Dylan Thomas: Clown in the Moon at St James
This one-man biographical piece focusing on Dylan Thomas melds original work from Gwynne Edwards with apt extracts from Thomas’ poems to pack his all-too-short life quite nicely into an hour or so, part of the Icons series at the St James Theatre. Through this mix of monologue and verse, Dylan Thomas: Clown in the Moon paints Thomas in a scandalous light, dwelling particularly on his many love affairs and his troubled marriage.
Well performed by Rhodri Miles, who (aided by director Gareth Armstrong) does his best to find enough room to act in what could easily have been a very dry show. Written in Thomas’ sibilant and assonant poetic style, some of Edwards’ script is really captivating, and rolls off of Miles’ tongue. The lighting, designed by Maximilian Spielbichler, is surprisingly good, lending a cinematic feel to the piece that suits it well. The production is well-paced, always welcome in a biography. The result is a lively and interesting play.
Miles’ portrayal of Thomas is very convincing, and some of the classic poems included in the show seem to gain a new lease of life in the light of it: the words make sense when paired with this version of the man.
While the show is very funny, with clever poetic turns that turn otherwise cerebral language into innuendo, Miles sometimes slips with his comic timing, and occasionally seems to pause for laughter where there is none. More than this, while his voice is pleasingly sonorous and smooth throughout, his repetitious rhythm and intonation is sometimes so similar that it has the effect of making the actual words he’s saying a struggle to follow. That said, Miles makes one feel for the philanderer Thomas, charming his way through two World Wars, financial problems and even finding a touching note of optimism in his death.
Almost timely, this show marks now the 101st anniversary of Thomas’ birth, remaining an excellent and loving homage to a writer who is rightly a towering figure in poetry.
Dylan Thomas: Clown in the Moon is on at St James Theatre until 15th January 2015, for further information or to book visit here.