The annual British Invasion series presented by Central Standard Theatre in cooperation with the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre should not be missed by Kansas City audiences. The series offers an eclectic range of shows from period dramas to postmodern misanthropy, all of which are done in an exceedingly elegant, yet economic fashion.
Richard Dormer's The Half, a one-man show performed by Guy Masterson, was a pitch perfect follow-up to the 2011 British Invasion presentation, Shylock. Directed by David Calvitto, The Half is an emotionally complex examination of an aging actor an hour before his own staging of an unedited version of Shakespeare's Hamlet as a one-man show. It abounds with irreverent humour, self-examination and breathless Shakespearean recitation. Exploring his successes and his failures in a bitingly objective manner, it is reminiscent of the best and worst pep talks you've ever given yourself.
The power in the show comes from Masterson though; a subtler actor would have succumbed to incoherent mumbling in the face of the sheer bipolarity and self-doubt of the character. He delivers such an awe-inspiring performance that even while playing the more obvious bits for a laugh, the darkness that steams beneath his merry façade is palpable. Masterson not only effortlessly tackles the psychological elements but additionally, in aide of Dormer's placement within the script, delivers some of the most interesting passages from Hamlet with aplomb.
Set your calendars for next year's British Invasion, and keep Masterson in your sights whether he's directing or performing; these are shows that should not be missed. (Calli Parker - KCMetropolis.org)
From the Edinburgh Festival 2012
WONDERFUL, PROFESSIONAL AND STIMULATING - ScotsGay Magazine
As I walked in the woman in front of me noticed the skull on stage and immediately said, "Alas, poor Yorick." Yes, at one level we are into the play that lives in the mind of more theatregoers than any other. And we are into memento mori, with rapiers brandished, the most famous of Hamlet's soliloquies, and the actor's forgetfulness.
"Tick tock /The mirror's an unkind clock." We are in the dressing room of an actor who is about to perform Hamlet uncut, alone, and who has not performed for 15 years and who has a drink problem. Yes - daunting. Guy Masterson gives a tremendous performance in this role, as the actor hears his 'Half'- the half hour before performance call, and realises he has just 35 minutes until he is on-stage. He has to prepare himself and stay focused, but he is beset by many demons - his marriage break up and its memories, his years in the alcoholic wilderness, his self-defeating superstitions. And, where are his trousers?
There is a wonderful one-man rapier fight which has just been expertly choreographed, and was first included today - another excellent reason for taking in this show! Guy Masterson treats us to a show that is both hilarious and touching. We are with him at every new twist, and we laugh as he struggles to get everything in order within and without. Will he be able to go on? Will he collapse? What is in the mystery envelope? What glows brightly in the bottom drawer? Get along to this most professional and stimulating of performances and find out for yourself! (Tony Challis - ScotsGay Magazine - 24/8/12)
ASTUTE MIX OF WORLDLY PATHOS & FACED PACED PHYSICAL COMEDY "Bet you Alan Cumming never had to go through this. Where his one-man Macbeth must have been a trial, the four-and-a-half hour, uncut, solo Hamlet that Guy Masterson's actor is about to stage as his comeback in this lone production leads to some serious dressing-room nerves. The audience might come, but why should they stay? "I've cut the interval!" he cackles, maniacally.
Those who have seen the excellent Israeli play Repertory Theatre at this year's Fringe might be drawn to make comparisons between it and Masterson's The Half (the name is a reference to the actor's half-hour stage call, after which most of this play takes place). Both are about theatre makers struggling to get to grips with a performance of Hamlet, but while the other piece is boldly experimental in form, Masterson's production of Richard Dormer's play is unashamedly trad in execution. His actor has a barely-controlled drink problem, a wife who has left him and, surprised by the age of his face in the mirror, he bitterly muses "It seemed like only yesterday you were playing Romeo". That these potentially clichéd elements combine to form something greater and more heartfelt than might be anticipated is almost entirely down to Masterson's strong performance, an astute mix of worldly pathos and fast-paced physical comedy.
The adrenaline involved in performing on opening night, says the actor, is "the equivalent of being involved in a 35-mile-an-hour, head-on car crash", and Masterson appears to be trying to channel this very sensation with a performance that begins to race as his character skirts the edge of a nervous breakdown. He forgets his shoes. He forgets his trousers. He chatters at Yorick's skull. He swordfights with himself. He appears unable to stop saying "Macbeth", jinxing himself more with every syllable, and searches in vain for some wood to touch for luck, cursing the "concrete monstrosity" that is the modern theatre building. It's one long theatrical in-joke, for sure, but there is power in his eventual conclusion that "It's what I do. I am an actor." (David Pollock - The Scotsman - 16/08/12)
GRABS THE ATTENTION, TICKLES THE FUNNY BONE AND STOP-STARTS THE BREATH! "The Half" is a theatre term for the call that comes 35 minutes before curtain up and half an hour before the "Beginners" call that tells those first on to get to the stage. In Richard Dormer's The Half, confidently directed by David Calvitto, we see an actor dealing with the thoughts that plague him in this highly pressured time, whilst dealing with nerves, superstition and a soulless concrete and metal dressing room where we are the mirrors.
