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Under Milk Wood review – Thomas's village moves to north-east England

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Northern Stage, Newcastle
Staged in the round, Elayce Ismail’s production relocates Dylan Thomas’s dramatic poem about the people of Llareggub

In divided times, there’s something comforting about Dylan Thomas’s day-in the-life portrait of a Welsh village. It’s not that his radio poem – first broadcast in 1954, the year after his death – lacks conflict. The fictional Llareggub has its quota of murderous husbands, unrequited lovers and bigamists. It’s just that his authorial voice is non-judgmental. Thomas is a benign observer, wryly describing the townsfolk, their quirks and foibles, but also showing them getting along, more or less. Under Milk Wood is a one-nation celebration of difference that has no interest in taking sides.

Perhaps that’s why director Elayce Ismail thought it worth relocating the dramatic poem to north-east England – notwithstanding that Llareggub’s people are called Myfanwy and Dai. In Under Milk Wood, she finds a little-Britain cross-section of seafarers, churchmen and lusty adolescents who could be resident in many a coastal community. And in the local accent, especially as articulated by a sonorous Christina Berriman Dawson and David Kirkbride, Ismail has a fair match for the rounded language of Thomas’s south Wales.

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