Under Milk Wood, my latest classic club spin, is a play originally written for the BBC in 1954. Set in a fictional welsh village, two narrators set the scene and then lead us through the dreams and lives of its inhabitants including a captain who lost his crew at sea, a widow, and a couple in love who dream of each other.
“It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishing boat bobbing sea. The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night in the snouting, velvet dingles) or blind as Captain Cat there in the muffled middle by the pump and the town clock, the shops in mourning, the Welfare Hall in widows’ weeds. And all the people of the lulled and dumbfound town are sleeping now.”
Starting out, I found all this a little confusing because, whilst a play it reads more like a poem and I had to get into the rhythm. Eventually I did – and then went back to the beginning so I could really understand what I was reading.
Given Dylan Thomas’ style of writing, it all still took a while because I found I couldn’t rush or skim a line without losing where I was in the plot entirely. I knew this about Dylan having read some of his poems but this felt especially difficult to keep track of. I did, though, like the language and the images it created in my mind, even if I didn’t always know what was happening or to whom. There was something slightly hypnotic in reading it, a feeling of floating along as if in a dream myself.
“Listen. It is night moving in the streets, the processional salt slow musical wind in Coronation Street and Cockle Row, it is the grass growing on Llaregyb Hill, dewfall, starfall, the sleep of birds in Milk Wood.”
Throughout, there are also some funny moments and some sad ones. I found myself sympathising with many of the characters and the way they lived their lives, having seen their dreams and what went on inside their heads.
Given it’s a radio play, this is a short read (I can’t say easy given my previous comments) and I did enjoy it. I then went and listened to the Richard Burton version and enjoyed it more. It definitely is something to be spoken vs. read and I would recommend to anyone wanted to read this to maybe go down that route. Read it aloud or listen to someone else doing it – and enjoy getting lost in the language.