The downside of a theatrical culture which so venerates the verbal, is that the visual is virtually ignored. David Hare once observed that showing a man on stage on the phone to his wife is not necessarily dramatic. Showing a man on stage on the phone to his wife while his mistress undresses him is dramatic. There's a tension between what is seen and what is heard. Dialogue is seen as the sine qua non of theatre, yet one of the greatest strengths of My Night With Reg is that playwright Kevin Elyot realises that not saying something on stage is at least as effective as saying it. Lesser writers put in all the subtext, yet any actor will tell you how much more interesting it is to act a moment than to say it.
The latest vogue is to reverse the journey. Stoppard's fine radio play In the Native State has been turned into the less-than-perfect Indian Ink (with Felicity Kendal and Art Malik, above). Meanwhile, Roger Michell has been bold enough to stage the most famous radio play of all. Perhaps Under Milk Wood will be the exception that proves the rule.
`Under Milk Wood' is in repertory at the Olivier Theatre, at the National, SE1 (0171-928 2252)Reuse content