I thought you might be interested to hear briefly how my Welsh drama company, Moonlight Theatre, got on during our tour to Malta last month with our new production of Under Milk Wood, directed by John Rhys Thomas of Swansea, who has taken his previous stagings of the play to New York, Harvard and Canada to great acclaim.

We began in style with two sold-out performances at Insole Court in Llandaff, Cardiff before flying to Malta a few days later. The response to those opening performances was very good, including a standing ovation and our director was particularly pleased that Jeff Towns – the well-known Swansea bookseller and Dylan Thomas expert – wrote saying he enjoyed the production very much:

“It was perhaps the best Milk Wood I’ve ever seen … Such a cast – such a spirited performance – can’t begin to estimate the combined age of your company but it proves age is no barrier if there is enthusiasm.”

We were, as Jeff says, a fairly ‘mature’ cast… apart from a very young, very tall and very impressive actor as First Voice, James Aust, the ages of the cast of 11 ranged from 59 to 79 ! I hope we demonstrated that age is an attitude of mind and not a number…. the cast also included an Oxford professor, Richard Carwardine, who had appeared as a student in the 1960s film of Dr Faustus with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

In Malta, more than 500 people paid to see our production over its four performances at the well-equipped ‘black box’ Valletta Campus Theatre…. more than 90% capacity houses. We attracted significant amounts of very positive press and media coverage including this complimentary preview from The Times of Malta (click to read), a review from the same paper that described watching the production as “a privilege and a pleasure”, and a news report on TV Malta (click to read) (commentary in Maltese but it gives a good visual impression of the show and the stylised staging).

We received very positive comments from many audience members in Malta, including the British High Commissioner, Stuart Gill, and the British Council’s Ingrid Eomois, among many others. Also from an academic who has translated the play into Maltese, apparently… our director, John Rhys Thomas – a former chair of the Dylan Thomas Society – spoke to him at some length.

Our final perfomance was on 23 November, in Cardiff – with all ticket revenue donated to a very worthwhile local dementia charity, the Forget Me Not Chorus… which offers people with dementia and their carers the chance to come together regularly to sing in a choir. One of our cast lost her husband to dementia five years ago and is a trustee of the charity, so we were happy to help such a very good cause. Another large and appreciative audience meant the evening raised more than £2,000… something to sing about for, as the Reverend Eli Jenkins put it so well, “We are a musical nation!” 

Robert Orchard