“It is all about religion, sex and death,” is how actor Richard Burton described Dylan Thomas’s famous play, which has been hailed as the greatest drama ever written for radio. As for this stage version, directed by Geoff Gould of Blood in the Alley, it’s a little lack-lustre initially.
Performed by an all male cast of Rowan Finken, Martin Lucey and Denis Foley, their gentle sing-song accents, suggesting both Wales, where it’s set, and Cork, are not particularly emphatic. But once you get accostomed to the low-key delivery what is most striking is the lyrical language and the descriptive text, where concepts such as being able to hear “the dew falling” make perfect sense in the fictional Welsh fishing village of Llareggub (‘Bugger all’ spelled backwards) where all is quiet as the villagers settle down for the night. Dreams ensue, acted out by the cast, linking the characters to one another. Their world is small but they’re all connected to one another, sometimes as objects of lust.
This minimalist production, with little more than a lantern on the stage, comes into its own when the nosey postman, Mr Willy Nilly, uses motion to suggest riding a bicycle around the village, delivering the news of “who’s having a baby and who’s dying”. Willy Nilly’s wife steams open the mail and when her husband makes his calls, he has no compunction about relaying the latest gossip even before the villagers get to open the envelopes. With a faint jazz track playing in the background, the postman’s scene is amusing. He ‘cycles’ in the one spot making a change from the largely stationary actors who could have made better use of the stage.
Martin Lucey as Captain Cat, the elderly blind sea captain, gives a fine performance, sometimes acting as narrator. While there is no plot, there is much storytelling and fun to be had from characters such as guest house owner, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, who is so obsessive about keeping a tidy house that no-one can come to stay. This play never fails to charm with its characters’ foibles.
- Final performance tonight, then touring to Galway’s Town Hall Theatre, March 29; and Civic Theatre, Tallaght, April 9