Friday, 20 May 2016

In Parenthesis

I first heard of David Jones's epic in a documentary about Dylan Thomas. It was during a recording of In Parenthesis for the Third Programme that the young Richard Burton had met the poet and one-time amateur actor. For a year or so, this anecdote was all I knew of the work which took on mythical status in my mind. Then there was a new production in 1955 which I struggled to make sense of. Nine years later there was a hybrid production which interpolated the voice of Dylan Thomas from the 1940s. This was repeated in 1981, then silence until another new production in 2004.

Now, with the imminent centenary of the slaughter of Royal Welch Fusiliers in Mametz Wood, it is all happening. Welsh National Opera is mounting an opera based on the poem. Radio 3 celebrated this and also delved into the background in a programme last Wednesday. (Surprisingly, the appearance of Dylan Thomas's voice in a clip was not noted within the body of the programme but was remarked on by the continuity announcer afterwards.) From the tantalisingly short excerpts from it, it seems that Iain Bell's work serves Jones well and will give an extra lease of life to this remarkable piece.

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