An all-seeing narrator invites the audience to listen to the dreams and innermost thoughts of the inhabitants of an imaginary small Welsh village, Llareggub ("bugger all" spelt backwards – though re-spelt in early editions as Llaregyb so as not to offend).
They include Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, relentlessly bossing her two dead husbands; Captain Cat, reliving his seafaring times; the two Mrs Dai Breads; Organ Morgan, obsessed with his music; and Polly Garter, pining for her dead lover. Later, the town wakes and, aware now of how their feelings affect whatever they do, we watch them go about their daily business.
The play was recorded by the BBC in 1954 with a distinguished all-Welsh cast and produced by Douglas Cleverdon. Daniel Jones, a composer who was a lifelong friend of Thomas's, wrote the music for the production. The play was first broadcast (two month after his death) on 25 January 1954, on the BBC Third Programme, and repeated two days later. The recording featured Richard Burton as 'First Voice'.
In 1988, George Martin produced an album version, featuring more of the dialogue being sung, with music by Martin and Elton John, among others; Anthony Hopkins played the part of 'First Voice'. This was subsequently mounted as a one-off stage performance (as An Evening with Dylan Thomas), for The Prince's Trust and in the presence of HRH Prince Charles, to commemorate the opening in December 1992 of the new AIR Studios at Lyndhurst Hall. It was again produced by Martin and directed by Hopkins, who once again played 'First Voice'. Other roles were played by Harry Secombe, Freddie Jones, Catherine Zeta Jones, Sian Phillips, Jonathan Pryce, Alan Bennett and, flying in especially for the occasion, Tom Jones. The performance was recorded for television (directed by Declan Lowney) but has never been shown.
In November 2003, as part of the their commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of Thomas's death, the BBC broadcast a new production of the play, imaginatively combining new actors with the original 1954 recording of Richard Burton playing 'First Voice'. (Broadcast 15 November 2003, BBC Radio 4; repeated 24 December 2004.) Digital noise reduction technology allowed Burton's part to be seamlessly incorporated into the new recording, which was intended to represent Welsh voices more realistically than the original.
In 2006, Austrian composer Akos Banlaky composed an opera to the libretto based on the German translation by Erich Fried (Unter dem Milchwald, performed at Tiroler Landestheater in Innsbruck, Austria).
|Character||1954 BBC Radio||1972 Film Actor|
|First Voice||Richard Burton||Richard Burton|
|Second Voice||Richard Bebb||Ryan Davies|
|Captain Cat||Hugh Griffith||Peter O'Toole|
|Rosie Probert||Rachel Thomas||Elizabeth Taylor|
|Polly Garter||Diana Maddox||Ann Beach|
|Mr. Mog Edwards||Dafydd Harvard||Victor Spinetti|
|Myfanwy Price||Sybil Williams||Glynis Johns|
|Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard||Dylis Davies||Sian Phillips|
|Mr. Ogmore||David Close-Thomas||Dillwyn Owen|
|Mr. Pritchard||Ben Williams||Richard Davies|
|Butcher Beynon||Meredith Edwards||Hubert Rees|
|Gossamer Beynon||Gwenllian Owen||Angharad Rees|
|The Rev. Eli Jenkins||Philip Burton||Aubrey Richards|
|Lily Smalls||Gwenyth Petty||Meg Wyn Owen|
|Mr. Pugh||John Huw Jones||Talfryn Thomas|
|Mrs. Pugh||Mary Jones||Vivien Merchant|
|Mary Ann Sailors||Rachel Thomas||Rachel Thomas|
|Sinbad Sailors||Aubrey Richards||Michael Forest|
|Dai Bread||David Close-Thomas||Dudley Jones|
|Mrs. Dai Bread One||Gwenyth Petty||Dorothea Phillips|
|Mrs. Dai Bread Two||Rachel Thomas||Ruth Madoc|
|Willy Nilly Postman||Ben Williams||Tim Wylton|
|Mrs Willy Nilly||Rachel Thomas||Bronwen Williams|
|Cherry Owen||John Ormond Thomas||Glynn Edwards|
|Mrs. Cherry Owen||Lorna Davies||Bridget Turner|
|Nogood Boyo||Dillwyn Owen||David Jason|
|Organ Morgan||John Glyn-Jones||Richard Parry|
|Mrs Organ Morgan||Olwen Brookes||Dilys Price|
|Mae Rose Cottage||Rachel Roberts||Susan Penhaligon|
|Gwenny||Norma Jones||Olwen Rees|
|Gomer Owens||Ieuan Rhys Williams||Ieuan Rhys Williams|