A classic BBC Radio full-cast production of Dylan Thomas' poetic play for voices starring Richard Burton as the narrator. To begin at the beginning: it is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black....
When Richard Burton breathed the opening words of Under Milk Wood into a microphone, broadcasting history was made. For this ‘play for voices’ conjures up the intimate dreams and waking lives of the inhabitants of a Welsh seaside village in a remarkable way. It is bawdy and beautiful; its colourful characters lust and love, gossip and fantasise. Through the magic of language, 'Under Milk Wood' creates a rich modern pastoral which, once heard, touches the listener with its poetry and haunts the imagination for ever. This radio drama is the completed version broadcast in 1963, which includes several passages that were omitted from the first recording in 1954.
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Thrilling voice, classic 20th-century poetry/prose
I was thrilled to find Under Milkwood; I've loved its sly ribald barbs, and to hear Richard Burton's declamation and Welsh accent was a treat. This production with its multiple actors is also easier to follow than Dylan Thomas's own solo performance.
Like so many celebrities today, Thomas died in his late 30's, from the combination of alcohol and narcotics from a Dr. Feelgood who neglected Thomas's pneumonia during a New York performance tour of Under Milkwood.
Thomas's radio-play is a poetic masterpiece from the mid-20th century, literally meant to be spoken aloud, and now to be 're-wound' to enjoy the wordplay.
It is a stream-of-consciousness eavesdropping on the dreams, secrets and gossip of a night and day in a entire Welsh village, petty vices and great passions peeking through their conservative veneer. And who among us on such a night has not been stirred by spring 'like a spoon', or dreamt of their lover, 'whacking-thighed and piping hot'.
'And Lily Smalls is up to Nogood Boyo in the wash-house.'
'And Cherry Owen, sober as Sunday as he is every day of the week, goes off happy as Saturday to get drunk as a deacon as he does every night. 'I always say she's got two husbands,' Cherry Owen says, 'one drunk and one sober. And Mrs Cherry simply says, 'And aren't I a lucky woman? Because I love them both.''
Over lunch, the schoolmaster researches how to poison his wife, pretending to the read 'Lives of the Great Saints'. His intended victim sniffs, "I saw you talking to a saint this morning. Saint Polly Garter. She was martyred again last night. Mrs Organ Morgan saw her with Mr Waldo."
"But it is not his name that Polly Garter whispers as she lies under the oak and loves him back. Six feet deep that name sings in the cold earth."
Dated, yes, but an often overlooked classic, read by one of the greatest British poetic actors, with today's technology: a treat indeed. For less than $10, one of these characters will make you laugh or cry.
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- Ian C Robertson
Very Good Indeed!
It is difficult for me to think of a better version of this wonderful piece of verse (A Play for Voices). It begins at the beginning, with Dylan Thomas' fantastic ear and his fisheye for detail; and then continues on with the soothingly lyrical tones of Richard Burton, as only he can sound. It concludes with a whimsical quip, leaving the listener ever longing for just one more verse of all those lovely voices.
I first listened to this as a young boy on long drives to the beach, marvelling at the words and the voices that match so perfectly. It still conjures up for me those times and brings a smile or a frown, as if on cue. It is a little piece of heaven to be treasured. I would give it a perfect score, but alas, the technology cannot impose what the original had not; and perhaps, that's the way it should be. I can almost here Van Morrison, that more recent Gaelic poet, crooning just that!
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A winter night!
Any additional comments?
This is from a BBC radio presentation. Ah! Dylan Thomas writes about a frosty snow covered night in a Welsh village as its inhabitants settle in for sleep. Richard Burton is wonderful along with the rest of the cast. A treat!
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