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Return to Thomas

Philip Hamer goes on a lyrical journey to Dylan Thomas’ past

Published on April 28th 2008.

Return to Thomas

There are few things more memorable than hearing the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas reading his own work. He gives his words an actor’s delivery and as his rhythmic magic tumbles out it becomes clear that he’s as distinct a voice as either Emlyn Williams or Richard Burton, two of his most accomplished interpreters. “Swansea Grammar School posh”, he would call his style, after his secondary school where his father taught English, in “the lovely, ugly town” where Thomas was born.

See Thomas as he was: tramping around the world between drinking binges and reading his own remarkable work.

Thomas’ reputation as a poet is seemingly still as great as it has ever been, with The Guardian receiving a plethora of complaints recently when he was excluded from their pantheon of great British poets. His early death at 37, along with tales of drunkenness and cruelty, has helped make his reputation what it is today. However, it’s down to performers like Bob Kingdom, now bringing his one-man show, Return Journey, to Manchester, that Thomas’s reputation is still being preserved. The critics have highly praised this production as a “thrilling lyrical journey”.

Writer and actor Bob Kingdom made a considerable impact on his visit to the city last year with his portrayal of the eccentric American writer Truman Capote, another literary life scarred by excess. His current production was originally directed by the Oscar-winning actor Anthony Hopkins, who himself was born in Port Talbot, close to Thomas.

Return Journey is named after the title of a piece in which Thomas experiments with the ‘word portrait’ techniques that were to culminate in his masterpiece, Under Milk Wood, or “the play for voices”, as he termed it. Motivated by ‘hwyl’, the lovely Welsh word that translates into English as a sort of aching longing for the protective, innocent past in your homeland; this piece features his older self confronting his younger self in a walk around Swansea.

Not only is Kingdom’s portrayal uncanny - he perfectly replicates Thomas’s voice - but he also looks so much like the snub-nosed, tousled-haired, cherubic-looking poet that the performance feels truly authentic. The one-man format allows the audience to see Thomas as he was often seen in his lifetime: tramping around the world between drinking binges and reading his own remarkable work.

Dylan Thomas: Return Journey is at the Library Theatre, on Thursday 1 May at 7.30pm and Fri 2 May at 8pm. Tickets: £12.50 (£10 concessions). Box Office: 0161 236 7110.

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HoppyApril 28th 2008.

Being a Welshman myself and a reader of Dylan this article wets my appetite for seeing the performance!

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