Ann Donald talks to Guy Masterson about his uncle Richard, and Dylan Thomas.
Nogood Boyo. Willy Nilly, Bessie Bighead and Organ Morgan. For many people these names will be as meaningful as the ingredients on a jar ofjam. But for the shaven-headed man in the pyjamas and Raybans these characters are alive and kicking inside his head. ready to be called upon at a nanosecond‘s notice. No, the man is not an escapee from Carstairs with a multiple personality disorder but the actor Guy Masterson engaged in his one-man rendition of Dylan Thomas‘ Under Milk Wood. His performance so dazzled the national critics when he appeared at the Traverse earlier this year that he was persuaded to don the schizophrenic theatrical persona once more.
Masterson‘s choice of Under Milk Wood is signiﬁcant not only because of the remarkable feat of memory in remembering 69 characters
idiosyncrasies, but because of his uncle, Richard Burton‘s celebrated recital of the same work. Under the direction of Berkovian protegee. George Dillon, together with his own Welsh roots. Masterson denies any pressure either to prove his theatrical lineage or problems with Thomas‘ ebulliantly lyn'cal language. Masterson reveals that each of the eccentric villagers of Llareggub left their individual mark on him. ‘l just allowed my imagination to work on them and they stuck,‘ he says. ‘The moment I say to myself ‘Mrs Organ Morgan‘ my
body remembers her characteristics and out she slips.‘
Despite his initial reservations to talk about his famous uncle, the mention of Playing Bunon unleashes an affectionate free-ﬂowing monologue. Playing Burton is another one-man show, this time directed by Masterson and starring his former student flatmate. Josh Richards. Masterson — who viewed Burton as a father figure —
I was prompted to bring this project to
the stage because he wanted to redress the false persona, as he views it, that the public received when Burton died in 1984. What Masterson aims to do is show the battles raging inside a man trying to reconcile his upbringing with his success. He says: ‘When he died. the predominant message i got from the obituaries was that he’d failed as an actor and sold his soul . . . How could a man from a family ofthirteen kids in a mining village. whose father was an alcoholic. a man who dined with the Kennedys and the Rockefellers, who married the most beautiful woman in the world and who made £75 million in his life; how could he be temied a failure?‘
I linder Milk Wood (Fn'nge) Masterson Productions, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, I3 Aug—3 Sept (interrupted run, check for details) noon, £7.50 (£6.50).
I Playing Burton (Fringe) Masterson Productions, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, 15—17, 24 Aug. noon; 28 Aug—3 Sept, 4pm, £6.50 (£5.50).
mimi- Henry VIII.- Diary of a
When your leading man is on the substantial side at portly and he’s also your designer and one of your leading script writers, it kind of makes sense to come up with plays about characters who are themselves a little weighty. Thus, when Hatural Theatre’s well-built Ralph Dswlck was casting round tor a subject tor the company’s 25th anniversary production, there seemed to be more than a little good sense in plumping ior plump old Henry VIII, that wife-loving monarch with a penchant tor bending church rules, who is best remembered tor being, well, tat.
The tact that the Bath-based company, the same kind people who let us have new Fringe director Hilary Strong, couldn’t stretch to quite as many actors as eager Henry had wives ‘ Is a mere technicality to be sorted out later. And, while they’re working out
the strategies of rapid-tire costume changes, they can also put some thought Into how to sing the ensemble numbers in which characters change on a Iine-by-line basis and actors have to sing ln harmony with themselves.
Ho great problem, I’m sure, for the ebullient company which has achieved international success with self-made musical comedy productions such as Scarlatti’s Wedding and Scarlatti’s Birthday Party, cult hits thanks to a mixture oi quality classical singing, irreverent pastiche and absurdist incongrulty.
Henry VIII - Diary oi a Serial Killer comes from much the same stable: once they realised that 16th century chamber music was not the tunkiest soundtrack tor a boisterous comedy, they decided to tree themselves or anything the vaguest bit period. Hence, each wire plunders the music of a different are trom music hall to grand opera, from smoochy numbers to Gospel. (Mark Fisher)
Henry VIII - Diary of a Serial Itiller (Fringe) Hatural Theatre Company, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, 13—28 Aug, 11 .45an, £7l£8 (£5/£6).
Gabe Stewart drags herself out of bed at some uneartth hour to pick out live at the best shows for early birds.
I Mervyn Stutter presents ‘Seen Anything Good?’ This chat show/show case consisting of bits and pieces of other shows can be a bit hit and miss. but with one guaranteed big name featured every day. and its balanced menu. it‘s an easy ﬁx for Fringe addicts. Stutter‘s own Bob Monkhouse- style of spontaneous wit holds the whole thing together with professional panache.
Seen Anything (lam/I) (Fringe) Merry/1 Stuttei: l’leasanee Cabaret Bar (Venue 33) 556 6550. [3—30 Aug (not 23).
I pm. £5 ( [4).
"it. '. " .
I Going Up The National Student Theatre Company consistently comes up with the dramatic goods. as its record of ten Sen/smart Fringe Firsts confirms. Shopping does seem an unlikely subject for this national award winning poignant musical. but intriguing also.
Going Up (Fringe) National Student Theatre (.‘mnpany. l’leasanee (Venue 33) 556 6550. until 3 Sept (not [7. 30 Aug). [2.15pm. [57% (£4/[5).
I A Kidsummer Hight’s Dream/A Midsummer Night’s Dream Like father like son? Find out for yourscli'just how closely related the original is to this junior version (specially composed for 7—l2-year-olds), by watching one, followed by the other.
A K idsummer Night is Dream (Fringe) Intimate 12'.‘.'(.'ltanges Theatre ('mnpany.
.Sauthbrirlge ('entre (Venue I23) 556
3663. 13—27 Aug. /().3()am.' 28 Aug—3 Sept. 10.15am, “(1250).
A Midsummer Night 3' Dream (Fringe) Intimate lire/ranges Theatre Cmnpanj'. South/triage Centre (Venue I23) 556 3663. I3 Aug—3 Sept (not [6. 2/. 23. 30), Ipm. [5 (£3.50).
I Portrait oi Vincent By all accounts this tour de force performance by Michael McEvoy manages to educate. entertain. and strip the character of Vincent van (30in of all the stereotypical cliches heaped upon him. APartrait (If lt’inr'ent (Fringe) Partrait Prmluetians. Roman Eagle Lodge (Venue 2]) 225 7995, 14—20 Aug. [2.15pm; 2/ Aug— 3 Sept. [0.40am [7 (£5.50).
The List l2—l8 August 1994 21