Dylan Thomas comes of age, again: Adventures in the Skin trade at Arts Centre Melbourne

Imagine this: You weren’t an all A student. You left school early, but you wrote words from your heart straight onto the page. Your words are celebrated still, more than 60 years after your death, and another writer has found a way to bring your text to life on stage.

Adventures in the Skin Trade
Adventures in the Skin Trade

How would you feel?

Pretty damn great, I’d say.

Dylan Thomas is arguably one of the great poets of last century, and even with only 39 years on this earth, he managed to produce some of the most accessible poetic works, which still resonate with many today. His radio play Under Milkwood and poems such as Do not go gentle into that good night are studied by students all over the world.

Thomas’ last, unfinished, novel – Adventures in the Skin Trade – was a little known piece (for obvious reasons) but has been brought into the public sphere after a very special writer – Lucy Gough – was granted the rights to adapt the text for the stage.

Award-winning Welsh theatre company Theatr Iolo performed the work as part of the centenary celebrations of Thomas’ birth in 2014 and after lauded seasons in both Wales and London, Australia is hosting the first international tour of the show.

Gough’s incredible research into Thomas’ work, combined with the development of the production with actors from Theatr Iolo has resulted in a “riotously and kinetically imaginative” adaptation, which doesn’t merely “take the book and put legs on it” but rather, explores a new way of telling this semi-autobiographical coming of age story.

The production follows Samuel Bennett as he leaves his home in south Wales to pursue a career in London. Setting out with an attitude of reckless, nihilistic purpose, he encounters a nightmarish city. A room full of furniture, an assortment of bizarre characters and an embarrassing first sexual experience in a cold bath. Audiences are invited to follow Samuel as he meanders through this dreamlike world, all with a beer bottle stuck on his little finger.

Playing this week at Arts Centre Melbourne, the work is inspiring younger audiences to explore the work of Dylan Thomas with its surrealist/absurdist journey into the unknown.

“What I do hope is that our younger audiences, who might not know much about Dylan Thomas or be that interested in him, will see our production and then want to find out more about his work, the themes of which are pretty timeless and universal”, said director Kevin Lewis.

“The novel is at the same time both fiercely crazy and yet also sensitively observant of a teenage boy’s interior world and rite of passage” said writer Lucy Gough.

If you are in Melbourne this week, head along to see Adventures in the Skin Trade. Lucy Gough won’t be making it Down Under to see her work on stage, and Thomas isn’t around to see his words and story resonate with a new generation – but honestly, we think he’d have loved it! And so will you.


Arts Centre Melbourne presents Theatr Iolo’s

Adventures in the Skin Trade

7pm, 5 – 8 August
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
Tickets: $25

Theatr Iolo is an award-winning theatre company based in Cardiff which has been creating powerful and compelling work for more than 25 years. As one of the UK’s most respected theatre companies, Theatr Iolo has toured extensively throughout Wales and the UK, and internationally across Europe, Russia and South Korea. They have performed in theatres, forests and even in a cowshed in Austria!

Erin James

Erin James is AussieTheatre.com's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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