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The Thorn Birds – A Musical review at Swansea Grand

This is the swansong production from Wales Theatre Company, helmed by the legendary director Michael Bogdanov. On the face of it, attempting to translate a hugely popular novel/TV mini-series to the stage – particularly in the form of a musical – might seem like a fool’s errand, but at least in this case the company has been graced by the presence of the original author Colleen McCullough, who penned the book and lyrics, which are set to music by Gloria Bruni.

The story will be familiar to anyone who was captivated by the series which starred Richard Chamberlain. What we have here is a story of forbidden love between a Catholic priest and a young Australian girl – it spans the decades and is well-paced (particularly during the second half), and while the score is very eclectic – it is fair to say that not a single number could be performed out of context in a concert setting – it has just the right level of dramatic impetus to carry it through.

The performances are uniformly excellent – there is not a single weak link in terms of casting – and the period Aussie accents are (for the most part) spot on, as are the video projections. A scene set in a church looks almost three-dimensional and is very impressive.

If I have just one minor niggle – and I confess to being very pedantic here – it is that a tombstone which forms part of the set towards the end of the production bears the inscription “Requiesscat in pace” and, to quote Nigel Molesworth, “as every skoolboy kno”, there is only one “s” in “Requiescat”. Quite how this was missed eludes me, but I admit to being something of a nitpicker at the best of times. That particular typo leapt out at me just as surely as if I’d spotted a grocer’s apostrophe.

This is an ambitious project, and one which will take Wales Theatre Company out on a high. It is to be hoped that the performers who have graced Mr Bogdanov’s company over the years – many of whom are familiar faces from both stage and screen, not merely in Wales but elsewhere (Doctor Who, anybody?) – will find a new arena in which to demonstrate their considerable talents.

Production Information

Swansea Grand, April 21-25, then touring until July 11

Author
Colleen McCullough
Director
Michael Bogdanov
Producer
Wales Theatre Company
Cast includes
Matthew Goodgame, Peter Karrie, Llinos Daniel, Helen Anker, Gary Davis, Andrea Miller, Ieuan Rhys, Phylip Harries, Richard Munday
Running time
2hrs 30mins

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