'It's all about the voice' The official Dylan Thomas centenary celebrations get underway next week with the premiere of Clwyd Theatr Cymru's Under Milk Wood, which is embarking on a world tour. Karen Price catches up with leading man Owen Teale who is drawing on his own experiences of life in a small Welsh town.
But now the Welshman is back on home soil working on a stage drama firmly rooted in his birthplace - Under Milk Wood.
And despite being adored by fans for playing Alliser Thorne in the blockbuster US drama, he admits that the role of Dylan Thomas' narrator, First Voice, is something which has been on his wish list - even if he is a tad nervous about following in the footsteps of the late great Richard Burton. Burton played the role in the original BBC recording of the "play for voices" in January 1954 - two months after Thomas' death - and it remains Teale's favourite version.
"I've taken part in readings and script-in-hand performances of Under Milk Wood, including at the RSC, where I played various parts like Mog Edwards and Dai Bread but this time I get to be narrator," he says. "It's something I've hankered after.
"It made me nervous in the beginning to think I'd be doing the same role as Richard Burton.
"But the BBC version is very much narrated - he doesn't really have an opinion on what is happening around him. I have to live the part more and react to their [the characters] behaviour.
It adds another layer to to it - and it stops me from thinking about the original, which is the most beautiful reading."
Teale is taking a break from rehearsing the Clwyd Theatr Cymru production when I call. The premiere in Mold next week marks the start of the offi-cial DT100 celebrations marking the centenary of the Swansea writer's birth. Following a five-month tour of Wales and England, it will go on a world tour, which will include performances in America and Australia. Directed by CTC's artistic director, Terry Hands, it also features many of the company's familiar faces, including Christian Patterson, Steven Meo and Ifan Huw Dafydd.
"We shouldn't be allowed to have so much fun in a rehearsal room," laughs Teale. "It's just wonderful. There's such talent in the room and such hwyl and spirit. I think, in a way, that's what it's about."
The 53-year-old actor is drawing of his own experiences of growing up in the village of North Cornelly, near Porthcawl, and the characters he knew.
"It's a yarn told in the oldest form - the spoken word," he says of Under Milk Wood. "It's not about plot and intrigue but about depth of character.
"The behaviour, at times, I can understand as the community is very small and everyone knows each other's business - it's just like the community I grew up in so I understand it implicity."
One of the father-of-three's earliest memories is learning, by heart, the lines of the character Mog Edwards - I am a draper mad with love.
"I had a very influential teacher at the time called Mrs Cogbill and I just thought the language was amazing. While it was a bit better than the way the people around me spoke, it wasn't that foreign to me."
Teale says the new production unfolds "on a very simple set".
"It reflects the atmosphere without visually depicting the various places. We sit in the round so it's a bit like a compact mirror has been opened up. And it features such wonderful actors so they don't need to put on different hats or use different props - it's all done with voices. It's all about the imagination of the audiences."
While the play was premiered in New York in 1953 - with Thomas himself as First Voice - Teale believes it is still very much relevant to today's audiences.
"It's set pre-political correctness which makes it more powerful as you get the honesty of human emotion. The people don't judge themselves by their lust or flaws in their character. I find it refreshing and it makes it relevant today. There's still an awful lot of this behaviour going on but it's a bit more hidden these days."
Teale - whose TV credits include Stella, Line Of Duty, Ballykissangel and Belonging - is thrilled to be back at CTC, where he famously played Macbeth in 1999.
"I feel at home here now," says the actor, who lives in London with his actress wife Sylvestra Le Touzel. "I stay in a cottage and wake up every morning and see the Clwydian Range."
It's certainly a very different world to the set of Game Of Thrones, which Teale will be filming more scenes for later this year. He admits he's "amazed" by its success.
"It's now the most downloaded programme in the world and it's extraordinary to be a aprt of it. It's the first time I've been a part of something that's global."
When the Tony Award-winner recently starred alongside Zoe Wanamaker on the London stage in the critically-acclaimed Passion Play, he was surprised by the number of fans who would be waiting for him outside the stage door.
"There was myself and another Game Of Thrones actor working in the West End at the same time and they would come over from places like Finland, Denmark and Germany just to get their Game Of Thrones posters signed - very few of them had come to see the play," he laughs. "But it's great fun being a part of something that's so popular."
Under Milk Wood will be staged at Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold, from February 6 to March 8; New Theatre, Cardiff, March 11-15; Swansea Grand Theatre, March 18-22; The Riverfront, Newport, March 26-29; Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon, April 2-5; Aberystwyth Arts Centre, April 10-12 and Theatr Hafren, Newtown, April 15-17 Dylan Thomas Week starts tomorrow in the Western Mail's Week End magazine and at WalesOnline.co.uk
Owen Teale rehearsing as First Voice in Clwyd Theatr Cymru's Under Milk Wood
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|Publication:||Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Jan 31, 2014|
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