A classic coming of age story, based on a novel that never came of age itself, the odd but beautiful play Adventures in the Skin Trade presented by Theatr Iolo asks more questions than it answers.

Based on three short stories by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, Adventures in the Skin Trade was published posthumously and has only been adapted for the stage twice- first by Andrew Sinclair in the Hampstead Theatre and now by the award winning Cardiff based theatre company Theatr Iolo.

The adaptation, written by Lucy Gough follows Samuel Bennett as he leaves his small town life and all the people who knew him, as he moves to the big city and tries to find himself. The show follows one wild night and a series of interactions with new people he meets and the chaos that ensues.

The premise of Dylan Thomas’ stories is this: you shed your skin as you pass into new stages in your life, and it is only upon your reflection of where you have been that you realize you have moved on and become a new person. The show allows your imagination to run wild and allows for self-reflection, allowing you to take your own message and interpretation on it, based on what you project into it.

The show itself is messy; the original text is unfinished as a novel and is three separate short stories, and while playwright Lucy Gough has access to letters from Thomas in regards to how he saw his work adapted into a novel, the show does feel that it lacks a true central drive or plot line. You need to go into this show with an open mind, ready for the questions about where you’ve been and where you are going to.

Adventures of the Skin Trade cleverly weaves in Thomas’ coarse sense of humour; somewhat cynical and regularly witty. The cast do not miss a beat with their comedic timing and delivery, and are an extremely talented bunch, with most of them playing multiple characters. Ben McGregor, playing leading male Samuel Bennet is so convinced of his future greatness, full of hope and aspirations and dreams towards a better life and his next chapter. Supported by the talented Louise Collins, Ceri Elen, Steven Elliott, Jenny Livsey and Richard Nichols, who all play multiple characters, the cast are to be commended on their diction, and the delivery and flow of such poetic prose. The show flows much like free form poetry and spoken word, and the cast have embraced this to deliver a complex, and somewhat difficult to understand but beautiful piece,

Set against the bare backdrop of the Fairfax Studio at the Arts Centre, the undressed back drop was dressed in vintage furniture, in what felt both minimalistic but stylized clutter. Lighting by Jane Lalljee is simple: different colours creating different spaces and times, and helps to enhance the spaces created by the set.

There isn’t much to say about the costumes: while they were a combination of regular clothes and of stage blacks with individual statement pieces, they were used cleverly, with cast members disappearing and reappearing behind certain set items and changing clothing and characters. The styles matched those of early 80s and 90s fashion through the UK, paired with vintage influences that came throughout the whole piece.

The sound design by John Norton and Matthew Wright was deeply layered and well crafted, but only in two thirds of the show. The opening of the show is empty and hollow feeling, with no background sound or music to fill the space, and while diction is impeccable and the prose carries across the room clearly, the first section of the show is devoid of nuance or depth and feels flat. Once the show gets going however, the sound design really helps to create this mythic and special place.

Director Kevin Lewis has lead his team through an innovative and fresh piece, and everyone on stage knows where they need to be and owns their space. While the show starts clunkily (for example, with awkward pauses and dead sound while the cast rifle for a microphone that another cast member is sitting on), this show has huge potential to be continually work-shopped and developed into a highly intuitive and stimulating piece.

Not for the fair weather theatre goer.

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