When Carl Plover was a boy his mother read Under Milkwood to him and his new show marks today’s centenary of the Welshman’s birth, says Colette Sheridan
TO MARK the centenary of the birth of the Welsh poet and writer, Dylan Thomas (October 27 1914 to November 1953), there will be a show at the Cork Arts Theatre celebrating his work. Entitled ‘Wasps Vs Dylan Thomas,’ this tribute will be performed by Cork-based punk poet, Carl Plover, aka Wasps Vs Humans. Plover’s show blends his own material with Thomas’s. He will be joined on stage by actor, Donal McDonald, who will narrate, and Plover’s musician wife, Linda.
Plover, originally a drummer influenced by punk music, performs monologues that are full of biting social commentary about celebrity culture and consumerism. He cites Manchester beat poet, John Cooper Clarke, whom he has supported on stage, as a major influence. But even as a young boy, Plover was storing up another important influence.
“My mother, who used to write poetry, would sit me down at a very young age and get me to listen to the recording of Under Milkwood. It was just beautiful,” says Plover of what is arguably Thomas’s greatest work. “It is half-poetry and half-story and the visual imagery coming from the words is amazing. I got hooked on it.”
When Plover realised that this year was Thomas’s centenary, he put the show together, with the emphasis on the writer’s words, as opposed to the bacchanalian excess.
“Everyone focuses on the alcohol that Dylan Thomas consumed, but that’s unfair, because his body of work is so strong. He went on big long tours of America, playing to audiences of between 800 and 1,000 people. He was the first real performance poet and could drink Liam Gallagher under the table. But the sad thing about him, dying at 39, is that so much more work could have come from him. He had said he was going to write less poetry and more plays. He also had a novel that wasn’t finished when he died,” Plover says.
Plover is fascinated by Thomas’s extensive touring and live performances. “Dickens used to do appearances and read from his books, so it’s not a new phenomenon. But I’m amazed at the big audiences Dylan Thomas attracted.”
Plover’s show will include film footage. “There will be a scene in a hospital bed, with Dylan Thomas surrounded by various characters. I’ve got an actor from the UK playing him. As well as his well-known pieces, the show will also feature some of his lesser-known poems.”
Thomas was a prodigious letter writer and some of these will be read out at the show. “He wrote to friends and also wrote begging letters looking for money. He had a lot of benefactors. When he was away from home, he wrote a lot of letters to his wife, Caitlin McNamara. She had her own issues with alcohol and theirs was quite a tempestuous relationship,” Plover says. The couple had three children.
Although a popular poet, Thomas struggled to make a living out of writing. Touring and broadcasting increased his earning power, but Plover says that Thomas “was terrible with money. He’d go on long tours and would be very generous, buying everybody drinks. The family would be starving back in Wales. It was a very difficult situation. It’s a real shame, when you think of what could have been.”
Plover, originally from Lincoln, in England, says that Thomas would approve of his forthcoming show. “Having been a musician for a long time, I’m a bit of an outsider regarding the poetry scene. But I think that’s sometimes a good thing.” Like Thomas, Plover is happy to perform his poetry, bringing it to a wide audience in a dynamic and engaging way.
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