During his preparation for performing a four-and-a-half long, without interval, one man Hamlet, Guy Masterson's Actor mentions giving only 95% of himself - after all, to give 100% is just to be desperate. For a while, watching Masterson's controlled, clever speech and humorous antics, it seems he himself might subscribe to this notion. Oh, he is clear, funny - witty, even - obviously highly skilled, and somewhat intriguing, but will he let go of the reins at all, will his physical t-shirt-and-undershorts vulnerability actually become an emotional one that lets you in?
The answer is 'yes' - Masterson will open up, will let you in, and the wait for this is part of an entertaining build up that gently leads you into the Actor's world, life and heart.
It is clear that both performer Masterson and playwright Dormer have a love for language. The very word 'half' takes on various associations as the play progresses as you start noticing it cropping up here and there with different meanings. The script, with a driving use of sounds, rhythms and imagery, shows Shakespeare's attraction for them and their own connection to Shakespeare's works. Not only are major Hamlet speeches credibly included, but lines drop in here and there beside modern language both elevated and rough, until the Actor is actually babbling Shakespearean lines in the manner of anyone just 'losing it', the long dead playwright's words flowing believably from a modern man tumbling over a cliff. Along with this great facility for words, Masterson uses physical comedy to fine effect and is not afraid to go to the extremes that suit his material.
The Half sees an actor preparing for the most important acting moment of his life and fighting his demons. As Masterson states in the programme: "although the actor's fears are perhaps more heightened and immediate due to their imminent exposure to an audience, their emotions are pretty universal."
Masterson's great achievement with The Half is not just to embody what is universal, but to make it also extremely personal. His Actor becomes convincing enough that only the programme's mention of a playwright persuades that this is not, for him, an autobiographical piece.
Masterson is a master at the solo show, in his choices and performance skills, and, with The Half, he once again delivers a piece that grabs your attention, tickles your funny bone and stop-starts your breath. (Danielle Farrow - Edinburgh Spotlight 10/08/12)
100% Entertaining! "The play's the thing -but panicking is half of it. Guy Masterson delivers a hilarious comedy about an actor preparing for a one-man production of Hamlet, in The Half. Masterson plays an anxious, paranoid actor whose wife recently left him, and copes with the stresses of opening night. Hilarious, honest, and insightful in its execution, the show features spectacular acting skills including a one-man sword fight against himself and an amusing series of suicide attempts.The lines between acting and reality are bLurred as Masterson spirals into a state of madness much like Hamlet's; indeed, the play becomes an adapted version of Hamlet. This is an entertaining show - half insightful, half comical, 100% entertaining!" (Ana-Claudia Magaña - Three Weeks - 11/08/12)
"Richard Dormer's solo performance play is an intimate and dramatic study of a 50 year old actor about to take the stage on a first night performance. Guy Masterson as the actor gives a commanding performance under the direction of David Calvitto.
Guy Masterson's role is hugely demanding because he has to go through a full range of acting styles from physical, farcical comedy to deep pathos. The actor is under severe pressure. He is performing a solo version of Hamlet; he has not acted in front of an audience for 15 years; his marriage has failed and a descent into alcoholism, one senses, is not far away.
is an appropriate title. He addresses his dressing room mirror and battle of wills is being fought out in his mind. Half is trying to be positive whilst the other half fears utter humiliation. A sample of the comedy in the play is his search to "touch wood" to bring good luck but in this modern dressing there is no wood to be found. This contrasts starkly with his depressive state when he contemplates suicide and the lines he quotes from Hamlet
echo his state of mind. Tension builds, and will he make it to the stage at the end is the big question.
For many years the productions with which Guy Masterson has been involved have had the hallmarks of quality. This is the first time I have seen him perform and it was truly memorable. (Ben - One4Review 09/08/12)
A HEARTFELT SALUTE! "The idea of over two thousand shows is a daunting one for any prospective Fringe goer. The very phrase "fringe theatre" can bring fear into the heart of even the most experienced reviewer. Yet sometimes you'll come across a piece of performance art that truly makes you see things in a different light.
Guy Masterson's The Half seems to be a simple take on an ageing actor's experience of emotions pre-performance, but it is really so much more. Set thirty minutes before the lead goes on stage, we see him go through the motions of pre-show traditions. Water: check. Script: check. Shoes: check. Trousers: no check!
Herein lies the humour of The Half. There is something very believable about the situations Masterson conveys. As things progress, we learn it's the first real performance the actor has given in 15 years and he has unwisely chosen to do a solo rendition of Hamlet. The unabridged version.
