To begin at the beginning, so starts Dylan Thomas’s epic narrative poem Under Milk Wood, detailing 24 hours in the life of a small, fictional fishing village. It’s also an appropriate line in which to kick off Ipswich’s 12th Pulse Fringe Festival.
Bristol-based poet Jack Dean has updated Thomas’s epic poem to his home city. Where Thomas eavesdropped on the dreams of his characters, Dean has a furry orange monster capturing the city resident’s hopes and dreams.
It’s a part of the city that mixes affluent, aspirational housing but has also suffered civil unrest.
Thomas’s Polly Garter is replaced by new age mother, Woosie Susie, dispensing new age philosophy to her children while practicing yoga. The original ‘No-Good Boyo’ transforms into Jeremy ‘call me Jezo’ a BMW driving, foul-mouthed consultant who would stab anyone in the back to further his business.
Butcher Bynon of the original becomes Beardy Dave, a disillusioned Apple Store employee.
While the structure will be familiar to Thomas fans, this is no carbon copy. Dean uses the original as inspiration but conjures up his own unique world of savage urban poetry. Even without knowing the Bristol settings, the characters are instantly recognisable from any urban environment. Where it does fall slightly down is expecting a non-Bristolian audience to understand all the geographical references.
There’s cleverly integrated use of animation (by Hannah Jane Morley) that provides plenty of humour, in often otherwise bleak descriptions.
It’s an accomplished performance from Dean, who shows much promise as a poet and performer. There are occasional signs of nerves, and latecomers do threaten to distract him, but it’s soon recovered. The show could probably benefit from a slight trimming to the running time but, overall, it’s a clever idea executed with skill and passion.
Originally written for The Public Reviews