Under Milk Wood

In a play which is composed solely of the inner thoughts of a Welsh village of a certain era, and is sometimes sub-titled as a ‘play for voices’, accents are sort of a big deal. I felt that this play was probably a bad choice for a cast who had the unfortunate disadvantage of Canadian accents. Though there were interspersed attempts at sounding Welsh, this manifested in fairly arbitrary r-rolling and a few strange concoctions which were, alarmingly often, closer to Indian than Welsh.

This production obviously took a lot of hard work to create, as it was really very polished and involved some impressive feats. For many of the narrator’s lines the actors spoke in large groups, with sentences divided up phrase by phrase for the individual cast members to speak in turn, seamlessly as one. However, seamlessness was not always a positive; the production was almost without pause, and spoken at such a speed as to lose individual performances and leave us with an endless babble of undifferentiated speech. Perhaps simply slowing the performance down (and abridging as necessary) would make a huge difference. Speed does not equal energy in a production, and silence should be an inseparable component of any play.

Moments of respite from this constant wall of sound came from those scenes involving Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, played by Stephanie Marinakos, and her two dead husbands, played by Kevin Black and Michael Moussis. These were differentiated by the use of well-suited masks and a much slower pace, so as to accommodate the ghosts’ echoing voices, and proved to be a snapshot of what standards this production could reach. I was able to absorb what they were saying and enjoy their distinct ‘voices’, which immediately stood out as dramatic and meaningful.

Two other voices who I actually very much enjoyed were those of Mr. and Mrs. Cherry Owen, played by Brendan Walker and Natasha La Rosa. Their intimate bed talk of drunken antics was genuinely entertaining. Apart from these highlights, I felt many of the other performances to be a steady flow of misdirected caricatures.

The costumes, which did sometimes appear over their uniform tie-dye t-shirts, made a huge difference by helping to create context and differentiation between characters. The folk dance with audience participation was also a nice original touch. However, for the most part, this production was all a bit too Glee club for me, and for Dylan Thomas.

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