Under Milk Wood

October 16, 2016

Well. What can you say to Guy Masterson’s performance of Under Milk Wood, seen under a dingle-starry Napier sky at the MTG Century Theatre last night, and polished over 20 years of mastery to an incandescent perfection?

I took along my 12-year-old son (in a tweed jacket and bowler hat, no less) to soak up Dylan Thomas’ rapturous language and village of eccentric, burbling characters, brought so marvellously to life in a 1930s Welsh spring by Masterson’s awe-inspiring performance. No better way, I thought, to equip a boy for life.

To memorise, embody and sustain at length a world of such lyrical complexity and quirky humanity, seems in this day and age short of miraculous, and yet what a gift to know off by heart an entire two-hour radio play and to share it with the oratory skill of a long-ago bard! And what a gift to become – deft twists and shrewd, split-second turns, in a pair of men’s pajamas, the single prop, a chair – every one of the 69 characters, and to be so utterly persuasive!

I was guilelessly mesmerised, as too the rest of the packed auditorium who crooned their pleasure in the queues to the ladies’ restrooms at interval, who nudged one another convivially over drinks and ice creams, “Amazing, eh?”, who chortled during the many humorous moments and who sighed when it ended.

The Century Theatre’s warm wood panelling and dark capacious space was just right for inhabiting the world Masterson magically spun through his limber, dramaturgical dynamism, his sing-song range of voices, some clever lighting, background sounds, and Dylan Thomas’ heady words. The one moment when Masterson pulled back the veil, as he caught his breath after a lauded whirl through a fast-paced, back-forth skipping rhyme – “And how many years have I been doing this?” – made his oft-given show all the more human and real.

Guy Masterson’s Shylock will be on at the Century Theatre tonight – tickets selling like hotcakes!

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