For lovers of the literary great Dylan Thomas and his poetic works, this is an event not to be missed. Originally directed by Anthony Hopkins, this one-man show highlights the amazing skill of Bob Kingdom to capture his audience through the recitations of classic works of literature. It’s not often in theatre that you find a man who can command the stage for an hour and a half, with the audience enraptured the whole time. It was therefore quite a surprise to be bathed in the lyrical tones of Kingdom and imagine for a moment that Dylan Thomas was standing before us.
Thomas was born in Wales in 1914 and toward the end of his life, he toured America performing his works, so as soon as Kingdom began, I knew I was in for an interesting night. His delivery and movement on stage, combined with simple staging and lighting effects, transformed us back to the life and times of Thomas and his hometown of Swansea on the Welsh coast. His storytelling and poetic recital created imagery of time gone-by and what life would have been like. The audience was engaged with his tales and obviously moved with each piece of work, as the emotion was strong and could be felt throughout the room.
The most compelling part of the show, however, was the poems, recited by Kingdom. After each telling of a story, the lighting would dim, leaving usually no more than a spotlight on Bob Kingdom’s figure. After he had recited the poem, he would pause, and the lighting would fade to black, letting the emotional impact sink in to the audience.
That is how it went for most of the performance. The stories that were told could make you laugh, or could make you feel for Dylan Thomas, with his larger than life characters (including his strong and overbearing uncle), retold through the eyes of a young Thomas. However, this show – whilst powerful and entertaining – is definitely not for everyone. If you are unaware of Dylan Thomas or his work, the show may not be for you. Because Kingdom recites poetry and re-tells stories about Thomas’ life, it could be difficult to engage with people who don’t a lot about his literary genius.
Overall, the show was a very simple, yet raw performance. The lighting was simplistic, and the set was merely a chair and podium that Kingdom would use every now and then. It showed that Kingdom was relying solely on his own acting and performing ability to carry the show – and mesmerise the audience with his words. Kingdom has travelled the world delivering this show to tens of thousands of people and we should feel privileged to have the opportunity to experience the show here in Melbourne.