Do Not Go Gentle July 2010

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UPDATE from August –

and no surprise so far: I still loved it. At the end of the performance I saw there was breathless silence for long seconds, then something like a collective breath to come out of the spell Geraint Wyn Davies has woven with his voice and then the well deserved Standing Ovation. God, it was brilliant, it’s as if it gets better with every performance (which is ridiculous as you cannot improve perfection you’d think). Wyn Davies himself just smiles and says humbly, “well, it’s a bit different every time”. Too bad for all those who haven’t secured tickets as now every single performance is sold out. Sigh. I wish I could go again. And again.

And please, dearest Stratford/ON, are we going to get “Under Milk Way” with Geraint Wyn Davies soon? Thank you!

I loved it.

Which might not come as a surprise as it’s a one man show with one of my favorite actors, Geraint Wyn Davies; and I have seen it already more than just a couple of times when it had its run on Broadway in New York. And it was brilliant then.

That said: it’s even better in Stratford. A lady with whom I talked after the play about it, coined the phrase: he’s at home here, referring to Wyn Davies’ obvious love for the Shakespeare-devoted city of Stratford. And maybe that’s it.

At a sold out Avon Studio (even Des McAnuff and Dean Gabourie only found seats somewhere in the middle and in the back of the theatre) the play captured the hauntingly heartwrenching story about Dylan Thomas raging against the fading of the light with all its tenderness, its raunchiness and its almost helpless search for acceptance. Leon Pownall, who wrote the play, and Geraint Wyn Davies create a stunning glimpse into the very soul of poet Dylan Thomas, who was torn between a rather persistent inferiority complex and the need to overcome that with the help of alcohol – a lot of alcohol. Dylan Thomas’ lyrics have an eerily beautiful melody to them, a haunting rhythm that you can just fall into and let yourself get washed away by it (something Wyn Davies pointed out at the Meet the Theatre he held at the beginning of the season: you don’t need to understand each and every word, you just have to listen to their music – and that’s also the way with Shakespeare’s lyrics)

Geraint Wyn Davies himself captures the nuances of the poet’s fears and doubts and with a wink of his eye or a softening or raising of his voice brings life to that tormented soul that is still held up in purgatory with no real hope of deliverance because Thomas is not able to come to grips with himself – even though they “loved me in America – loved me to death” and gave him the acceptance he so desperately had sought for so long. Unfortunately he couldn’t bring himself to trust in their judgement as he very much despised all the matrons of America and their greed to feed off his talent and not his talent alone.

There were only miniscule changes to the show as seen on Broadway (you just don’t mess with perfection). They did “re-use” the trick they already displayed at “Julius Caesar”. Then it was a picture of the famous marble bust of Caesar that got overlaid with a picture of Wyn Davies as Caesar. This time it was a rare picture of Dylan Thomas getting overlaid with a portrait of the actor so brilliantly portraying him.

That and some sound effects were all the adaptions to the show. With its minimalist stage decorations the play is all about the words of Thomas and – to a lesser extent – Shakespeare and it all depends on the skills of the actor involved to bring life to the vision of Leon Pownall. Geraint Wyn Davies certainly lives up to that challenge with ease and confidence that’s a joy to watch. The standing ovation certainly was well deserved.

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