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Gari Jones on staging Under Milk Wood

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What lies behind the choice of Under Milk Wood? In choosing a title, it’s very much an ongoing dialogue with Dee Evans (the theatre’s artistic director), while bearing in mind the balance of a season, the Mercury's audience and a good piece of work that will also suit the company. This piece is a timeless slice of life that is full of incredible images, resonances and stories. It’s something that I've always loved the idea of doing.

How do you see the play as a stage piece (bearing in mind that it was initially a radio play)? It’s definitely a challenge. There's many many characters – more than 50, to be covered by a cast of nine! So one level of it is working out part allocation, changes, entrances and so on, but I want to serve the piece as much as possible, so it’s also a case of working out how to stage it and how to tell the stories – bearing in mind there is dialogue and narration. So you draw on different ways of telling and showing, vocally and visually. There are so many intricacies to discover and to develop. Rehearsals are a time to unpick andreveal, understanding why things are as they are. It’s a very complex but, Ithink, beautiful piece of work.

How did your connexion to the Mercury come about? I was introduced to the Mercury by Sara Perks – who has designed Under Milk Wood and most of the shows I’ve done here – a couple of years ago.

What else have you been working on? Recently, after the epic Depot which I wrote and directed for the Mercury, I did The Colour Of Justice in London and also wrote some sections of another site-specific piece. I'm doing Dennis Kelly's DNA at LAMDA next, as well as developing a new piece which I've written at the Mercury.


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