions and everyone does it perfectly.

The cast is listed in the programme without, wisely, any attempt to try and pin down which roles they take.

But it is good to see a mixture of veteran Company of Ten performers – the likes of Terry Prince, Angela Stone, Tim Hoyle and Lesley Gordon - joining forces so successfully with more recent additions to the theatre group.

All of them combine to sing Thomas’s The Children’s Song and even though the audience on Friday was smaller than it should have been – perhaps because Wales were achieving their own success in Euro 2016 – they enticed the audience to clap and sing along.

Under Milk Wood concludes the current Company of Ten season and ensures they go out on a high.

Performances continue from tonight (7) until Saturday (9) and tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or online.

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