The Growth Of Milkwood
Nonfiction by Douglas Cleverdon
Under Milk Wood was originally conceived by Dylan Thomas a a radio work––“A Play for Voices”––and was first broadcast on the B.B.C. Third Programme in January 1954, two months after his death. But during the three or four years that he was working on it, he made various revisions for solo performances and stage readings of the incomplete script. As a result, there are no less than eleven versions in which the text differs in greater or lesser degree. But none of them can rank as the definitive text of this world-famous work, which has been translated into well over a dozen languages, including Serbo-Croat, Japanese and even Welsh. Douglas Cleverdon was associated with Under Milk Wood from its beginnings, first produced it for radio, subsequently co-directed the stage production at the Edinburgh Festival and in the West End, and finally directed it on Broadway. Better than any other living man, he is qualified both to analyze the textual variations and to trace the complicated––and occasionally hilarious––development of the script. The first part of the volume describes the outstanding achievements of Dylan Thomas in radio, as actor, poetry-reader and writer; and recounts the history of Under Milk Wood after an amateur dramatic performance in Laugharne in 1939, through the tribulations of his last years, when debts and drinking and recital tours inhibited him from concentration on his writing, to the publication of the 1958 Acting Edition. The second part contains an analysis of all the textual variants in the eleven versions (which comprise published texts, duplicated typescripts for performances, and recordings). The analysis includes punctuation and the line indentations that affect the tempo and the rhythm of dramatic production. It is hoped that the meticulous attention to detail is justified by the interest shown throughout the world in the writings of Dylan Thomas.