BTR - Reviews of Under Milk Wood

Under Milk Wood

Mon 5th – Fri 9th August 2013

reviews

Helena Blackstone

at 11:58 on 10th Aug 2013

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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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Emily Brearley-Bayliss

at 12:38 on 10th Aug 2013

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JAC Theatre is a company that brings together students of all ages and backgrounds, and, in their interpretation of ‘Under Milk Wood’, throws them together in this medley of poetry, dance and music. In a finely tuned performance that relies heavily on the actors’ synchronisation, a great sense of balance was achieved and the production flowed together in a blur of tie-dye and lyrical storytelling.

In a performance such as this, making mistakes or forgetting lines is out of the question. The way these young actors handled that immense pressure was remarkable, and the almost seamless delivery was a credit to them, making obvious the hours of rehearsal it must have taken to make it appear so effortless.

However, the confusion of accents must be commented on. Wishing to depict a rural Welsh village circa 1950, the cast’s accents ranged from a shaky Welsh twang to what sounded more like Italian, making for an amusing, if a little confusing experience. This also meant that there were moments where the clarity of the script was lost in a sea of mingled voices, but the lyrical quality to Thomas’ writing made this slight ambiguity acceptable.

It has to be said that the sing-song quality the performance had, coupled with the warm, dark cosiness of the venue may have lulled some audience members into a happy doze. However, any thoughts of napping were quickly banished when, during a scene that involved a summer party, unsuspecting spectators were yanked from their seats to join in with the festivities. While helping to keep everyone awake, it struck me that the kind of people who would choose to go and see a production such as this are not the kind that enjoy being hauled to their feet mid-performance and asked to participate.

Although not technically a comedy, the delivery of these talented actors extracted many audible laughs from the audience. Characters such as Rev. Eli Jenkins, the absent minded vicar played by Stephen Desormeaux, and moments such as the children’s kissing scene in the playground were a joy to watch. Cast members, notably Ilana Jackson in the role of Polly Garter, also demonstrated their musical talent, peppering the proceedings with their lovely voices. Overall, the play’s melodic, poetic style and confident delivery gave the production a great sense of fun, happiness, gossip and humour.

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