Higher Ground, Light Square
Reviewed Sunday March 14th 2010
Presented by Guy Masterson’s Centre for International Theatre and Theatre Tours International.
Bookings: Fringetix & Venuetix outlets
Guy Masterson seems fated to forever perform Dylan Thomas’s best know and most loved work. The one year that he came to Adelaide without it he was inundated with complaints from disappointed aficionados. I have seen it several times before, but never tire of Masterson’s magnificent performance of one of the most poetic and evocative pieces of writing.
From the opening lines, spoken by the omniscient narrator referred to as the First Voice, “To begin at the beginning: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboatbobbing sea.”, we know we are in for something very special. Masterson then proceeds to take on all 59 characters, including assorted livestock, a task normally undertaken by a cast of considerably more than one, lone actor. The most famous BBC recording, with Richard Burton as First Voice, had a cast of 21 and omitted several scenes. Thomas wrote the piece for radio, referring to it as a “play for voices” and that BBC cast read from their scripts. Masterson has memorised the entire work, creates all of the characters vocally and then also adds another layer by representing them physically. His ability to instantly switch from old men to young children to middle aged women to a simpleton and every other possible character in the blink of an eye, returning to characters later in the work with precisely the same interpretation, is uncanny.
Clad in pyjamas, with only a wooden chair and a pair of sunglasses as props, Masterson conjures up an entire Welsh fishing village, beginning in the dead of night while the inhabitants are sleeping, taking us into their dreams, then right through the next day and back to bed again. An elaborate lighting plot aids this interpretation and the music, written by Matt Clifford, also helps to evoke feelings of time and place. The little town of Llaregub and the nearby Milk Wood appear clearly in the minds of the audience through Masterson’s sparkling interpretation of the descriptive passages of Thomas’s writing.
Tony Boncza’s direction is acutely aware of the importance of the text, as well as understanding just how much or how little to emphasise each character with movement. In the end, though, it is Masterson’s phenomenal performance that makes this a show that audiences want to attend time and again and that continually attracts new fans as word spreads. Bravo!
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Glam Adelaide Arts Editor.