Theatre in Wales Review

What a pleasure in this centenary year to encounter a Dylan Thomas play I knew nothing about. Well OK, it's actually a Dylan Thomas novel, and an unfinished one too. But Lucy Gough has adapted it for the stage and she has created a new play in the unmistakable tones of Thomas.

What we see and experience sprawls messily, sparking off in strange directions with moments that remind us of other Thomas works, but then I suspect the book is like that too.

It starts with Samuel Bennet trashing then leaving his Swansea home and striking out for the bright lights of London and an exciting new life. His first port of call in the big city is the railway buffet which might appear to be the height of sophistication.

However he's soon led out into a wider world of eccentric people, extraordinarily cluttered flats, dangerous women and drinks. His day ends with a series of lost clothing and the lucky retention of a hat for use not in covering up a head but more sensitive regions.

Throughout Kevin Lewis' fast production there's a palpable feeling of the strangeness of a new place and the uncertainties of a metropolis, its people and its places. There's a lot of very effective climbing over, under, through and around the crowded set by his energetic cast.

Oliver Wood is a very good, vulnerable innocent as Sam and there's an ingenious and successful Greek chorus as his inner voices. This is provided by Ceri Ashe, Ceri Elen and Jenny Livesey when they are not being the often dangerous other women he meets.

The male inhabitants in this world of the absurd are provided by Matthew Bulgo and Richard Nichols. A word too for Jem Treays whose movement work provides constant pleasures and designer Neil Davies whose stage clutter adds a constant air of uncertainty to the evening.

The production has touches of Beckett, Pinter even James Joyce about it. But what Lucy Gough allows us to hear is the unmistakeable voice of Dylan Thomas grappling with recalcitrant material and providing the audience with entertaining diversion while he struggles.

Victoria Hallett

Theatre in Wales