BBC Radio 3, 22 March 2009
This dramatized biography of the Welsh poet R.S.Thomas and his wife Florence (inspired
by Byron Rogers's book The Man Who Went Into the West), showed how Florence (Kate Fahy) had willingly sacrificed
a promising career as an award-winning artist and illustrator to accompany her husband (Jonathan Pryce) on a series of travels
in search of ... Well, that was the question.
Told in flashback by Thomas himself and his son Gwiddian (Ian Pattison Davies), Alone
Together portrays the poet as predominantly self-interested, whose obsession with rediscovering 'authentic' Welsh culture
leads him to sacrifice a promising career as a curate. Eventually he fetches up in a remote parish in west Wales, living in
a draughty stone house and surrounded by Welsh-speaking inhabitants who, although perpetually good willing, do not provide
Thomas with the social and emotional fulfillment he so passionately desires. Partly this is due to language: although Thomas
takes Welsh lessons, he cannot master the tongue. He is forced to communicate in English, although believing that it is the
language of the colonizer.
Alone Together suggests that Thomas's dissatisfaction stems from an inability
to communicate with those closest to him in whatever language. Although married for over half acentury, his marriage to Florence
(Elsi) is dominated by silence, even when she is on her death-bed. Playwright Neil McKay comes up with a rather banal justification
for such behaviour: in spite of his convictions as a practising poet and committed Welsh nationalist, Thomas never really
understands himself. He resembles an actor readily accommodating himself to any and every situation. If this were not so,
how could he justify his decision to take up with another woman soon after his wife's death and pursue a far more adventurous
and colourful existence compared to what he had previously experienced? Thomas now travels, becomes more gregarious and less
curmudgeonly; and even forges a closer relationship with his son, something he had singularly failed to do during his wife's
Jonathan Pryce's performance communicated the complexities of the man; but for all
his vocal skills he could not make R.S.Thomas a very attractive personality. What we were left with was a portrait of a man
who like Philip Larkin (a poet Thomas hated) remained fundamentally dissatisfied, both with himself and those around him.
The director was Melanie Harris.