xThe Cultch in association with Richard Jordan Productions
Dylan Thomas: Return Journey

Dates and Venue 9 - 21 December 2014, 8pm (matinees Sat & Sun at 2pm) | The Cultch Historic Theatre, 1895 Venables Street

Reviewer Susan Peake

As part of the centenary celebrations of his life, Dylan Thomas: Return Journey, is completing its long, world-wide run here at the Cultch in Vancouver.  Yes, this is the last stop for the one-man play, and for Bob Kingdom embodying the Dylan Thomas character for all those years. The play, incidentally, evolved through collaboration between Kingdom and none other than the Academy Award winning actor, Sir Anthony Hopkins, in his directorial debut.

Act 1 begins with Bob Kingdom, as Dylan Thomas, walking onto the stage, bare but for a podium, and for the next 45 minutes, we are besieged with images crafted through the magical use of language.  Combinations are thrown out to us such as ‘culture vultures’, ‘bard garb’ and, ‘dressed like an unmade bed’.  We are treated to the poet’s incredible love of the sound and shape of words through stories of his childhood and recitations of some of his most famous poetry, ending the first act with “And Death Shall Have No Dominion”.  The images are brought to life with the clever use of simile, metaphor, onomatopoeia in ways that paint fascinating pictures in our minds.

When Kingdom returns to the stage after the intermission, he (or Dylan Thomas) begins Act 2 with “I hope you enjoyed the interval as much as I did”.  And off he goes with a timely account of a childhood Christmas adventure, full of humorous descriptions of family members, neighbors and other fascinating characters. He then describes his experience as an invited speaker in America in the ‘50s, poking fun at the differences between the British and U.S. social norms.  He ends the performance with perhaps one of the most famous of Thomas’ poems, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.”

It is little wonder that this production has been heralded as a thrilling lyrical journey, with delightful dry humour throughout. 

Dylan Thomas is the pride of Wales – considered to be the most accomplished poet who ever came out of that country.  He was known as quite a colourful character who enjoyed libations at the nearest bar as well as keeping company with an array of women. But that is not the way Kingdom describes him.  Kingdom rightly believes “….  there is little more ordinary that people do than getting drunk and falling down,” he says. “Thomas was a painstaking craftsman of some of the greatest poems ever written and he didn’t do that presiding over a bar”. 

Kingdom has received high praise for his work, not only in this production but also in other one-man plays – The Duke of Windsor, and The Truman Capote Show.  He is one of the UK’s most respected writers and performers and we are fortunate for the opportunity to see him perform at the Cultch in one of the last performances of ‘Dylan Thomas: Return Journey’.

© 2014 Susan Peake