Writer: Bob Kingdom (with poems by Dylan Thomas)
Director: Anthony Hopkins (original direction)
Reviewer: Georgina Newman
The Public Reviews Rating:
A veritable masterclass in the art of the one-man show, writer and performer Bob Kingdom’s Dylan Thomas: Return Journey has taken solo performance to new and improved heights. As a storyteller he is Dylan Thomas. In the recitation of some of Thomas’ most enduring poems he is him still. This re-enactment of the poet’s last lecture tour in America, before he bowed to the effects of a boasted 18 straight whiskies, has made its own return journey – back by popular demand.
Thomas, habitually broke, toured and lectured to subsidise his inability to make a living from writing alone, and, perhaps, to indulge a lust for lyrical storytelling. Kingdom, receiver of the Fringe First Award in Edinburgh for The Truman Capote Talk Show, gives a spell-binding interpretation of the poet/professional raconteur in his final hour on the American stage, dreaming of his native Wales.
Suited, plimsolled, with a polka dot bow tie, Kingdom’s reincarnation of Thomas is exact: curmudgeonly, booming, bloated, tipsy, verbose, verbally expressive with that particular Welsh lilt, brimming with tales. Tales that stretch from the time of a young Thomas in the company of his tiny aunt and “steaming hulk of an uncle”, to swift send-offs on pub crawl outings with his uncle and a bunch of middle-aged, heavy-drinking Welshmen, employed to man the charabanc while ale after ale is downed in The Red Lion and beyond, to sadder stories of a snowy, scarred, post-war Swansea.
Kingdom breaks up the narrative with bold readings of some of Thomas’ most well-loved works, where he captures the voice of the poet precisely: the definitive Do not go gentle into that good night, the plodding And Death Shall Have No Dominion, the gusty man in Lament, the recollections of school holidays spent away at his aunt’s farm in Fern Hill, and lines taken from Under Milk Wood.
With original direction by Anthony Hopkins in his directorial debut, Hopkins’ approves a minimalist approach. No props save a bookstand, with the intermittent use of lighting and spotlighting to produce edge, evocation, and intimacy – lighting for stories new and old, spotlighting for poetry, providing just the right amount of shade and nuance required.
A small part is of Thomas turned in on himself. Feeling sorry for himself for falling downstairs in drunken stupors, for dreaming of places he has no intention of visiting, for thinking about and despising money, for making a hobby out of missing trains, for all his “flannel-tongued flattery”…as if his lecture readings were really just an excuse for the poet to talk about (and moan about) himself. Kingdom is wonderful at bringing the essence of Thomas and his readings alight, and in supporting his own assertion, that childhood memories have no order and no end.
Runs Until: 15 November 2012