On Tuesday, I visited the Tobacco Factory Theatre to see Dylan Thomas: Return Journey, performed by Bob Kingdom and originally directed by Anthony Hopkins. This show has been a sell out on Broadway and in the West End and I was excited to see something I wouldn’t normally have sought out. Dylan Thomas is a poet I am absolutely not familiar with; the Tobacco Factory website tells me that Kingdom’s portrayal of this troubled man who died aged just 39 is remarkable, as he brings to life the last lecture tours Thomas did in America just before his death.
I remember a few years ago being invited to a poetry slam event at Bristol Old Vic with the Blah Blah Blah team. I was certain I wouldn’t like it as I felt that poetry wasn’t really for me. I ended up becoming a complete convert to this genre and this particular performance style. Because of this, I had no apprehension of not being ‘clever’ enough to appreciate this show, despite the fact that I did not know the work of Dylan Thomas. However, on watching the show, I felt that those already with an appreciation and knowledge of this poet were at a distinct advantage. If you are an absolute poetry novice, then I would say this show is not really the best place to start, and I just didn’t like the style of delivery. This is not a critique of the actor or the show, just a reflection that I didn’t get on with the work of the poet! I was mindful to listen to the comments of other theatre goers in the interval though, and all I heard was positive comments. Many felt that Kingdom’s portrayal of Dylan Thomas was eerily accurate, as if the very man himself had been resurrected onto the Tobacco Factory Stage. The acting was exceptional and the script was well crafted, it was just that the material was really not for me.
If you love the work of Dylan Thomas, I urge you to seek out this play if it is touring near you, as you will probably love it. If like me you are concerned you might be seen as a bit of a philistine, check out the next Blah Blah Blah evening. Or, for something more local, try the wonderfully warm, funny, welcoming and inclusive Word Mustard events in our home town of Weston that are held at Loves Café.
I’m not a convert to Dylan Thomas, but hey who knows? Maybe you just might be…
Review by Karen Blake