As the realisation of what he's doing dawns, so too does a plethora of emotional turbulence he never even knew existed. A bitter-sweet relationship with his ex-wife is the tip of the iceberg as the actor appears to go into a full blown nervous meltdown before our eyes.
Masterson's performance manages the balance of humour, depression and anger just right. It never dwells for too long on the more sombre moments, keeping the show's tightrope script from tumbling. A good thing for a 65-minute one-man show.
Written by Richard Dormer, directed by David Calvitto and performed by Guy Masterson, The Half comes across as a collaborative effort of experiences shared by all involved. It is a heart-felt salute to anyone who has undergone trial-by-fire and has come out still just a little confused." (John Thoumire - Edinburgh Guide 07/08/12)
MASTERFUL MASTERSON! "Watching Guy Masterson perform reminds me of watching an acrobat during a highly sophisticated balancing act where everything must be done at the right place, the right time, and in the right proportion. The true mastery of his acting lies in the fact that he perfectly combines and balances elements of comedy, drama, and even melodrama. This creates a mix that keeps the audience oscillatig continuously between different emotional reactions, while all the while being mesmerised by Masterson's performance.
In this one man show, Masterson portrays an actor who reaches his fifties only to realise that his career never took off. In a final bid to turn around his luck, he has invested everything he owns in a one-man production of Hamlet. The play is set backstage thirty minutes before the performance begins where we watch the actor desperately trying to maintain his confidence in the face of what appears to be certain failure, by using all the "tricks" of the acting trade from warm ups to breathing exercises. As his confidence abandons him, his life-story unravels.
The play is very varied and wonderfully written. Although incredibly humorous - the audience laughed a lot during the performance, particularly when the stereotypical Actor was made fun of - it also contains moments of genuine insight that are full of empathy towards the man and his shortcomings. It is during some of these moments that the playwright "borrows" Shakespeare's monologues and Guy Masterson delivers excerpts of the most sensitively-acted Hamlet I have ever seen. There are certain moments when the whole thing is on the verge of becoming melodramatic, but it is always balanced out again. This production is also complemented by a wonderful lighting design that assists in the transitions between various emotional states, allowing them to be made seamlessly, and absorbing the audience.
At the risk of sounding like a bit of a groupie, I will probably be watching The Half again before the Fringe is over. (Margarita Semsi - Broadway Baby 05/08/12)
UNLIKELY TO BE BETTERED ON THE FRINGE THIS YEAR! If you have ever wondered what goes through an actor's mind in the last half an hour (well 35 minutes) before the curtain rises, as he contemplates playing Hamlet, go and see The Half.
Otherwise, go anyway to see Guy Masterson under the direction of David Calvitto giving a virtuoso performance as a drunken sot of a failed actor dissecting his life just as surely as his subject does.
Divorce and a 4½ hour solo gig playing every part from Gertrude to the junior Gravedigger, never forgetting the uncertain hero, would be enough to make any superstitious actor suicidal, let alone a brief spell of "resting" that has stretched for 15 long, alcohol-diminished years.
Trapped in a soulless breezeblock dressing room with only a skull for company, the hard-working Guy Masterson combines some awesome soliloquies from the bard with his character's anguish and humour in a 70-minute solo that is unlikely to be bettered on the Fringe this year." (Philip Fisher - British Theatre Guide 05/08/12)
A GRAND PIECE OF THEATRE MAKING "Penned by Richard Dormer and directed by David Calvitto, Guy Masterson plays a fifty year-old actor who hasn't trodden to boards for fifteen years and who, in order to turn around that woeful state of affairs, stages a solo show . Alas, poor fellow, it is the play he knows well: a long, oh yes, very long version of Hamlet sans cuts.
"Remember to breathe." says our host, and this is the beginning of a painfully funny dive into the life of a man trying to regain his future by mining the near exhausted resources of his past.
One might wonder if this is Masterson playing Masterson, at least a little. Not so. Masterson is in full flight and full flow in a piece of writing from Richard Dormer that demands he dig deep. Masterson does so, hurling himself around the stage with manic, protean skill one moment, the next, speaking directly to us with poised stillness, in a clever bit of stages where we, the audience, are the dressing room mirror.
It's an intense comedy in one way as we are essentially looking through that mirror into the fearful soulscape of a man on the borders of giving it one final and epic go, to relaunch himself into the starry realms of recognition, both self and public.
This is a window onto many things: raw first night nerves, self-doubt and aching hope, tiredness and the wish to self-energise once again. But has our actor bitten off to much this time...?
This is a really meaty part to play, and I think Masterson was born for it. He paces around the stage in the minutes before he takes to the stage in this hour and a bit long look at an ageing actor trying to step forward by stepping back into a younger skin. He's at home here, and it is his ease in the part that could have been his downfall. Not so Masterson. Even a part a little too close to himself doesn't prevent him taking hold of the role, respecting it, and thus offering it to us with a mix of tragicomic fizz and deep emotional oomph.
