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Ffotogallery, Bedazzled Production Still (c) Anne Siegel Ffotogallery, Bedazzled Production Still (c) Anne Siegel

In our exploration of contemporary responses to the life of Dylan Thomas we sent Ric Bower to New Quay to see Bedazzled, a complex performance, text and sonic work that draws on Thomas' time in Greenwich Village.

As I drove friends and family up to New Quay last weekend to see Bedazzled, Ffotogallery'scontribution to the raft of Dylan Thomas 100 events that have been rolled out over the summer, I was not at all sure what I was letting us in for. My anxiety was exacerbated from knowing that David Drake, Bedazzled's artistic director, was dragging Ffotogallery way outside its lens-based comfort zone. We asked directions once we got fairly close and were pointed to an old arcade space, no doubt a casualty of fickle seaside fortunes, which had been transformed, by the Ffotogallery team, into a simulacra of the White Horse Tavern, New York, circa 1950-something, where Thomas drank and mixed with New York's literary luminaries.

The set may have been an imaginative replica but the beer and the atmosphere were real. Members of the cast introduced us to other pub visitors/audience as we arrived. Within minutes of arriving we found ourselves, drink safely in hand, in intense conversation with a schoolteacher and her husband.

The premise of the play, that three Dylan Thomases, representing different aspects of his personality, meet and then interact together in the White Horse Tavern, may sound somewhat leaden. It is a fine example however of how important it is to never to prejudge creative output. Creativity demands that strange processes be given space to occur; processes born from conversations and associations, lovingly stewed together in a mixture of trust and time, chance and alcohol; as processes go, it is as unpredictable as alchemy.

In the mouths of the actors the script sparkled and fizzed; there was Dylan showing off; Dylan on the defensive; a confessional Dylan;Dylan railing at his lot and a then there was the bright eyed idealistic Dylan back in Swansea (I could not quite get my head round the geographical jiggling).

We, as fellow drinkers ,were dragged into the conversations and subjected to Dylan's literary mischief, as imagined by script writer (and player of Welsh Thomas) Ben Gwalchmai. Ceri Murphy brilliantly played the Celebrity Thomas with Arthur Hughes as Solitary Thomas/Allen Ginsberg. Catriona James was strong as Maya Deren/Djuna Barnes, while Rhys Downing played both a belligerent William Burroughs and an affable Barman. John Rea supplied an understated but confident soundtrack to underpin the performance

Did everything work? No. The aspects of the play that were pre-filmed and then projected that did not quite dovetail with the wonderful immediacy of the majority of the action. There were moments when I wished that I had not had the premise of the three Dylans spelt out quite so bluntly to me too. I was however left wondering why this involved approach to theatre, as a working process, seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

The caricatured dramatisation of one writer's experience will certainly resonate with all creatives. And the question remains, how do we balance the interests of our precious and delicate inner creative workings with the burden of expectation placed on us by an environment created by our (very occasional and modest, for most of us) successes. As Jack White puts it, "You might have to think how you got started in that little room." It is that struggle that writer Ben Gwalchmai so effectively captures in Bedazzled.

My only two disappointments were: firstly that the performance was not longer, (how rare is to say that?) and secondly that there was absolutely no any sign of Liz Hurley anywhere.

Bedazzled is coming to Cardiff for three nights between the 29th of October and the 1st of November, as part of Cardiff Contemporary ,tickets are12. I recommend going more than once; the performances will vary immensely according the inebriation levels of the audience.



You can read David Drake on this project and more responses to Dylan Thomas in the current issue (4) of CCQ magazine.

Image credit: Ffotogallery, Bedazzled Production Still (c) Anne Siegel