A Review: Burton by Gwynne Edwards

Richard Burton was a fascinating, contrary man that defied the logic of a job for life down the pit to become an international superstar, only to have his private life then eclipse his acting achievements. An audience with him is something we can now never have, but Rhodri Miles gives us something very close – bringing Burton back to life for one night only.

Miles has him prowling around the stage, forever refreshing the booze – a round-shouldered, ursine raconteur never short of a name-dropping anecdote as he thumbs through the mental rolodex of his fractious career. Despite opening with a cheeky nod to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, much of Gwynne Edwards’s text focuses on Burton’s early years, making us wait for gossip about Elizabeth.

When she teasingly cameos in the first act, all ears pricked up, but we have to wait until the second half before the play sates our curiosity. Miles then certainly rises to the occasion, snarling his way through a compelling retelling of their star crossed meeting with bravado and wit, bringing their torrid, messy love affair (and the play) to life in a way that leaves you wondering what might have been.

By David Vass