Hamlet, uncut - the one man show - four and a half hours, no interval. That is what awaits our poor heroic actor on the "other" stage. What we get is just over an an hour that's joyful to watch as Masterson makes it all look easy, though never complacent.
This is a play about the half - the essential thirty five minutes before the long walk to the stage. But it also also symbolic of the thresholds we all face when we step forwards towards somewhere hopeful, somewhere dreaded, somewhere we either need most or need least to be. We are invited to witness the inner dialogue of fear, desperation and hopes of an actor aching for progression. This inner dialogue is excarnated into a dialogue with us, the audience.
Guy Masterson has a natural and charismatic presence that inhabits all four corners of the theatre. The skill here is to command the space and the material with yet still portray a man dripping with self-doubt, a man upon whom those four walls are closing in. Masterson pulls it off near perfectly.
The writing is clever, and there's a skilled convergence of the at first parallel stories of this actor, lone, lost in indecision and perhaps a certain craziness, and the Hamlet of the play he is about to perform solo. Solo converges with solo promising not synergy but simply more solitude.
In places the writing meanders a little and though Masterson carries it all with much skill, the emotional journey feels slightly denser than it need be; the repetition may be realistic, but it weighs a little too heavily on the narrative.
Masterson digs deep and gives a full bodied and full blooded performance under the skilled and finely tuned direction of David Calvitto. He's tamed the bigness of the man and there are moments when our actor feels small, childlike and very paper thin and breakable as a soul can be. It's a performance of highs and lows, a bipolarity that creates and holds the interest firmly, as well as being a source of much of the comedy, trousers down, sideways glance and much talking to himself. I felt there's more comedy here to be realised and our audience was rather muted given the frenetic activity on stage.
loved the weaving in of lines and even phrases from Hamlet into the relentless procrastination of our actor. It's cleverly done.
A highly recommended play, with a fine solo performance that never lets up. An assured piece of performance that knows a hawk from a handsaw, and thus offers us a grand piece of theatre-making. (Paul Levy - FringeReview 03/08/12)
Punter's reviews from Edinburgh 2012:
Sylvia Parma: Amazing play. Unique approach to content. Five stars well deserved.
Philip Pirie: A superb new production - Guy Masterson reveals his comic genius as well as the pathos we always knew about!
Raymond Tongue: This is Guy Masterson exhibiting the best of his immense stagecraft. Any show in which he appears is worth the admission price and this was no exception. To sustain the level and energy of performance over the hour is a lesson for the would-be actor. The monologue took us through the pre-performance decomposition of an actor preparing to embark upon a one-man performance of Hamlet - uncut! Masterson took us through the stages of breakdown as doubts crept in and eventually whiskey took over. There was much humour as well as pathos and great characterisation. For me a must see show.
David Reynolds: Masterful and impressive piece of acting, well worth seeing. It flexed around sorrow, angst and circumstantial humour. I am sometimes perplexed at the timing of some laughter.
Alison Howarth: Very clever, funny - how does he remember all those words?
Gail Whyte: An amusing and sometimes touching look at the world of a less than successful actor on opening night. Really well performed by Guy Masterson.
Robert Stode: The Half is a one man show performed by Guy Masterson and focuses on the half hour before a failed and alcoholic actor goes on stage for his comeback performance. We are fans of Masterson who gives his all in a performance that is well written and well acted but had me checking my watch ten minutes from the end. 8/10. See more reviews on www.bobview.com
Paul Kustow: A good dose of Guy Masterson in Edinburgh each year is an essential part of the Fringe experience and The Half was just what the doctor ordered. Is there another such talented actor in the UK who puts so much into his work on stage? From the time we saw him in his one-man shows, Under Milk Wood and Animal Farm, so many years ago, I and my wife have been Guy Masterson devotees and The Half was the perfect play for him to throw himself into with all dramatic guns blazing. And blaze he did, in a moving story of the self doubt many actors must have been going through for hundreds of years. Can he have 6 out of 5 stars? We can't wait to see Guy again in 2013.
Debra Merrett: Excellent, we were nearly as exhausted as Guy by the end, superb delivery.
Sean Davis: (****) Guy Masterson portrays a has-been alcoholic actor in his dressing room just before trying to resurrect his career by playing all of the parts in Hamlet. As I expected, Masterson is superb as he works through acting exercises, self doubts, and rapid excerpts from Hamlet.
Jenny Lambert: Guy Masterson does it again. An entertaining hour spent with a former (?) alcoholic actor as he prepares to put on his one man version of Hamlet. The rituals, insecurities, tensions all build almost to the point of a nervous breakdown (I was sweating almost as much as Masterson by the time he leaves the dressing room to start his 'performance'). Funny, entertaining and moving. Five Stars from me.
Deb Woolley: High energy performance which was excellent. This guy is a talented actor unlike the character he is portraying. Very impressed at the speed he managed to spurt out passages from Shakespeare and the raw emotion he produced. Highly recommended.
