Under Milk Wood review, National Theatre: Michael Sheen whips up a storm with words

In Lyndsey Turner’s Olivier staging of ‘Under Milk Wood’, Sheen makes a strong and emotionally satisfying case for this popular verse drama by Dylan Thomas

Paul Taylor
Thursday 24 June 2021 16:43
Comments
<p>Michael Sheen as Owain</p>

Michael Sheen as Owain

Michael Sheen has become the go-to man if you want to suggest unsettling, off-the-scale brilliance. There was his giggling, potty-mouthed Mozart in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus at the Old Vic, and at the Young Vic his Hamlet, who had been sectioned and kept under close watch by the guards of a correctional facility. He’s also the guy for you if you want someone who will plunge that extra mile in the intensity of his portrayals of people from real life (David Frost, Tony Blair, Brian Clough, Kenneth Williams et al).

In Lyndsey Turner’s Olivier staging of Under Milk Wood, his galvanising presence and knack for whipping up a storm with words make a strong and emotionally satisfying case for this popular verse drama by Dylan Thomas. The taste for this Swansea-born author’s bardic manner quickly waned in the Fifties, not being to the liking of the less florid Movement crowd that superseded him.

The show is staged in the round. The idea is that we are in a care home. The dust sheets, spotted with paint, are being pulled back from the furniture after what has evidently been a redecoration job. A man enters in his pyjamas, bewildered. He is hauntingly played by Karl Johnson, who soon reappears in the kind of dark suit he wore during his 30 years as the local headmaster. The residents assemble and gradually resume their everyday activities – some of which remind you of the behaviour of the folk in the village, light-heartedly conceived of as having been declared insane by government inspectors. Captain Cat, the blind mariner mulling over his memories, becomes an old man patiently constructing a ship-in-a-bottle. He is played by the reliably superlative Welsh actor Anthony O’Donnell.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in