Milan April 6, 2022- It was was a rare opportunity in Milan: the chance to see the incredible Guy Masterson-Mastroianni performing all 69 roles of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood in a special charity performance for Ukraine at the Filodrammatici Theatre in Milan, thanks to Julia Holden and J Productions.
Guy Masterson-Mastroianni was absolutely incredible, transforming himself physically and vocally into all the characters of the 20th century classic set in the fictional Welsh town of Llareggub (or “Bugger All” in reverse). With minimal staging – literally, just a chair – and a few props (sunglasses, pint glass), Guy brings the story to life, switching between the various personalities that inhabit Thomas’s dreamscape – from the blind Captain Cat, reliving his seafaring times, to the baker Dai Bread with his two wives, the Mrs Dai Breads, and from Organ Morgan, obsessed with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach to Polly Garter, pining for her dead lover. Masterson-Mastroianni’s performance veers from a portrayal of skipping and chanting children in the playground to surly, hawking fishermen on the quayside, and from the poetic Reverend Eli Jenkins’s sermons to Sinbad the lovestruck publican at The Sailors’ Arms, who yearns for schoolteacher Gossamer Beynon.
The lighting and audio were matched flawlessly, with the almost cinematic precision of sound effects and atmospheric music by Matt Clifford, combining to create a rich, lyrical texture complementing the performance (in English).
Guy Masterson, who is actually the great nephew of Sir Richard Burton, was inspired to become an actor by his great uncle’s rendition of Under Milk Wood, which was commissioned by the BBC in 1954 as a radio drama by Dylan Thomas and later adapted for the stage. Guy has performed the piece over 2,000 times and, as he told us after the show, it is actually a “symphony” which carries him along with its intricate rhythms. Running at 100 minutes, his performance is not only a dramatic tour-de-force but also an impressive feat of memory in its own right.
Article by Robert Dennis
Robert Dennis is a Business English teacher based in Milan. He has been teaching for over 30 years both in the UK and in Italy. A long-time collaborator with John Peter Sloan, Robert published “Business English” (Gribaudo) in 2020. The book was launched with “Il Sole 24 Ore” and sold in newsstands throughout Italy. Robert has a website for people who want to learn Business English: payasyoulearn.com. The site features keywords and phrases, audio and exercises to help professionals improve their language skills. A graduate in English from Oxford University, Robert is also a translator and a “buongustaio” who loves Italian food!
Featured image: Guy Masterson-Mastroianni in Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, J Productions /photo Robert Dennis
This article originally appeared on MilanEnglishBlog and was republished with the author’s permission.