Diana Lawson: 5* show. Fantastic entertainment from a very talented and versatile actor. Dont miss it!
Fiona Morris: Fabulous show, Guy is brilliant, taking us on a rollercoaster from hilarity to despair and back. Am fascinated by his ability to move from one character to another using his whole body, face, voice. See it, and if you get the chance to see him do 'Shylock', see that too.
Margarita Boyers: First of all, the performance by Guy Masterson, was absolutely brilliant. His naturalist application of Elizabethan diction to a modern predicament was very believable and convincing. His collage of Shakespeare lines fashioned together to express a very bad case of stage fright and contemporary angst/mid-life crisis/ existential despair delivered at break-neck speed was thrilling to witness. I was very moved by the virtuosity of the edit and by Masterson's sheer mastery of the material. Indeed, his character is POSSESSED by Shakespeare and the possession is both his strength and his undoing. I'm not sure we needed as much of the bottle as we got, but perhaps we did. I'm pretty sure we'll go see it again before our time in Edinburgh is up and I'll decide about that after a second viewing. We are great fans of Guy M. Last year's performance was terrific too, but not as compelling as a work of theater, I feel, as this year's. It was almost more of a lecture -demonstration, in its way also thrilling because of the sheer mastery needed to bring it off, but in the end not as satisfying as this year's one-act play. I highly recommend THE HALF to anyone looking for a bracing and also very entertaining hour or so this season.
Charlotte Pinder: Guy Masterson is an amazing actor who sucks the audience into his persona so much so that we all become as nervous and terrified as he is about failing in the show he is about to perform. A sad show but a must-see just for the chance of a close-up encounter with an outstanding performer.
Roger Nunn: Excellent, really moving.
David Newsome: Another excellent performance from Masterson, veteran of so many productions as both actor and director over last 20 years. Well acted and hilarious 4/5
John Stamp: Guy Masterson is splendid in this Hamletesque play set in the 35 minutes before the curtain goes up before a one-man Hamlet. Just stunning acting.
Rachel Mariner: We went straight to see Guy Masterson's show The Half. The Half what theatre veterans call the 35 minutes before curtain of a show. Guy plays a 50-year-old alcoholic, whose wife has left him, who has a nervous breakdown during The Half as he contemplates his imminent return to the theatre performing Hamlet as a one-man show lasting four and half hours with no intermission. Four five-star reviews came in for it today, deservedly, for Guy’s virtuoso performance and for the evocative script. Hamlet is paralyzed by doubt, remember, looking to the theatre for respite and truth. Hamlet devoutly wishes for death but cannot muster the courage for suicide. The parallels haunt this piece. There is suffering. But the suffering has a ludicrousness, the character has a ridiculousness in his failure so much that I could not help but laugh. So the piece swings from utter pathos to slapstick comedy. Not for the faint of heart. The one-person sword fight is in itself highly entertaining, shortly after, though, the man is moved to tears with self-loathing. A difficult show, a challenging show. In some ways it seemed huge and Russian to me, looking at madness like The Idiot. Like all Masterson productions, though, it ended beautifully, perfectly. Somewhere in the hysteria and ego of this character, somewhere in his meaningless bloated eternal life of self-doubt, there is something real, a real connection. Basically, you have to see The Half if you get a chance, because its extremities will provoke great thought.
Philip Gosling: Guy Masterson nearly at his best. He gives a stunning portrayal of the weaknesses of men not just alcoholics - many an actor will instantly recognise the portrayal of a man beset by worries, weaknesses, insecurities and lack of self -belief and occasionally a touch over confidence in one's own ability. He holds an excellent story teller's spell over the audience which was well liked. Now of an age where perhaps King Lear would have been better than Hamlet as the play but perhaps the Actor saw himself still as the brilliant young man who was going to have a stunning career. A Must See show.
Jane Moorman: Guy Masterson has an extraordinary talent and lives and breathes Shakespeare in his performances. Admirable and always worth watching.
Elaine Gordon: What a brilliant performance he gives.
Ian Philp: Guy Masterson has the audience in the palm of his hand from his theatrical entrance until his even more theatrical exit. Funny, moving, tragic and full of many observations on human failings which resonate with actors and non-actors alike.
From the Adelaide Festival 2012
ADELAIDE ADVERTISER - 20/03/12
It's an hour before the curtain goes up and the actor contemplates his folly - two years of his life spent producing an epic one-man production of Hamlet. Will he succeed, or will he fail, bringing about his own disastrous public humiliation. Most likely the latter, he is certain. But no!
This is his time to shine, to prove the doubters wrong, to scale the heights he knows he is capable of. Or is he?
