Under Milk Wood is a “play for voices” directed by Kip Williams, who has adapted the 1954 BBC radio drama for Sydney Theatre Company with the help of superb set design by Robert Cousins, eerie music by Alan John, and dramaturgical assistance by Andrew Upton.
In this compelling but peculiar production, the lusts, hopes and dreams of Dylan Thomas’ hotpot of eccentric characters are narrated by the delightfully mischievous Sandy Gore, and Jack Thompson, making his first stage appearance in four decades.
He tells the audience, “from where you are you can hear their dreams,” and the appeal of watching the secret lives in 24 hours of the inhabitants of the small fictional Welsh village Llareggub (hint: read it backwards for a sneaky joke on Thomas’ behalf) continues to appeal to an audience’s desire for the unknown, for authenticity and for intimacy in the theatre.
While Under Milk Wood works incredibly well as a radio drama, most notably the version starring the irreplaceable Richard Burton as narrator, it is not always translated adequately on stage.
The dropping of the Welsh accents for something more neutral doesn’t help here and seems to flatten the energy of the production, but the constant action, and the surreal flow and interweaving of different scenes, makes up for this.
On the whole Under Milk Wood is an amusing production and a unique theatre experience. The acting is impeccable, but the real excitement comes from never being quite sure of what is coming next.
Until Jul 7, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, $40-90, 9250 1777, sydneytheatre.com.au