Hannah Stuart-Leach comes face-to-face with the Welsh literary legend…

Dylan Thomas

Image - Dylan Thomas

I knew of Dylan Thomas, by name at least, from a young age - as long as I remember, my grandma’s had dusty stacks of his books on her living room floor. But it wasn’t until I visited his Boathouse, in Laugharne, that I developed my own interest: peering into that chaotic little writing shed (which he bought for £5) with its silent views of the Taf Estuary, I became fascinated with the man.

So when Bob Kingdom took to the lectern last night with a tongue-in-cheek “Good evening, culture vultures!”, suited in polo neck and boat shoes, it was a special chance to get to know him better. Surreal though, since Thomas died in New York, aged just 39, back in 1953. Kingdom, in striking likeness with trademark ginger waves, performed the Welsh poet’s final lecture. Despite his ailing health (the gout in his feet was particularly troublesome, thanks to his heavy drinking) Thomas was attracting sellout crowds at shows across America.  It’s clear to see why. Aside from the well-acknowledged lyrical excellence of his poems and stories - the drama of ‘Do not go gently into that good night’ was my personal highlight - he was very entertaining, at least through Kingdom’s portrayal. A difficult, troubled man, yes, but he brought a dry, dark humour to it all: “Poor, poor, pour me a drink,” he lamented at one point. And at times hilariously pernickety: “Excuse me”, he wafted in sudden irritation at a stray bike helmet strewn on the stage, “remove this luminous animation!”

Originally directed by Anthony Hopkins, the show has travelled the world to much applause - and rightly so. It’s a unique glimpse into the life of a complicated man. Like his work, there’s something hypnotic and deeply compelling. You have to listen hard though, concentrate; he doesn’t give anything away easily. 

In the interval I overheard a fellow fan offering his thoughts, which I felt sold the performance perfectly: “Thomas was like a musician of words. It’s in the tune of his voice, quite subtle and monotonous - it’s just not the same when you read them on paper.”

Dylan Thomas: The Return Journey is at Tobacco Factory Theatres until 8 June 2017.

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Tobacco Factory Theatres
Theatre
The Tobacco Factory

A popular theatre and café bar in Southville, with a programme of touring and in-house productions, childrens' and music events