Guy Masterson's first performance was likely tinged with a few opening night jitters itself, but it did not show. The Half is a very funny play and was especially enjoyed by what seemed to be some thespians in the audience, if the knowing laughs were anything to go by. Masterson is excellent as is this new material. (Cameron England - Adelaide Advertiser)
Richard Dormer's The Half takes the audience into the actor's dressing room, some 35 minutes before the curtain rises on another opening night. It also takes us into the actor's mind. Guy Masterson is totally convincing as the manic player, a man wracked with nerves and devoid of any confidence. Despite my knowledge that Masterson was in control, there were times when I was so completely immersed in the performance that I was genuinely concerned that the character may come unstuck.
Although touted as a comedy, there's more than a whiff of tragedy about the actor and the circumstances that have delivered him to this shambolic state. This solo performance must be quite a challenge; the monologue is pacey and the action is physical. All in a day's work for Guy Masterson. Witnessing the spectacle of a man having a sword fight with himself is worth the admission price alone. There's plenty more besides. Final Word: Whole ( David Robinson - Rip It Up Adelaide)
Low Down: Guy Masterson's presence once again fills the theatre and he demonstrates his power and command over this play with ease and expertise. This one-man show runs parallel to Hamlet, drawing on similar themes and scenes stirring emotions from a wide spectrum. The story deviates and digresses, but Masterson is entertaining and compelling as he draws the audience into the scene and giving them a taste of backstage theatrics and drama.
Review: The story starts with an actor experiencing pre-performance jitters 35 minutes before the curtains are raised. He tries to calm down with self-analytical ramblings, exaggerated warm up techniques, and bleak humour. The play progresses in a similar fashion, but the actor delves into deeper, darker parts of his psyche. The audience is drawn into the compelling story with enigmatic clues and keepsakes that are eventually explained. The actor's initial charm and humour create an instant connection with the audience and subsequently they are prone to championing him and hoping that he rises out of the swirling madness triumphant.
Masterson gives an inimitable performance and plays the role to perfection-he is witty, charming, despondent, and vulnerable all at once. He is not afraid to leap and dance all over the stage and effect his emotions entirely. it is probably just as well that this is a one-man show as Masterson sets a very high standard and displays his passion for the theatre and embraces his character in a very unique way. The audience has a chance to appreciate Masterson's stirring performance.
The evening was a resounding success with Masterson taking centre stage and delighting once again. He is one of the few actors who are not afraid to consolidate their presence and control with enormous gestures and physical action. This Hamletesque play will stir a range of emotions from melancholy to elation and everything in between. If Masterson's backstage theatrics were anything to go by, it would certainly be a treat to watch him in a one-man production of Hamlet! (Prema Ashok - FringeReview)
Anyone who's been involved in theatre can tell you stories about the crazy process that many actors go through in the hours and minutes before curtain up. There are pre-show routines developed that have to be stuck to, "lucky" items of clothing that have to be warn, warm-ups that need to be carried out, lines that have to be run and incessant self-doubt that has to be overcome.
Guy Masterson is The Actor, a man who, despite his classical training and promising appearances in several plays many years ago, has been absent from the stage for well over a decade. He has chosen to make his return in a rather ambitious project - an unabridged, self-conceived and directed, one man production of the bard's classic four-and-a-half hour masterpiece, Hamlet.
Writer Richard Dormer has filled the script with amusing snippets, highlighting the ridiculous traditions and superstitions that actors buy into, while also injecting a certain amount of pathos.
The sections of Hamlet that are included are used well in both comic and dramatic ways, varying the pace and tone of the play nicely. The set is designed to represent a dressing room, with The Actor speaking to himself in the ever-present over-bench mirrors. Under the direction of David Calvitto, Masterson makes good use of it, moving about with great energy, while also conveying the claustrophobic feeling of the backstage space.
This is the type of role that Masterson excels at playing. The Actor is a sympathetic anti-hero, a man who is at once both exasperating and endearing. It is a fine balance to create a character that is necessarily a little over the top, but realistic enough to be hilarious, however Masterson manages to do so.
Thespians and theatre novices alike will find a lot to enjoy in The Half, yet another quality offering from Guy Masterson and the Centre for International Theatre. (Miriam K - Krystoff)
MUST SEE!!!! Guy Masterson is simply brilliant in his new one-hander in which he plays a 50 year old, washed up reformed alcoholic who hasn't acted in 15 years and is preparing to go on in a one-man show of Hamlet. Yes, he is is to play all the parts of the Shakespeare classic in the full four hour show...
The gamut of emotions he achieves in the 70 minutes of this performance is not only everything an actor could go through in such a situation, it could also be seen as the full range of emotional highs and troughs of any human life, crystallised and concentrated into "the half" - the 35-minute preparation time before the actor hits the boards.
We sympathise immediately with The Actor; his insecurity is profound, his fear is paplable, He has staked everything he owns on this and some things that others owned as well. It is the last magnificent roll of the dice.
He tries to put on his face - no good.; he can't shave because he did so that morning - bad luck; he inadvertently says the word "Macbeth" - more bad luck! He returns to the whisky after the dramatic discovery of of a bottle in his bar fridge. He has an hilarious sword fight with himself and ends up defying fate by dancing around the stage singing "Macbeth, Macbeth" to the tune of "Singing in the Rain".
