Theatre at UBCUnder Milk Wood
by Dylan Thomas
Venue Frederic Wood Theatre Dates 23 September - 2 October 2004
Reviewer Jane Penistan
Director Sarah Rodgers Set design Izzy Rubin
Lighting Nicola Waterfield
Costume design Nicole Noelle Chartrand
Sound design Karin Konoval
Stage Manager Krista Sung
Under Milk Wood is Dylan Thomas's first verse play and last published work. The original script was written over a ten-year span and only finished a very short time before the author's death. Originally a broadcast script commissioned by the BBC, the adaptation to the stage poses a challenge to a director.
Sarah Rodgers meets this challenge admirably. The essential element of the words is realized and delivered with understanding and insight. "The ring of words" that Thomas so reveled in, is evidently also enjoyed to the full by the director and her cast. The characters of the many roles have been explored in depth, so that the several different inhabitants of Llaregub are easily distinguished during the progress of the play. The timing and varied pace here, together with animated and controlled performances all add up to an excellent verbal presentation.
As if this were not enough, Izzy Rubin has dressed the stage with a variety of wooden, trap door boxes, and platforms. These both elevate and conceal the speakers as occasion demands, moving the audience eye from one point to another, to focus on a kitchen, cowshed, or harbour as required. This retains the contained entity of the close-knit village. That there is an outside world is there, but is disregarded by most of the hard working or hard living villagers. The Reverend Eli Jenkins acknowledges this, as does the much-travelled blind Captain Cat.
The transition between dreaming and reality is also managed subtly, but distinctly throughout the production by all ten members of the cast, who each play several roles. The clothes are suitably nondescript, enabling the actors to use their own movement and gesture to distinguish each different member of the community each is playing. All these young performers present sharp tongued harridans, languishing young or elderly women, grizzled old fishermen and sailors, hard-fisted shopkeepers, feckless youths and the dedicated minister and his organist.
The accompanying music is played by members of the cast, using small instruments. The only criticism here is that the notes of the organ, or possibly the harmonium, of Organ Morgan are missing.
As the opening production of the 2004-05 season at the Frederic Wood Theatre, Under Milk Wood augurs well for the rest of the year and for the success of the talented director and her cast and company. Here is a rare opportunity to hear and see a well spoken, well acted, and well directed remarkable verse play.
Under Milk Wood runs at the Frederic Wood Theatre at 7.30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, reservations, and tickets phone the Box Office at 604-822-2678 or visit www.theatre.ubc.ca
© 2004 Jane Penistan
© 2004 Jane Penistan