HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 December 2007
Written as a "play for voices" for the BBC, this historic audiotape features the all-Welsh cast of the original BBC production from 1954. Richard Burton is the First Voice, which connects all the characters, played by twenty-eight men, women, and children. With perfect diction and the sense of character which only a great actor can convey, Burton rolls his R's, modulates his voice in pitch and intensity, and makes Thomas's poetry come fully alive--full of alliteration and various kinds of rhyme, with nouns and adjectives used as verbs to convey action and sense impressions simultaneously, and always a wry humor and honesty of feeling.
Depicting one full day in the life of a small town in Wales, Thomas shows its motley residents as they awaken, perform their daily tasks, socialize, gossip, and daydream about the past that might have been and the future that may yet hold hope. When night falls and the residents retire, their losses and disappointments, along with their escapes into dreams, are given voice and poignancy. Polly Garter, with her numerous children by numerous fathers, dreams of Willie, a very small man who was the love of her life. Captain Cat, the blind bell-ringer, thinks of all the sailors he knew who died at sea. Mr. Pugh dreams of poisoning his wife, and young Gwenny, who has extorted pennies from the little boys who do NOT want to kiss her, plans for the next day and more pennies.
The sound effects provide context for the drama without overpowering the narrative--a cock's crow, the clip-clop of horses, the bark of dogs, footsteps, the sea, bell buoys--and simple songs add to the realism and the sense of character and place. A mournful tune performed by Polly Garter in a minor key, as she remembers Willie and compares him to her other lovers, is beautifully sung by Diana Maddox, her clear, bell-like voice and almost palpable sadness making her one of the most memorable of the characters. A humorous children's singing game, sung by local school children, gives added realism, and little Gwenny's song to three very young boys is delightfully cheeky. Both enchanting and historically important, this memorable recording is worth seeking through Used sites or through amazon.co.uk--the best recording ever made of this wonderful "play for voices." Mary Whipple