In their impressive opening night of UNDER MILKWOOD by Dylan Thomas, the Genesian thespians have intrigued and entertained their audience once again.
This was a wonderful stage adaptation of Dylan Thomas’s radio drama from 1954. Director Yularia Rogers and Assistant Director Michael Heming bring to life in miniature the goings-on in everyday life in a close-knit, but cliquey Welsh fishing village, in which Thomas with his wry wit dubbed ‘Liareggub’ – where bugger all (the spelling backwards) happens!
Even before the performance, in the tiny Genesian foyer, we have an ocean tang of the nautical events set to unfold on the stage. Under the opaque lamps, glass mooring buoys are strung.
A beautiful mural, etched in ink and subtle water-color created by one of the actors Tiffany Hoy, hangs near the glass buoys. Her seascape mural is worthy of close perusal before even entering the theatre. Framed by twisted rope we are given an introduction to the blind clipper seaman Captain Cat.
Under a dinghy buoy three mermaids are clasping ropes under water. Sitting on a jetty we observe a fisherman ‘snag’ a mermaid. In the village there are headstones of past lives and the village pump the scene of fresh washing billowing in the wind, while children chase hoops near the village pub ‘The Sailor’s Arms’. Then finally on the left side of the mural jolly friesian cows with brimming udders.
Hoy’s creative mural serves not only as an extension to the set on stage but gives us an exciting insight into the wide array of characters on stage and their dreams of a less onerous existence.
To portray these Fisher-folk, Yularia Rogers has written in her program notes that her nine crazy actors managed to juggle and play some 54 characters! Quite an amazing achievement.
The stage set by Martin Searles and lighting design by Liam O’Keefe is magical with misty midnight blue hurricane lamps glowing from barnacle ropes – looking like twisted kelp.
We are drawn into King Neptune’s cavern at forty fathoms. Then we see Blind Captain Cat who is adrift in a dinghy with drowned sailors tugging on ropes willy-nilly bow and stern, trying to pull the Captain in and out of Davey Jones watery Locker. It is then the Captain sees the web footed cockle women.
Through the play Dylan Thomas is the omniscient narrator who entices the audience with the allure of his words into the dreams and subconscious thoughts of the Fisher- folk.
“From where you are, you can hear their dreams. Captain Cat, the retired blind sea-Captain, asleep in his bunk in the sea-shelled, ship-in-bottled, shipshape best cabin of Schooner House dreams of.”
Second Voice : “never such seas as any that swamped the decks of his S.S. Kidwelly you- bellying over the bedclothes and jellyfish – slippery and sucking him down salt-deep into the Davey dark where the fish come biting out and nibble him down to the Wishbone, and the long-drowned nuzzle up to him.”
And love-tragic Captain Cat who hankers for Rosie Provert whose name is tattooed on his belly. But poor Rosie is long dead and tells Cat she can taste the dirt in her mouth and that she is being taken away in the darkness.
The production’s soundscape featured original music guitar, organ/accordion and saxophone credits by Courtney Hough, Tiffany Hoy, and Tim Quaife. Their music added yet another dimension to the production.
With their costume designs, Pheonuh Callan and Susan Carveth added authenticity and vibrant colour to the characters.
I was saddened by the character of Polly Gartner- a scarlet woman who sings and scrubs in her bloomers of the same colour, much to the chagrin of others in the village. Polly sings and dreams of her past paramours and pines for her dead lover while trysting with countless others.
My recommendation. Book yourself tickets to see this fascinating show, and give yourself the pleasure of seeing first hand, Tiffany Hoy’s wonderful mural and then meeting all 54 characters in Dylan Thomas’ classic tale. The show plays till April 8.