The Company is developing a new musical, ‘Dylan’ based on the life of the iconic poet and writer Dylan Thomas, author of Under Milk Wood.
Dylan Thomas’s life was hugely dramatic. He was born in Swansea, Wales in wartime in 1914 and died in New York in 1953, not of drink as many still believe, but of a morphine overdose administered by a dodgy doctor in the Chelsea Hotel. He was just 39 years old.
Dylan was a genius wordsmith most famous for ‘Under Milk Wood’ and ‘Do Not Go Gentle In To That Good Night’ amongst others. He had a self-destructive streak, but was hugely prolific and influenced many legendary writers and musicians.
His was a life of drama, a life of brawling and boozing, of wordplay and horseplay, and central to it all was his explosive marriage to the Irish dancer Caitlin McNamara.
‘Dylan’ has a 1950s contemporary jazz-era feel. It focusses on the last 4 years of the poet’s life when he lived two very different existences. At home, in the magical township of Laugharne west Wales, Dylan was a family man, writing, walking and conjuring up his poems and writings in his iconic writing shed, high above the ‘heron-priested’ estuary he celebrated in much of his later work. In Laugharne he was just one of the tapestry of wonderful characters, barflies and storytellers that inhabited what he described as ‘the strangest town in Wales,’ and which became the inspiration for Under Milk Wood.
However, in this time he also took four trips to New York. Away from the controlling and powerful influence of his wife he was a celebrity, a philanderer, a man who hung out with the rich and famous. Away from home, ill and missing Wales, he careered into a rock and roll lifestyle. It was his presence, and ultimately his death in Greenwich Village in 1953, that drew Bob Dylan (who changed his name from Bob Zimmerman in Dylan’s honour), Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen and even Sex Pistol Sid Vicious to that area, and lead to Dylan being celebrated on the cover of ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.
As Dylan lay in a coma surrounded by fretting acolytes in the Chelsea Hotel, his love letter to Laugharne was being broadcast by the BBC in the Laugharne Memorial Hall. Caitlin was in the audience. She hadn’t wanted him to go on that last trip and ran out screaming when the fateful telegram came. Caitlin arrived in St Vincent’s Hospital New York, where Dylan lay in a coma, with the immortal words, ‘Is the bloody man dead yet?’ As well as the drama of his life, ‘Dylan’ explores this relationship – one of literature’s great love stories.
‘The main influence on both Bob Dylan and John Lennon was Dylan Thomas.’ Paul McCartney
The company is working with writer and musician Jon Tregenna on the
script for this musical. Jon is the author of the BBC interactive digital book
‘Dylan Thomas - The Road to Milk Wood’, and is an acknowledged
expert on Dylan Thomas. In 2014 he wrote a play, ‘Raw Material’
(with internationally renowned artist Marc Rees), about Dylan’s
inspirationswhich made The Guardian’s ‘Top 10 Plays Of The Year’
Jon lives in Laugharne, where Dylan lived for many years. He has several
TV script-writing credits with the BBC, ITV and S4C, writes pop songs as
‘Locations’, and has recently been commissioned to write a large scale
musical based on the life of Victorian eccentric Dr William Price for
National Theatre Wales.
The motion picture of Dylan's 'Under Milk Wood '(1972) is a true classic of British writing, starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O’Toole
In October 1953, Thomas made his last recording for the BBC. It was broadcast on November 5 and was a piece titled simply Laugharne.