He tries every way to kill himself; his plastic glass breaks when he goes for the arteries. He crawls, cries and dances in amazing bursts of physical theatre; drinks a half a bottle of Johnnie Walker in an orgy of self-loathing, painful memory and self-revelation. He quotes the "Oh what a piece of work is man" speech as the story of his own life and intersperses many other well-known quotes into his compelling yarn.
This play was presented to Guy Masterson by writer Richard Dormer three or more years ago, but laid on Guy's shelf until September last year, when Masterson was looking for something to bring to Adelaide, just a month after his own 50th birthday. We should be glad he did because this is a performance all theatre lovers should go and see. (Robert Horne - Adelaide Independent Daily)
Backstage in a dressing room, prior to the performance, The Actor (Guy Masterson) readies himself.
While the minutes tick away, curtain-up creeps closer. But as he checks his costume and props, performs his ablutions, warm-ups and rituals, doubt starts to set in. Has he made the right choices, in either/both his artistic and personal lives?
Award-winning actor and director Guy Masterson is now a Fringe fixture, and has performed several one-man shows over the past few years, including American Poodle, Under Milk Wood, Animal Farm and Shylock, as well as two-handers such as The Sociable Plover and Oleanna; this show is another demonstrates his impressive capacity for energetic, engaging performances.
Richard Dormer's script is well-structured and full of clever wordplay, theatrical in-jokes and a very honest analysis of the pressures of performance; it also includes numerous sections from Hamlet, which Masterson gives an expert treatment to. It's laugh-out-loud funny in parts and moving in others, as The Actor reveals the price he has paid for the life he leads.
Under David Calvitto's direction, Masterson builds the tension well and the humorous aspects slot in nicely... The simple set is a dressing room set up with the audience placed behind the (non-existent) mirror, to which The Actor speaks, with a doorway (complete with loudspeaker, through which announcements and the sound of the audience entering the theatre can be heard) at the rear and there's some clever lighting. There's just a slight work-in-progress feel to this production - to be expected with a premiere but the script is excellent and there's exceptional talent both on the stage and in the director's chair; it just needs a little bit of tweaking to achieve true greatness. That said, in its current state it's still a laugh-out-loud funny, entertaining and touching play, particularly for anyone who's spent time in a dressing room waiting for the call of 'beginners'. (Jaimie Wright - Adelaide Theatre Guide)
BRILLIANTLY EXECUTED - SIDE ACHINGLY FUNNY!Guy Masterson took to the stage with his newest work, The Half, written by Richard Dormer and directed by David Calvitto. All three have won the Best Actor Award at the Edinburgh Fringe, in three consecutive years, which makes a formidable team, and it shows. Calvitto and Masterson have created a superb piece that will have you rolling in the aisles one moment, feeling for The Actor another, and frustrated with him a moment later.
This hilarious backstage theatrical comedy finds us on the opposite side of a wall of make-up mirrors, looking through them into a dressing room, where somebody is found taking a nap. When he awakens, we find that he is The Actor, about to open in a one man play. He receives his thirty-five minute call, known to those of us in theatre as 'the half', over the speaker. That short time to the curtain call, especially on a first performance, is filled with emotions, from excitement to nerves, even to panic, and many side roads along the way.
For this man, it is heightened by the fact that he is fifty, has not worked in fifteen years, and has financed this production himself, facing the loss of everything. He is also worrying that the enormity of his choice of play might just be a bit beyond him, a one man production of Shakespeare's Hamlet (unabridged), hour after hour of it.
He begins to go through his routine of preparation, but gets distracted, caught up in theatrical superstitions, suffers bouts of self-doubt, recriminations, anger at his estranged wife, and is forced to face his demons. "An Actor Prepares", but not in any way that Constantin Stanislavsky could ever have envisaged the process, although A Challenge for The Actor might strike a chord with Uta Hagen.
Masterson adds a vast amount of brilliantly executed physical comedy to the already extremely side-achingly funny script. He slips easily between the belly laughs and the moments of sadness, anger and doubt. This is another magnificent tour de force for Masterson, and his legion of Adelaide fans and supporters will not be disappointed.
Everybody who has ever been an actor will recognise people that they know in watching this piece, perhaps even themselves. It is not at all necessary, though, to have a theatrical background to appreciate the humour, or the darker moments of despair and self doubt. This is a piece for everybody.
Those who have seen Masterson perform in the past will need no urging to go to see this production but, if you are one of those that have not had that good fortune, make the most of this opportunity.
Make sure to catch all of the other productions that he has brought to Adelaide for the Fringe, before it is too late. (Barry Lenny - GlamAdelaide)
PUNTER'S REVIEWS from Adelaide 2012 (source: www.talkfringe.com)
Attending The Half was the perfect compliment to a relaxed Saturday afternoon, when one is haunted with the week that was, the weekend we hope for and the reality of time lost that none of us wish to face.
