REVIEW: Under Milk Wood, Southwick Players
Under Milk Wood is a window to one day in the life of a small Welsh village.
So it is both clever and appropriate that Southwick Players make windows a key feature of their production of the Dylan Thomas classic at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, this week.
The impressive set has various two-storey buildings, with some carefully-crafted details in the roof lines, and include a cobbled street that extends right down to a lovely stone wall, illustrating the quay, at the front of the stage.
Different people appear out of the doors and through the windows throughout the play and with a cast of 15 – and a character list much longer – that is an awful lot to co-ordinate.
The timing is crucial as often the characters needed to finish speaking as they are walking off, and everyone has it spot on.
It is a play about voices and, physically, the welsh accents are impressive, never feeling forced, something of which Thomas himself would be rightly proud.
It is also a play about nothing and everything, the hopes and dreams of the villagers. It is only one day in their life but we learn a lot about them in that time.
The narrator is a crucial guide and director Harry Atkinson’s decision to divide that role between four people works really well. Tobias Clay, Nikki Dunsford, Carrie Lambe and Stuart Smithers each bring a slightly different tone to the part and with each of the other actors playing three or four parts, it somehow makes a lot of sense for the one part to be played by four actors.
It obviously is impossible to have a different house for each villager or family involved but I think it would help if each character always came out of the same house. Perhaps the idea is to keep it all fluid so you see it all as a much bigger village but with so much going on and so many people involved, it might add clarity.
Ron Common, for example, is a drunkard one minute, a postmen the next, while Tracey Bates goes from the po-faced Mrs Pugh to siren-like Mrs Dai Bread Two.
A number of the characters are ghosts or memories of times gone by, like the drowned sailors that Captain Cat, played by Peter Jukes, cannot forget.
Overall there is a sense of being trapped in a world that will not change and the knowledge that dreams will not come true, even when they are shared. It is a difficult play to get right but the Players do a very good job.
Under Milk Woods is on at the Barn Theatre tonight and tomorrow at 7.30pm. Tickets £11 from the box office on 01273 597094 or online at southwickplayers.org.uk
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