'Community of top Welsh talent' sign up for rival adaptations of Dylan Thomas’s 'Under Milk Wood' to mark the poet's centenary

Charlotte Church, Gareth Edwards, Lord Kinnock, Sir Tom Jones, Michael Sheen, Katherine Jenkins, Griff Rhys Jones and Ioan Gruffudd among those appearing in the two productions

Adam Sherwin
Thursday 29 October 2015 23:35
Charlotte Church is among the Welsh luminaries enlisted for the film
Charlotte Church is among the Welsh luminaries enlisted for the film

If you are Welsh, have any kind of public profile and are not starring in a screen adaptation of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, then you need to speak with your agent.

Singer Charlotte Church, rugby legend Gareth Edwards and Neil Kinnock have joined the cast of a film version of Dylan Thomas's “play for voices”.

Shot separately in English and Welsh, and part financed by Welsh broadcaster S4C, Rhys Ifans will play First Voice in the film of the famous radio play, set in the fictional Welsh seaside town of Llareggub and first performed in 1954.

Church has been cast in the role of Polly Garter, while Lord Kinnock and Edwards will make guest appearances.

However this Under Milk Wood, with the title Dan Y Wenallt, follows hot on the heels of a BBC Wales adaptation, also timed to coincide with the poet’s centenary, which features practically every other famous Welsh personality.

Sir Tom Jones stars as Captain Cat, alongside Michael Sheen (First Voice), Katherine Jenkins, Matthew Rhys, Jonathan Pryce, Griff Rhys Jones, Bryn Terfel, Ioan Gruffudd, Siân Phillips, Charlotte Church again (Mrs Ogmore Pritchard) and a host of other well-known Welsh actors in the production screened by BBC1 Wales last month.

The BBC said its “unique, one-off” version, presented in collaboration with National Theatre Wales, had gathered “a community of top Welsh talent in New York, Los Angeles, London, Cardiff and Laugharne.”

In Thomas’s play, a narrator introduces Llareggub’s townspeople, beginning with an old sea captain who dreams of his deceased crew members and lost love. Under Milk Wood was previously adapted into a film in 1972, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

The Rhys Ifans film will shoot in the harbour village of Solva, Pembrokeshire, over six weeks. In the S4C version, Church will co-star as Polly Garter, a woman pining for her lost lover. Dozens of villagers have been cast as extras.

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Director Kevin Allen said: “We want to veer away from delivering a dull, literal reflection of Thomas's original work, intending instead to explore some of the more erotic, visceral elements of the richly funny, filthily fluid, magical dreamscape - whilst not stooping to mess with Thomas's original text.”

Allen, director of the cult Welsh thriller Twin Town and the uncle of singer Lily Allen, secured the UK and international film rights to the radio drama after lengthy negotiations with the Milkwood Trust. Ifans will also present a making-of documentary as part of the Dylan 100 Centenary celebrations.

For Lord Kinnock, Under Milk Wood marks his first acting performance since the then Leader of the Opposition made a cameo appearance in Tracey Ullman’s 1984 pop video for her single My Guy.

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