A play with many characters but little in the way of plot presents its problems. This production of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood at the Brewery Theatre takes the form of a radio play, with two actors playing dozens of roles as a studio assistant beavers feverishly away to provide the sound effects.
The audience play the part of the radio audience. We are in an old-fashioned radio studio complete with a red ‘on air’ light, as Glynn Williams (Bob Gwilym, far right) and Joyce Jones (Kerry Ann Stewart, right) try their best to perform the most famous work of the Welsh playwright.
Their professionalism is hampered by Betty Foley (Natasha Pring, below), who does her best to sabotage the play with her continued drinking, slowly losing her grip on reality as she consumes more and more gin behind her sound desk.
The premise is that this is a radio production of Under Milk Wood from 1964, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the play’s first broadcast.
That may be the case, but this is a play within a play, and if you want to get all Inception, a play within a play within a play within a play.
Gwilym, best known for playing Dr Max Gallagher in Casualty, brings authority to his numerous roles. Both he and Stewart have great fun doing lots of voices and neatly spark off each other.
But the best fun is had by Pring, whose playful character shines out in a first half where she has barely one line of dialogue. Nevertheless, she steals the show and as a Foley artist (reproducing everyday sounds for the radio and film making) she goes some way to ruin this particular radio show, much to the chagrin of both Glynn and Joyce.
Like Thomas’ Llareggub villagers, the three characters on the stage who are performing his play are never fully explained. It would have been nice to know something more about Betty’s problems and why she has turned to the bottle, but the clever aspect about this Splice Productions piece is that a whole new story is wrapped around a familiar one.
Under Milk Wood: Live on Air is an engaging piece of theatre which moves from a solitary voice in the darkness to entertaining slapstick. It is both surreal and real, and is lots of fun.
Under Milk Wood: Live on Air is at the Brewery Theatre until January 29. Click here for more information.