Clown in the Moon is a theatre biopic about the later years of Dylan Thomas. It runs alongside Burton, also by Cahoots Theatre Company, about Richard Burton. Both productions about the lives of these Welsh greats are written by Gwynne Edwards, directed by Gareth Armstrong and performed by Rhodri Miles.
The atmospheric St James’ Studio is the perfect location for this radio style play. We find Dylan, about to go on air in a BBC radio studio, looking out at the audience in their darkened 1940s bar. All of the aspects of the performance conspire to submerse the audience into the belief that they are with this iconic poet, not least because of the skill of Rhodri Miles who is magnetic in his embodiment of Thomas. The tenor of Rhodri’s voice gives gravitas to Thomas’ poetry with the charm of Welsh lilt which makes him an irresistible raconteur. He is affable and good natured though clearly troubled. His stance and body language encapsulate precisely the disarmingly self-deprecating individual that yet was devoted to poetry and the media.
The writing, direction and performance accumulate to display a flawless and captivating production which illustrates the contradictory life of this poetic genius and his need to create poetry. From the accolades and successes of his literary life, his tours in America, his radio broadcasts, to the struggles that he had with love, family, money and alcohol, he recounts all with an honest, cynical and deliciously salacious dry humour that is entirely captivating. Rhodri takes you outside the studio to the boathouse at Laugharne and into the London literary circles of the 1940s. It becomes a celebration of the poet individually and also of the burgeoning and newly tolerant culture that was just starting in this moment of desolation between the wars. And he talks about his love for his wife and muse, their dysfunctional relationship that he was desperate yet powerless to change for the better.
Seeing it, hearing it you can allow yourself to be completely absorbed by the music of his words. Gwynne Edwards has done a tremendous job of assimilating the poetry of Dylan into his script. His speech is poetic and often flows into the excerpts of Under Milk Wood, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night and others chosen for their defining parts in Dylan’s career. Just as with the poetry of Dylan itself, you often find yourself just listening to their timbre and music rather than registering precisely what they mean. The words are emotion rather than just information, using language to show rather than tell.
This production is deeply moving and essential viewing for those who are intrigued by the poetry of Dylan Thomas. With his final words, ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light’, we are reminded of the battle for elusive happiness that Dylan pursued and left in awe of his talent and dedication. If you can get a ticket then go.
Review by Annemarie Hiscott
Dylan Thomas: Clown in the Moon
Part of ‘The Welsh Hellraisers’ tour, alternating with Burton
11, 13, 15 January 2015
With a screening of Under Milk Wood on Thursday 15 January at 5pm
Written by Gwynne Edwards, directed by Gareth Armstrong and produced by Miles Productions in association with Cahoots Theatre Company. Rhodri Miles (Eastern Promises, Torchwood, Game of Thrones, Atlantis) takes on the role of Dylan after a successful run to critical acclaim at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe and yearlong Dylan 100 festival. Press are invited to review on Sunday 11 January at 3pm.
Clown in the Moon (the title of a poem written when Dylan was 14) is a dramatic portrait of the poet’s chaotic, frequently hilarious, and all too brief life. Located in a BBC studio, it sets some of Dylan’s famous broadcasts and iconic works alongside vivid reminiscences of his clownish antics in pubs, bars and parties, and his encounters with a host of eccentric and volatile women.
Monday 12th January 2015