Under Milk Wood given multi-layered celebration by National Theatre Wales

An installation – Raw Material: Llareggub Revisited – and two new productions of the play presented 60 years after premiere

The bible-black night over the dreaming town of Llareggub, peopled half a century ago by Dylan Thomas with the restlessly tossing and turning Captain Cat, flighty Polly Garter, the remorselessly houseproud Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard and her two dead husbands, poor Mog Edwards, the "draper mad with love" and baleful Mr Pugh silently considering how to poison his wife, will be recreated in the landscape which inspired the poet, to celebrate the centenary of his birth and the 60th anniversary of the work's premiere.

Under Milk Wood, Thomas's "play for voices", was first broadcast by the BBC in 1954, with Richard Burton as the narrator, and became an instant classic. By then Thomas was already dead, aged 39. According to literary legend, he did not complete a full script until 1953 – 10 years after BBC Radio Wales broadcast his earliest version – and then only when his agent locked him into a room until he finished the work. He was still tinkering with revisions when he died in New York in November that year. The script was later adapted as a stage play, and a film version was released in 1972.

National Theatre Wales is now launching an ambitious collaboration with BBC Wales, the artist Marc Rees and the writer Jon Tregenna to create a journey through the play at sites across the town of Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, which became Thomas's main home from 1949, and where he is buried.

Various places in Wales claim the honour of being the real Llareggub – "Buggerall" reversed, and the inspiration for Terry Pratchett's Llamedos: including Swansea, where he was born, and where a statue of Captain Cat now stands: New Quay in west Wales, where he was first moved by a walk so early one morning that everyone else was still asleep; and Laugharne, which Thomas called "the strangest town in Wales" – although much of the play was actually written in Oxfordshire, and in the United States.

Raw Material: Llareggub Revisited will be presented in Laugharne over the May bank holiday weekend between 3 and 5 May, as part of the town's annual festival, featuring music, live performance and installations. It will culminate in a BBC Wales broadcast of a spectacular, multi-layered version of the play, incorporating part of the National Theatre Wales event live, and a starry Welsh cast reading from venues in New York, Los Angeles, London, Cardiff and Laugharne. Details of the cast have still to be announced, but it would be astonishing if Swansea-born Catherine Zeta Jones doesn't turn up somewhere.

The installation is being created by the artist Marc Rees, also born in Swansea, who has an international reputation for site-specific work, and the Llanelli-born writer Jon Tregenna, who has written an updated Milk Wood which is an annual highlight of the festival, and also manages Thomas's old local, the now considerably smarter Brown's hotel.

Tickets will go on sale on St David's Day, 1 March.

An equally starry touring production of Under Milk Wood, a Clwyd Theatr Cymru production directed by former RSC artistic director Terry Hands, with a cast including Owen Teale, will also soon go on the road, in a four-month English tour following a Welsh tour and a run at Clywd.

Teale, after a glittering and award-scattered stage and film career, is probably currently best known as Alliser Thorne in Game of Thrones – "a twisted character who's been very damaged in the past … great to play," he said in a recent interview.

The strong Welsh cast includes Kai Owen and Steven Meo. The English tour starts at York on 22 April and takes in Exeter, Bath, Malvern, Liverpool, Plymouth, Birmingham, Croydon, Cheltenham, Brighton and Richmond.


Maev Kennedy

The GuardianTramp

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