New End Theatre, London NW3
Opened 12 January, 2001

As one-man, hour-long shows culled from precisely the material described in their title go, Dylan Thomas: Reminiscences Of Childhood is no better and no worse than you have any reason to expect. It is simply there.

Adrian Metcalfe and Jason McCreight's adaptation stitches together various bits of prose and verse in which the florid Welshman recalls his childhood and those around him in that period: the uncle who organised the local charabanc trip to Porthcawl (they never got there too many pubs on the way), the grandfather who treated his bed like a horse, and so forth. Interspersed are snatches of music and taped song, although I confess I can't work out what a couple of whores' songs from Under Milk Wood are doing here. It is a world of snow and uncles, although mercifully we do not share a child's Christmas in Wales as such.

Metcalfe delivers the material in the required orotund Anglo-Welsh accent on a bare black stage. There is little acting out to be done, and consequently he and director Diana Hillier rely on lighting changes to supply any appreciable visual dimension to the proceedings. And really, that's it. Metcalfe gives a thoroughly serviceable performance, although faced with an audience in single figures he can do little to generate any electricity in the theatre. However, it is one of those shows that don't particularly have any reason for existing in themselves, but rather are the kind of theatrical insurance policy which an actor keeps under his belt to return to periodically over the years when work has been a little too thin for a little too long. There is nothing disagreeable about it, but nothing fresh, insightful or compelling either. If you happen to have a hankering to see a show about Dylan Thomas's reminiscences of childhood, then Dylan Thomas: Reminiscences Of Childhood fits the bill well enough; otherwise, well, there are other shows elsewhere for other tastes.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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