Sometimes, words just get under my skin. It may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s, but I put it down to the power of poetry, and the sign of a good production, that even though it is some years since I read, saw or heard Under Milk Wood, while watching a matinee performance by the Clwyd Theatre Cymru on Thursday, I found myself not just anticipating most of the lines, but holding my breath for them.
Left to my own inclinations, I might have passed up on going to see the play again. It’s been a busy month and I have a copy of the Richard Burton audio production that makes me weak-kneed. Luckily, though, I have a friend who invited me to go with her.
Anyone who’s interested in imaginative writing should go along to see how a show that was written for the radio, that world-within-the-mind medium, can take place upon a stage. It was a good reminder that nothing, or to put it in the colloquial, bugger-all, is impossible with fiction.
The whole geography and community of Llareggub was played out on the small stage of our theatre. Within a curve of space were included all of the long sloping streets, the huddles of houses, the hills, the sea, and its shore, and all the busy, lazy, cheating, peeping people who inhabit them.
Theatre, I believe, is magic. Able to transport me not just into the world of other people, but into my past. Holding my breath for the slow black, crow black, fishing boat bobbing sea, I not only followed the firm hold of the cast on their roles, but recalled different versions. Does theatre happen only on the stage? No, it’s in my minds eye too.
I remembered again that school trip, was it in the third or fourth year? Winter though, because it was dark as we gathered after tea-time to wait for the coach. I must have been studying the text for literature, but seeing the play was what made me fall in love with it. That was my first experience of minimal theatre. Acting can work without scenery and props? Wow.
The actors were in contemporary dress. We were out of uniform. Remember how that felt, to be of school, and yet at odds with it at the same time, and the teachers: in not quite front-of-class mode. It was a moment of flux, when I experienced something that was outside of the ordinary and was aware of myself growing. Late nights on a coach, those were the days. Dusty seats, steamy windows and hushed voices before we stumbled down the steps and made our ways home.
We may have gone to somewhere quite close by, but it seemed to me like another world, and that was just how I felt on Thursday afternoon, walking out into the sunshine. It took a moment to get into step with the outside, to master paying for parking tickets and head home.