For our first project, we have been asked to illustrate a page or two from “Under Milk Wood”, It’s a radio drama from 1954 written by Dylan Thomas, who is a welsh poet. It was later adapted to be made into a stage production, and became a film eventually too in 1972. It was aired as a radio drama on the BBC after Thomas had died in November 1953.
To be able to communicate effectively what is happening in the scenes, I’ve looked into the plot of the whole series because reading the two pages left me unsure of what was going on. It has been called ” a play for voices” and has strong themes of religion, mortality and sexuality, whilst being a roaring comedy that left many of its listeners in stitches. The play is based in a small welsh fish village called Llareggub, which is bugger all backwards. The narrator allows the audience to hear the dreams and thoughts of the inhabitants of this village, all who seem quite eccentric and unique characters. On the pages i have chosen, there is reference to Mrs Ogmore Pritchard- who in her sleep nags her two dead husbands and Captain Cat (who i envision being a literal cat for some reason) who dreams about his times at sea and his lost love. There are many other characters like Organ Morgan, who is obsessed with playing his organ. Polly Garter is a young woman who is pining for her dead lover, and there are two Mrs Dai-Breads, which seems confusing until you find out they are married to a bigamist baker! There are many smaller roles within this aswell who all have quite obscure names like Myfanwhy Price and Mr Cherry Owen. These obscure names could lend me the chance to do some quite surreal illustrations, because the words in the play seem surreal as for the most part it is based upon dreams. When the town awakens, they are now awake that their feelings affect whatever they do and the audience then listens to them deal with these feelings whilst going about their daily jobs and business.
The pages i have chosen are pages 12-13 that detail Mrs Ogmore Pritchard falling asleep and awaking in her dreams in between her two dead husbands, in this dream she nags them explicitly about cleanliness that is of the utmost importance to her, she is so OCD in fact that the guest house she owns she will not allow anyone to stay in for fear of them bringing in dirt or germs. The descriptive passage before the words is why I liked this page and am looking forward to creating an illustration for it, it describes in detail Mrs Ogmore Pritchards nightgown, her character and her husbands, including how the second one died ( ironically from drinking disinfectant). This description will help me when finding reference imagery and giving me ideas of what to convey.
The second page is a bit of a rant from Captain Cat, its much later in the drama on page 34 so i think he is awake now. This gives me a chance to do work for the two sides of the story, one from the state of dreams and one from the state of consciousness, In his rant he bitterly describes how the wives behave and how they huddle together and talk. And of their social activities like cleaning the welfare hall for the “mothers union social dance”. He talks about their “gandering hubbies” which means glancing, perhaps implying their husbands are happy to glance at other peoples wives as well as their own? he makes reference to the size and shape of the women in quite a detrimental way which will affect how i portray them, if i were doing it in a whimsical fashion i imagine them as chubby little geese in bonnets. Also, as Captain Cat is blind, he would not actually know what the women looked like, so taking his view on them allows me to be more surreal in their appearance.
Dylan Thomas himself has been known as Wales Greatest Poet, he was born in Swansea in 1914 and died in 1953 in New York. As well as Under Milk Wood he wrote many great poems like Fern Hill and Hunchback in the Park. Richard Burton was the narrator for Under Milk Wood on BBC radio, i decided to take a listen to an extract from it on youtube to see how it comes across as a spoken piece as opposed to me just reading it. Whilst listening to it , it sounds quite dark from Burtons tone and he talks quite quickly in places making it hard to follow. It would be nice to hear the words read in a welsh accent because i think they might have more of a dramatic effect to them.
Below is the youtube clip of Richard Burton i listened to :