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Portrait Of Dylan

    by Tony Layton

"I have your work imprinted on my mind"

Aeronwy Thomas (Dylan's daughter to Tony Layton, after seeing a performance)


Drama Play Script: 'Portrait of Dylan' by Tony Layton (Dylan Thomas play)This play is a result of Tony Layton's long association with the world of Dylan Thomas. Not only did Tony live around the corner from Dylan's house in Cwmdonkin Drive, Swansea, but for many years he directed plays at Swansea Little Theatre which used to be Dylan's theatre group when he was a young man. Alun Gibbard, who has made a television film based on the life of Dylan, had written the lyrics to the music for 'Dylan' (the slightly longer version of this play, with music and dance) and Tony was brought in to convert Alan's research into a theatrical delight.

The play sets out to trace Dylan's life from his childhood in Swansea to his untimely death in New York at an early age. There is much controversy surrounding the reasons for Dylan's death and the play examines the view that he did not die from alcoholic poisoning, but in fact entered a diabetic coma which was not diagnosed by doctors at the time.

Anyone who has taken the time to research Dylan's life will know that he was a complex individual. He was a talented writer and broadcaster, always seemingly on the scrounge, a ready wit, a severe critic and someone who had a varied and colourful love life. His relationship with his wife, Caitlin, could be loving but could also be wild. Residents of Laugharne report seeing them fighting on the street after a night at Brown's pub.

Drama Play Script: 'Portrait of Dylan' by Tony Layton (Dylan Thomas play)Some say it was America that killed Dylan. There he was celebrated as a great writer and it was there that his most famous play for voices, "Under Milk Wood" was first performed. The US lecture tour brought him some financial security, and his status helped him to move in celebrity circles.

There is something of a child in Dylan's nature, an inspired innocence that seems to be at odds with the wild party animal. A reading of "A Child's Christmas In Wales" or "Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Dog" (a nudge at James Joyce) reflect keen observations of childhood and family life with which we can all identify.

The play has attempted to weave some of these strands together to try to give an honest account of what we know of Dylan's life. It is very adaptable and can be staged using either minimalist or conventional props and scenery.


Principals (4m, 2f)
  Young Dylan - schoolboy
  Dylan - from age 19 to 39
  Hotel Porter - an elderly New Yorker
  Caitlin - Dylan's wife, from age 24 to 38
  Dan - a schoolboy friend of Young Dylan
  Liz Reitel - Dylan's American lover, early 30's
Supporting Cast
  Minimum 4m/3f (each male playing 5 or 6 small roles, each female playing 3 or 4 small roles)
  Gossips, partygoers, actors, children, etc (non-speaking)

Left : Aeronwy Thomas and Tony Layton at a performance of 'Dylan' (the musical version of 'Portrait Of Dylan').

Right : Copy of a letter written to Tony by Aeronwy after the performance. (Click for large version)

Click to see full size copy of letter

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