Swansea Grand Theatre
Starring: Rhodri Miles
The centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth has seen a considerable offering of pieces regarding the troubled poet and his all too short life. The temptation is to represent Thomas as a Welsh icon; as a romantic genius wistfully glancing out of the pub windows of Swansea. The reality is of course much less glamorous. Thomas’ life was plagued by poor health, infidelity and a fondness for drink that would become as legendary as any of his literary output. To find a production that is as ready to criticise as it is to celebrate however is relatively rare, but this one-man production of Clown in the Moon does just that.
Rhodri Miles’ performance as the poet was exactly how one imagines Thomas might have been. The piece, skilfully written by Gwynne Edwards, was one which recounted peaks and troughs of the poet’s life punctuated by readings of Thomas’ works at the BBC radio studios in London. Miles moved expertly between the two, giving us the professional façade of the artist at a recital, before revealing the flawed, warts-and-all reality that lurked beneath the genius on the page. At times the audience could have closed their eyes and very seriously believed that Dylan Thomas was in the room with them; Miles’ mimicry of Thomas’ sing-song tones was outstanding. In fact his performance will undoubtedly become one of the defining portrayals of the Swansea-born poet on stage.
Gwynne Edwards’ script is one that exudes the essence of Thomas and betrays an obviously encyclopaedic knowledge of his work. Edwards has managed to capture the spirit of Thomas, the lover and drinker, through prose which is intentionally reminiscent of the poet’s unique style. Combined with Miles’ painstaking performance, Clown in the Moon is a highly believable interpretation of what it really must have been like to experience the company of Dylan Marlais Thomas. Despite some erratic lighting and unnecessary blackouts, this production was hugely enjoyable and gave an honest, human account of the life of an ugly, lovely poet.