Southsea Model Village will be standing in for the fictional Welsh village of Llareggub when the Groundlings company stages an ambitious production of Under Milk Wood.
They will be performing the Dylan Thomas play to mark the unveiling of a new 1/12 scale replica of the real Groundlings Theatre in Kent Street, Portsea, in the model village.
It will be the latest addition under the tourist attraction’s project to add small-scale versions of real-life locations. In May they installed a copy of the much-loved and recently closed city centre shop U Need Us.
Groundlings’ artistic director Richard Stride says: ‘It’s been a thought for a very long time and when we saw about U Need Us, we approached them and said how about it? We’ll make the model for it, and they liked the idea.
‘We’re going to do a recording of Under Milk Wood, and then inside, on the model of the stage will be a model of the model village and playing will be the Under Milk Wood performance. As people go to see the model, one side of it will be completely glass, like a cutaway, so they can see inside and hear the performance. We did think of putting a model of our model on the stage and keep going to see how small we could get, but we thought that might be a bit too much!’
The actual performance will take place around the paths of the virtual village, which has created some unique challenges for the staging.
‘Under Milk Wood is about 24 hours in a village, so when we’re talking about the chapel, we’ll go there, and then here’s the post office, and so on. It’s been interesting blocking it. The audience either follows us around or stays in the middle and watches from there, it’s not huge in there so we’ll have to see how it works.
‘It’s nice to do something classic, but also fun. And I also like the idea of the village atmosphere, and that’s what it literally is.
‘Initially we were just going to put the model in but then we talked about it and said why don’t we do a nice big opening? And then it became why don’t we do a performance in the evening?’
With 67 characters in the original radio play, how are they tackling that?
‘We’ve got some doubling up – we’ve got a cast of 24 which is still quite sizable. We have done a little bit of editing and cut a couple of characters to keep it a bit more pacy too.’
And Richard was keen to provide some solidarity with a fellow Portsmouth institution. ‘The model village has done so well and they’ve really pulled out all the stops to make it work there, and it’s nice to celebrate another venue’s success in the city, and for us to do something different and be in a different space.
‘It’s a win-win for all of us really.’