Sunday, 21 April 2013

Under Milk Wood, Canberra Rep

I hate reviews that blame the play for the fact that the evening didn't work. I understand the impulse, the cast and crew are locals and you're probably going to socialise with them at some point, while the writer is probably dead, overseas or at the very least interstate, so may as well pick on the guy who isn't nearby.

Which is annoying, because I'm about to blame the 60-years-dead Dylan Thomas for me not enjoying this production. Now, this is a production that had a heap of great reviews all over the place with critical hoo-has, and Dylan Thomas has a fairly solid position in the cultural firmament, as does Milk Wood. The problem is, I can't quite tell why.

I think it's to do with the lack of plot. I like things with plots. It can even have many plots (I really like Robert Altman's films like "Short Cuts" and "Nashville" where huge bunches of plots bunch up against one another), but there must be action where people do something and are changed by it. Milk Wood doesn't do that - instead we get glimpses and portraits, but no actual change taking place. And Dylan Thomas is a hell of a wordsmith, but ... fine words only get you so far. It can't cover for a lack of action.

Anyway, that's me, and that's my blockage on this.

Which is a pity, becuase I do greatly esteem the cast and crew of this production, and in many ways they're doing superlative work here. Duncan Driver's melifulous tones make even the most rambling Thomas sentance sound intriguing, and the rest of the cast is equally skilled, switching between mutiple roles skillfully, inhabiting various characters heart and soul (yes, Virginina, apparently Peter Holland can do accents other than plummy-English!). Anne Kay's set design is gorgeous, Chris Ellyard's lighting is spectacular (the things that man can do with a small array of bulbs and a bit of smoke astound). There's also very skilful crew work under the guiding eyes of Stage Manager Carmen King and Assistant Stage Manager Darren Cullerne as the various set elements shift around almost silently and invisibly.

And I've written before of how much I love Duncan Ley's work as a director - and this is a visually fascinating production, that gives all these elements their space to play.

But the fact remains - I kinda left the whole experience wondering "what's the point of all this?" If it 's a reasonable portrayal of small-time-life in a Welsh Fishing Village, all I can say is I'm glad I don't live in a Welsh Fishing Village

(incidentally, if you loved this and you want to tell me why I'm wrong, I do have a comments field)

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