ADVENTURES OF THE SKIN TRADE | STAGE REVIEW
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, Wed 8 Oct
I’ve ended up not seeing a huge amount of the Dylan Thomas themed productions that have popped up as part of the centenary year of his birth, and there have been a lot. Even without seeing these productions, however, I have slowly gotten fed up of hearing about the renowned Welsh poet. I’m all for his work but by this point in the year I felt a bit like they had over-egged the poetic pudding.
Theatr Iolo’s Adventures Of The Skin Trade, however, is a production that seemed to be offering a different angle as it brings to the stage Thomas’ unfinished novel about a young Welsh man’s adventures in London.
The start of the play felt a little bit jarring. I often think that there is a small ‘buffering’ period when watching plays with a poetic edge, as characters talk and think in artistic ways that don’t feel quite natural at first, and Adventures Of The Skin Trade started in the deep end.
This, accompanied with a few clumsy looking scene changes, made of a bit of a tricky start but a few scenes in the play found its flow. From then on in it was fantastic.
Oliver Wood was perfect as Samuel Bennett – a young welsh boy naively moving to London in the hopes that an adventure will find him. He soon befriends a group of eccentrics and embarks on a drunken, sexually charged and highly surreal night out in the big smoke.
The other members of the cast played a variety of characters but did it so well that each time they took on a new role I completely forgot it was the same actors I was looking at.
Matthew Bulgo was a funny and believably camp George Ring, Richard Nichols created a Mr Allingham that was still enjoyable to watch as the most down-to-earth of the eccentric s and Jenny Livsey was outstanding in all her roles. She moved seamlessly from the concerned Mrs Bennett, to the poetic voice in Samuel’s head, to the stern voiced tea house owner – with small changes in her expressions she was able to give them all entirely different faces.
All the cast were strong, as were the lighting (Jane Lalljee) and sound (John Norton) designers who were able to completely change the setting and even portray Bennett’s perception of the world with just a few sound and light cues. Director Kevin Lewis did a fantastic job at bringing all these elements together and he got some great performances out of his already strong cast.
Adventures Of The Skin Trade was unfortunately an unfinished piece and, although this was a completed story arc, the ending did feel a bit incomplete. It was, however, a wise choice as it meant the audience had a chance to contemplate what this play could have been had Thomas finished writing it before his sudden death.
Even if you aren’t big on poetry I would highly recommend the show – if your intrigued by tales of chance meetings with peculiar characters, drunken nights in odd places and surreal sexual encounters then you’ll certainly enjoy this production.
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, until Tues 14 Oct / Park & Dare, Treorci, Wed 15 Oct / Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Fri 17 Oct / Ffwrnes, Llanelli, Tues 21 Oct / The Welfare Hall, Ystradgynlais, Wed 22 Oct / Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold, Fri 24 + Sat 25 Oct / The Torch Theatre, Milford Haven, Wed 29 Oct / Miners’ Institute, Blackwood, Thurs 30 Oct. Tickets: £5-£14 Info: 029 2061 3782 / www.theatriolo.com