Edinburgh Fringe 2015
“Celebrating a day in Llareggub, 69 ebullient inhabitants are hilariously conjured in an amazing feat of memory and virtuosity. With a stunning original soundscape by Matt Clifford, it’s bawdy and beautiful, sad and sensual and, through the music of language, leaves indelible, unforgettable images of humanity. ”
If you have not seen this amazing one-man extravaganza, you are missing one of the most spectacular performances on the fringe this year and every year it has been performed. Guy Masterson has created this rendition of Under Milk Wood well over 2000 times since it was premiered in 1994 and the show never fails to stun the audience. He manages to become every character in the piece as he describes the dreams and aspirations of the inhabitants of Llareggub, a fictional, small Welsh fishing village. They include Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard, relentlessly nagging her two dead husbands; Captain Cat, reliving his seafaring times; the two Mrs Dai Breads; Organ Morgan, obsessed with his music; and Polly Garter, pining for her dead lover. Later, the town awakens and, aware now of how their feelings affect whatever they do, we watch them go about their daily business.
The show opens with Masterson standing on a chair wearing sunglasses saying “To begin at the beginning: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobble streets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea.” and off he goes exploring the inner workings of the myriad of characters in the town. The music, lighting and sound effects enhance the narrative but nothing will ever compare with Masterson’s own dramatic powers. The village and every inhabitant come alive as he recreates Dylan Thomas’s magic with words. “Only you can hear the houses asleep…” he says and his words bring the town awake and the characters to life. Mrs. Cherry Owen merrily rehashes her husband’s drunken antics. Butcher Beynon teases his wife during breakfast. Captain Cat watches as Willy Nilly the postman goes about his morning rounds, delivering to Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard, Mrs. Pugh, Mog Edwards and Mr. Waldo (“It’s another paternity summons”). Children play in the schoolyard; Masterson becomes little Gwennie and the boys she teases when she urges the boys to “kiss her where she says or give her a penny.”
Dylan Thomas’s prose is always a joy to the senses. His words are actually tactile. Under Milkwood was conceived when Thomas was staying at New Quay, Cardiganshire, in West Wales, one winter. He went out early one morning into the still sleeping town and verses came to his mind about the inhabitants. He wrote the account of this as a short story named “Quite Early One Morning” (recorded for BBC Wales on 14 December 1944 and broadcast 31st August 1945). He continued to work on the idea for the remaining eight years of his life.
The magic of this production is in the directing, the pace and the staging. Masterson moves across the stage using all of it as his palette. He paints picture after picture of each villager in his movements, his voice and his expression. One could listen to the words he says with eyes shut and swear there were a whole cast of different people on that stage. You can identify each by Masterson’s unique portrayal. It is this talent that sets his rendition apart from all the rest. He IS every person in the town and he never steps out of character. He seems to actually absorb each unique personality from the school children and little Billy to Mary Anne Sailors, 85 and proud of it.
It is Guy Masterson’s stunning performance that brings the classic story to life. Each time this reviewer sees and hears him, she is struck by the immense creativity and talent that pours from the man himself. When he does a performance at this festival, the audience is awed and well they should be. They are watching dramatic genius at work. Every performance is an individual masterpiece and always memorable. He is every age and every mood of each person in the town until the end of the day and it is time to go to bed to return to their dreams. This show is an delightful and amazing accomplishment not to be missed