Performed by Guy Masterson, the man behind the Centre of International Theatre, and the face of the critically acclaimed performances of Shylock, Under Milk Wood, and Animal Farm, The Half is a fabulously funny, perfectly gloomy, and all too close to ones struggling identity and measure of successful you are looking for quality, precision and an evening to laugh at the misfortune of anyone but yourself, then you simply must attend The Half. One every Tuesday to Sunday evening at the Higher Ground.
Check out the other shows the CIT has to offer. from the 2011 Fringe cult hit "the Six Sided Man", the 2010 sell out Scaramouche Jones, the beautifully delivered Driving Miss Daisy, the surprising and heartwarmingly entertaining Outland and the unbelievably witty Imperial Fizz, starring the 2010 Fringe award winner David Calvitto. More reviews to come!! Fringe full of love to my fellow fringe dwellers... (annafabulous - 05/03/12)
An actor is in his dressing room. There is 35 minutes until he gives his performance. Hamlet, solo and uncut. 4 hours on stage, with nothing but the words of William Shakespeare. Guy Masterson plays the actor, whose last chance to re-establish his career comes in the form of a one man show.
With a simple, minimalist set, Masterson takes us on a journey of fear, desperation, and the difficult task of finding your pants all while making you laugh out loud. By the end, you'll wish you could somehow be in the actors audience, and feed him his lines.
Another of the the world class shows produced by the Centre for International Theatre. (pussinboots - 05/03/12)
Acting Masterclass! (twowordreview - 12/03/12)
It's no surprise to those having visited CIT @Higher Ground to discover that yet again, a show here is deserving of a five-star review. There really isn't a duff offering in sight here; the only real question is which one will take your fancy. This new one-man offering by Guy Masterson, ably directed by past 'Best Actor' winner, David Calvitto, is filled with laughter, bitter-sweet personal ramblings and realisations, passages from various Shakespeare plays transposed into new settings, and pithy one-liners.
Masterson's character, "the actor" is confined by his own rules to a dressing room, as the clock ticks away to the opening of his new play in which he is producer, performer, protagonist and his own Pinocchio, pulling his strings in a dark dance of indecision and insecurities.
To say much more would give away too much, but this solo show is funny, yes - full of in-jokes for those in "the biz" - but also hilarious and moving in its own right. Masterson manipulates while his character never quite capitulates. Go. Right? (gary jarvis - 09/03/12)
Guy Masterson's latest offering - The Half - confirms his status as one of the finest performers at the Adelaide Fringe. Masterson portrays a 50 year old actor, down on his luck, who attempts to gain stardom with a one-man Hamlet. He is the actor, producer and director so he doesn't have to pay anyone. Nothing can go wrong, surely? Right from the off this marvellously witty, pacey piece debunks actor's superstitions and foibles and the ridiculous nature of their profession. It's incisive and a lovely self-parody - I didn't get every joke but it isn't a show just for the theatricals. The gags just keep coming - the duel (think about it) being a high-point - I laughed so hard I nearly fell off my chair. Intermingled are the regrets - his difficult home life and long-suffering partner. How many years does an actor invest in the business before he realises he'll never be a star? That, in Shakespeare's own parlance, is the question. At times hilarious, at others poignant, this is a high-octane romp from a performer in his prime. Masterful, Mr. Masterson (Andrew Sherwin - 09/03/12)
Guy Masterson explorer, has guided a path to pressure beyond pressure. The Half, places you in the midst of torment, garnished with hilarity, with a side of the insecurities present in all of us. Almost to real for comfort, relief comes from facing ones fear of ones self, never losing the fear, but arming yourself with it and continuing on. To act or not to act is forever the question. Guy Masterson uncut! (Lfaye - 10/03/12)
Bloody brilliant serve of in-jokes and physical comedy from Guy Masterson. A character he was born and by the grace of God kept alive long enough to play. He managed to capture a depth, and yet a superficiality that is so true to human complexity, yet is so rarely entered into by theatricians. The writing is fantastic and you can't help but see a little of your own madness in it. Must-see! (papabayj - 11/03/12)
Buy a ticket with confidence. Guy Masterson works so hard on stage that he earns every penny. So much dark and light is brought out in this piece, you will laugh with him and feel his pain. Guy goes through a range of emotions but always with an underlying air of vulnerability which pulls you into his world. The audience were hooting and gripped. An enjoyable hour in the company of a very talented man. Jonathan Pryce may be packing them in on the other side of town but just because he has a higher profile doesn't necessarily make him a better actor. Come and watch an equally talented British actor up close and personal. Bare bones, energy, perfect timing and pathos. Brilliant. (Manman 16/03/12)
An excellent performance by Masterson and it is really good to see him back with his gang of performers. The Fringe would not be the same without his company. This particular show was very good but perhaps not great. It was well written and Masterson gave it his all. (Daryd - 18/03/12)