Theatre review: The Head in the Jar, Glasgow Oran Mor

Stephen Clyde as Dylan Thomas and Gaylie Runciman as Caitlin. Picture: Contributed
Stephen Clyde as Dylan Thomas and Gaylie Runciman as Caitlin. Picture: Contributed
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DEB Jones’ tense little play about Dylan and Caitlin Thomas is set on 8 November, 1973, 20 years to the day after Dylan’s death in a New York hospital following a drinking binge.

The Head in the Jar

Glasgow Oran Mor

Rating: * * * *

Caitlin (Gaylie Runciman) has a glass in front of her: will she drink it, embracing the same destructive end, or leave it alone, and regain some sense of herself?

Flashbacks take us to wartime London where Caitlin and Dylan (Stephen Clyde) drink while the bombs fall, to Wales, where Dylan spends days and nights at the pub and Caitlin struggles with drinking and motherhood, and finally to New York, when a drunken Caitlin wraps her husband’s dying arms around her in a desperate act of grief.

Deb Jones, winner of last year’s David MacLennan Award for new playwrights, delivers an ambitious take on a familiar story, mixing inventive language and leaps of theatrical imagination with a dark kitchen-sink realism.

Director Alan McKendrick draws out strong physical performances to capture this volatile, sometimes cruel relationship which nevertheless had at its heart a kind of desperate love.

Runciman mixes fire and fragility as Caitlin, the Irish dancer and free-thinker who becomes a slave to drink, poverty, family responsibility and most of all to her love for a destructive genius.

Clyde balances her performance with a cocky, irrepressible Dylan, though one might wish for a bit more poetry, for more of the dynamism which made him compelling as well as reprehensible.

SUSAN MANSFIELD

Run ends today