Radio 4’s Saturday Drama was a real treat yesterday – a re-run of the 2003 adaptation of Under Milk Wood, in which Richard Burton’s unbeatable 1963 performance as First Voice is mixed with a contemporary cast that included Sian Philips, Ruth Jones and Matthew Rhys.
I was only intending to use the play as background entertainment to lighten weekend chores, but it was so compelling all I could do was sit and listen in my favourite armchair like a proper old boy. Then today, following a quick trip to Walthamstow library, I have been enjoying the story all over again in book form, reading while perched on the top of the scaffolding that has adorned our house since the storms last year and imagining the folk of E17 as residents instead of Llareggub, as they too go about their daily business, real and imagined.
Dylan Thomas’ play for voices is so magnificent that it’s almost impossible to pick out a favourite excerpt, so I am just going to call this my choice for today:
“First Voice: Alone she dies, Bessie Bighead, hired help, born in the workhouse, smelling of the cowshed, snores bass and gruff on a couch of straw in a loft in Salt Lake Farm and picks a posy of daisies in Sunday Meadow to put on the grave of Gomer Owen who kissed her once by the pig-sty when she wasn’t looking and never kissed her again although she was looking all the time.”
This being Dylan Thomas’ centenary year there are plenty more Milk Wood delights to come, including next Sunday’s BBC4 television version starring Tom Jones, and then a truly surreal big screen adaptation by Rhys Ifans and Kevin Allen, the preview of which I saw at Festival No.6 this year. Can’t wait.