JOYCE MCMILLAN on UNDER MILK WOOD at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 19.7.14.
4 stars ****
DO THEY STILL exist, little, buttoned-up, Bible-bashing British towns like the fictional Llaregyb, celebrated in Dylan Thomas’s great 1954 dramatic poem? Perhaps not; but the sheer strength and resonance of Gareth Nicholls’s multi-voiced staging of Under Milk Wood, presented by the Tron Community Company to launch the theatre’s Home Nations season for Glasgow 2014, suggests that Scotland still has powerful folk-memories of places where most women were either ageing battle-axes or “no better than they should be”, and most men were either henpecked, or up to no good.
On a gorgeous, light-touch public bar set by Charlotte Lane, Linda Radley’s powerful one-hour adaptation of the play – presented by three young narrators, 13 other actors, and a 3-piece band – leads us through the high points of the 24-hour cycle evoked in Thomas’s poem, drawing out fine performances from Chris Bogle as old Captain Cat, Anthony Byrne as the Reverend Eli Jenkins, and Jacqueline Thain and Stephanie Pollock as the town’s two “wicked women”, Polly Garter and Rosie Probert. There are also some glorious songs by Michael John McCarthy.
In the end, though, the success of a multiple-voice version of Under Milk Wood depends almost entirely on the pace and co-ordination of the performance, and the clarity of the verse speaking. And here, the young Tron company do their writer and director proud; in accents that may not be Welsh, but that still often capture the sheer compelling magic of one of the greatest verse dramas ever written in these islands.
Seen on 17 July, final performance 20 July.