Under Milk Wood Returns

Round & About

Progress Theatre revives the Dylan Thomas masterpiece with a diverse cast

Reading’s Progress Theatre is bringing Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, originally conceived as a radio drama and ‘play for voices’ to the local stage, a full 70 years after the BBC first commissioned the work, one of its writer’s most enduring and popular.

The play, featuring myriad personalities, invites the audience to hear the innermost thoughts and dreams of the inhabitants of the small, fictional Welsh fishing town of Llareggub (try spelling it backwards!), as it follows the life of the village during one spring day and night in an emotive and often slyly comic account.

Thomas himself described his play’s lyrical language as ‘prose with blood pressure’, and the poetic voice that runs through Under Milk Wood is surely one of the most remarkable things about this work. Make that voices – there are scores of locals, and so, unsurprisingly, Progress’s actors are doubling up to meet the character count.

During the performance, we meet the likes of the blind, seafaring Captain Cat, the two Mrs Dai Breads, the Rev Eli Jenkins, poet and preacher, Mog Edwards the draper, the murderous Mr Pugh and many others. Then, of course, there is the treat of the lyrical narration that runs like a thread throughout.

From the outset, the vision for the Progress production was to make it as inclusive and as diverse possible from the audition stage (back in January) onwards. And doing so has long been a dream for director Ali Carroll and producer Liz Carroll.

The show’s cast of more than 20 actors includes those on the autistic spectrum, one with hearing loss, a wheelchair user and three adult clients of Reading Mencap, where many rehearsals have been held. What’s more, ages among the performers range from 11 to eighty something. So it’s a genuine piece of community theatre. Some are stalwarts of the Berkshire drama scene; others are taking to the stage for the first time.

Inclusion began with making the audition process as accessible as possible, and this philosophy has extended throughout the rehearsal stage so that as many different people as possible feel encouraged to take part, with additional support made available throughout the production.

  • Under Milk Wood runs at Progress Theatre from April 26 until May 4. There will be reduced capacity/relaxed performances on Saturday 27th April and Tuesday 30th April shows. Curtain up is 7.45pm, 4pm Saturdays. Book tickets here.