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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 28, No. 7. 1965.

Thomas Reading Often Inept

Thomas Reading Often Inept

I Have the greatest sympathy for anyone who attempts to read Dylan Thomas aloud: they are inevitably pursued by the poet's audible spectre, by the boozy, rich, lilting voice that swims through his own cadences. I feel that Mr. Farr was aware of the difficulty—he certainly demonstrated it in the reading of Thomas's poetry and prose in the Memorial Theatre, hovering between imitation which added nothing to the recordings we already have of Thomas himself, and a certain wistful rebellion that made nonsense of the poems.

He arrived on stage quite suddenly, flopped over the lectern, long hands dangling, fixed us with Sybillic gaze and intoned In My Craft or Sullen Art—just as Thomas would have done, though one may suspect that Thomas would have contrived a more graceful entry. Then, after a few not-so-useful remarks about the poet and a Reader's Digestcondensed version of A Child's Christmas in Wales (done rather well—undoubtedly he has a good voice), he read two more poems: Fern Hill and Do not go gentle into that good night. This, alas, was where the difficulties began.

In Fern Hill his chief liberties were with tone and phrasing. Where he should have been intense he was so terribly sincere, distancing and thinning the reliving of childhood and the regret at its passing. He was conversational where he should have been lyrical—a poem that depends so much on an amalgamating vision and describes one sense perception in terms of another cannot be broken into somewhat chatty phrases. That is to lose the rhythmic vitality with which word is piled on word, image imposed on image to create a tightly integrated whole.

Do not go gentle into that good night was remarkable chiefly for inexplicable peculiarities of phrasing, and for long pauses from the height of which Mr. Farr hurled headlong onward in a fashion more disconcerting than illuminating. Not, however, till The Mouse and the Woman did the pause appear in its full villainy—the audience was kept in the constant expectation of having to applaud. It was also subjected to a whole range of histrionics. As Mr. Farr writhed like an obliging snake we were made to feel uneasily that he was so much more interested in what he was doing than in what he was saying. And what he was doing was so frequently inept and over-extravagant that we were left at the end wishing for something a little less egotistical, a little less tedious and a little more meaningful.

— Alastair Bisley