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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 August, 2004, 09:02 GMT 10:02 UK
Thomas play tells poet's sad tale
By Nick Dermody
BBC News Online Wales

Peter Read as Dylan Thomas
Men of words: Poet Peter Read re-lives Thomas' last years
The poet Dylan Thomas tells the story of his tragi-comic final years in a one-man play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival showing over next week.

The words from his broadcasts and letters home have been adapted for the play, Dylan Thomas in America.

Thomas died in New York in 1953 during the fourth of his drink and women-filled poetry-reading tours of the US.

But his legacy is still growing, more than half a century after the tragedy of his death aged just 39.

Dylan Thomas in America is the latest production from the Swansea-based literature centre which works to promote the name of Wales' most famous poet.

Adapted by Gwynne Edwards, the play recounts Thomas' increasing desperation as he tries to balance the need to write with the demands - and distractions - of a rapturous American public.

Although the reading tours made him plenty of money, his constant drinking meant he had precious little left by the time he returned to his beloved Laugharne, in Carmarthenshire, west Wales.

These American reading trips may have promised profit, but many blame them for Dylan's untimely death
David Woolley

His wife, Caitlin Macnamara, accused him of making the trips for "flattery, idleness and infidelity".

Yet, as the play reveals, things were no better when she became his companion on one of the tours - in addition to the booze.

Welsh poet Peter Read plays Thomas in the production which is presented in association with the Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Read has played the bard on the fringe before, in the acclaimed two-hander, A Handful of Rain - an imagined meeting between Thomas and Bob Dylan.

'Cocktail parties'

David Woolley, literature officer at the Dylan Thomas Centre, said: "Peter really inhabits the part, moving deftly between the bathos and wit that dominate Dylan's character.

"These American reading trips may have promised profit, but many blame them for Dylan's untimely death.

"Never in robust health, he accepted increasingly exhausting schedules, was lionised by fans and fawned over by literary hangers-on, and expected to perform both on, and off-stage at an endless round of cocktail parties."

But Thomas' Stateside party stopped the night he returned to his New York hotel room and famously told his lover, Liz Reitell: "I've had 18 straight whiskies. I think that's the record".

Dylan Thomas in America runs at the fringe's Venue 13, Lochend Close, Canongate, until 14 August.

Morrissey buys Dylan Thomas' local
22 Apr 04  |  South West Wales
Fear over Dylan's celebrity
10 Nov 03  |  South West Wales
Wreath-laying marks poet's death
08 Nov 03  |  South West Wales


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