Under Milk Wood original set to attend St Albans performance

Under Milk Wood

Under Milk Wood - Credit: Archant

A member of the cast of the original London stage show is planning to attend a performance of the Company of Ten’s production of the Dylan Thomas masterpiece, Under Milk Wood.

Under Milk Wood

Under Milk Wood - Credit: Archant

Beth Maxwell, who lives locally, was born Buddug-Mair Powell. She played Mrs Cherry Owen and other characters, at the New Theatre, St. Martin’s Lane for seven months from 1956 to 1957, with Donald Houston in the lead.

The play then transferred to New York, with Donald Houston, Diana Maddox and Beth being chosen to go and join the 25-strong American company.

Beth, who was born in Wales, moved to England with her family as a young girl, and trained at the Northern Theatre School. Other well-known graduates of that establishment include Bernard Hepton, Edward Petherbridge and Billie Whitelaw.

Beth recalls seeing the advertisement for actors to perform Under Milk Wood on the London stage and immediately wrote for an audition. “I was called to read for the director, and was overjoyed when they offered me the part. Working in the West End was wonderful, but going to New York was a huge adventure. I had never been abroad before. Imagine going to Broadway! I stayed with friends in Brooklyn, and Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich came to the premiere. They both said they loved it!”

Under Milk Wood

Under Milk Wood - Credit: Archant

Unfortunately the New York production had the misfortune to coincide with both a newspaper strike and the opening of West Side Story, so the run was cut short. But the same year, Beth took part in the live BBC televising of the play, with Donald Houston, and later in 1963, a BBC Radio version with Richard Burton as the narrator. This, of course, was highly exciting for Beth. “Elizabeth Taylor came to meet us all. She was so beautiful and really lovely.”

A cast of five women and six men are preparing to present a day in the life of the residents of Llareggubn when the Company of Ten production opens tomorrow (Fri).

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Like Beth, Angharad Pugh-Jones is taking on the part of Mrs Cherry Owen, a devoted wife who delights in telling tales about her inebriated husband, as well as several other roles in the Company of Ten production.

Angharad said: “She understands Cherry Owen enjoys his drink, I suspect she does too, and she really enjoys his drunken antics.”

“My father is Welsh so the accent comes pretty naturally. My grandfather was a great fan of Dylan Thomas and had a portrait of the writer in the old family home, so Dad is chuffed to see me performing in Under Milk Wood.”

Performances on the Abbey Theatre main stage take place at 8pm tomorrow and Saturday (1/2) and from Tuesday, July 5, to Saturday, July 9. There is also a matinee at 2.30pm this Sunday. (3).

To book tickets see online or call the box office on 01727 857861.