Saturday, 13 May 2017

The missing Dylan Thomas script

The story that the Islamic Republic of Iran could be sitting on a Dylan Thomas film script is quite plausible. The Evening Post article refers to the "unreliable" poet, but the evidence is that given a deadline and no distractions (and there was little opportunity for getting smashed in Abadan), Thomas would come up with the goods. Documentary screen-writing was after all how he made a living in the war years, and the Central Office of Information was unlikely to employ regularly someone who could not deliver on time. One recalls also John Arlott's testimony that, for this Overseas Service poetry reading programme, Thomas was never drunk, always on time and well-prepared. However, if the script does emerge, it could disappoint. Judging by the COI work I have heard, the Anglo-Iranian documentary is likely to be rather conventional and uninspired, not much better than hack-work.

If anyone at that time was tearing his hair out over Thomas defaulting, it would be Douglas Cleverdon, the BBC producer who had taken on the Under Milk Wood project. The play for voices had been commissioned during the war, but it was Cleverdon who cajoled, bribed and bullied Thomas into completing it. The Iranian commission interrupted this process.

The fact that Cleverdon is barely mentioned is the only quibble I have with the permanent exhibition in the Dylan Thomas Centre, which I hope the article encourages people to visit. (Thomas was also an occasional panellist on "One Minute, Please", the forerunner of "Just a Minute", but it is unlikely that any recordings of this survive.) There is much material, particularly from his early years, which is new - to me, at least.

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