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Edinburgh 2007 saw us presenting 7 shows: 3 World Premieres, 3 revivals and 1 rarely produced Arnold Wesker. 4 were solo shows including 3 of the finest ever presented (Under Milk Wood, Adolf and Playing Burton) 3 of the World Premieres - Follow Me, An Age of Angels and American Poodle - featured artistes that have been hugely successful on the Fringe in the past. It promised to be an unmissable season once again and it was:
All the shows picked up four and five star reviews. Follow Me was the outstanding new work garnering 3 awards and a nomination for the Stage Award for Best Actress (Beth Fitzgerald). The season was, once again, an astounding success, maintaining our name and reputation at the very top of this annual extravaganza!

Arnold Wesker's The MistressArnold Wesker's The Mistress

Guy Masterson directed Australian Martha Lott as Samantha, bohemian designer, hopelessly in love with a married man and controversially, desperately, ludicrously justifying her duplicity. A powerfully divisive introspective. A comically fierce play about guilt.

Edinburgh Premiere
Assembly @ George St - Wildman Room - 11.00 (11.55)

Follow MeFollow Me

Guy Masterson directed Beth Fitzgerald (Oleanna) and Ross Gurney-Randall Goering's Defence). 1955, Albert Pierrepoint, England's Chief Executioner will hang Ruth Ellis, his most famous client, in the morning. It'll be a very British execution. The crowd are angry.

World Premiere
Assembly @ George St - Wildman Room - 12.15 (13.30)


Guy Masterson directed Pip Utton's chillingly accurate invocation of the Führer's last hours. One of the finest solo shows ever! "Terrifying, searing, transfixing! *****" (Scotsman) "Utterly brilliant!" (Independent) "Superb!" (Herald)
"If you see only one show, see Adolf!" Kaleidoscope

Smash Revival
Assembly Universal - Majestic - 12.20 (13.40)

American PoodleAmerican Poodle

A screwball look at the special relationsip from both sides of the pond from one of the most awarded creative teams at Ed 2007 Guy Masterson was directed by Peter McNally in SNOWBALL; and David Calvitto directed by John Clancy with words by Brian Parks in SPLAYFOOT.

World Premiere
Assembly @ George St - Wildman Room - 17.00 (18.00)

An Age Of AngelsAn Age Of Angels

Mark Soper brilliantly interweaved ten tall Hollywood tales in a fascinating, taut thriller, directed by Ines Wurth (I Miss Communism). Mass murder in La La Land has never been such a spiritually uplifting experience! Ten Stories. Ten suspects. You decide!

World Premiere
Assembly @ George St - Drawing Room - 17.15 (18.35)

Playing BurtonPlaying Burton

Guy Masterson directed the original. "With a mountain shattering presence, Josh Richards (Rosebud) becomes Richard Burton in an exceptionally powerful, darkly haunting performance. Faultless, riveting, brilliantly charismatic, peerless." (Scotsman) "Deliriously literate!" (Daily Mail) Written by Mark Jenkins.

Smash Revival!
Assembly @ George St - Supper Room - 18.30 (19.30)

Under Milk WoodUnder Milk Wood

Guy Masterson's world acclaimed interpretation of Dylan Thomas' enchanting masterpiece brought rivetingly to life in "one of the most remarkable inventive performances of the decade!" (Times) "A mesmerisingly brilliant tour de force."(Scotsman) "Simply bewitching!" (Three Weeks)

Smash Revival!
Assembly @ George St - Music Hall - 14.30 (16.30)

Arnold Wesker's The MistressArnold Wesker's The Mistress

Arnold Wesker's The Mistress

Assembly @ George St - Wildman Room - 11.00 (11.55)

Guy Masterson directs Australian multi award winning Martha Lott as Samantha, bohemian designer, hopelessly in love with a married man controversially, desperately, ludicrously justifying her duplicity. A powerfully divisive introspective. A comically fierce play about guilt.

AN ACTRESS and director who has won a string of major awards, Martha Lott also runs one of the most successful venues on the Adelaide Fringe, the Holden Street Theatres. This year in Edinburgh, she stars in Guy Masterson's first revival of Sir Arnold Wesker's 1991 play, The Mistress - for ten years, she has been pressing him to direct her on the Edinburgh Fringe.
The Mistress is a one-woman show in which Lott plays the dress designer Samantha, with her confidantes Jessica, Babushka and Ninotchka, shown on stage as tailor's dummies in her shop.The audience for this show, first thing in the Fringe day, are the Festival early birds, a grey-haired crowd that's a generation away from the late-night comedy scene.
In front of us, Lott gets progressively drunker on whisky and chocolates amid the multi-way monologue, breaking down by the phone as she waits for her lover to call, unveiling her guilty secret. She speaks of how she "aches to be young again".
Lott is powerfully alluring and painfully tragic and torn, in a performance so strong you believe by the close that it really is bourbon she's knocking back, not stage tea.
The show begs the question of whether the mistress exists as a type, a woman drawn to married or partnered men. The answer is yes, if Lott's performance has anything to do with it.
Tim Cornwell (The Scotsman 25/08/07)

A Sparkling Theatrical Experience! Samantha is formidable. Samantha is a successful fashion designer whose clientele are the rich and spoiled. Wedding dresses and married men are her specialty. We meet her early in the morning in her salon. The air is filled with anticipation, waiting for that very important telephone call. She has had a long string of lovers. They are all married men and she could reflect and mock some of them until she touches on the one and only whose call she eagerly awaits. Everything about him is perfect: looks, the care and attention he gives her and, she confesses, they have great sex. There is an Achilles heel even in such a perfect encounter; he happens to be her best friend's husband. That may have not bothered her had it not bothered him, it seems. Her desperate wait for his arranged call provides her with the opportunity to reflect and search her conscious. The ticking minutes pull on her heart strings and prick her conscience, producing a new insight into her own world. She uses her three "friends "in the salon as her "shrinks". She talks to them and answers on their behalf. Her confessions to them are safe because they are three mannequins. The use of the mannequins to unmask Samantha's web of social and emotional turmoil and deceit is an effective prop. Add to that the piles of requests from numerous charities and you discover the more serious Samantha. Lott's attractive appearance combined with her impressive performance and the direction of the multi-talented Guy Masterson makes for a sparkling theatrical experience.
Rivka Jacobson (British Theatre Guide - 16/08/07)

Samantha sits on a floor covered in brown paper, with half-finished designs for clothes. Three mannequins are at her back, and they have names. Samantha is a commentator on life, but most of all on her own guilt. Samantha is a mistress of the husband of her best friend. Samantha is waiting for the phone to ring... ReviewAs she sorts through begging letters and writes out cheques, Samantha Milner ponders on a guilt that is becoming unbearable. She is a woman undergoing a crisis of self-belief. And she's "talking to the dummies again". Guy Masterson has staged this very simply, and much of the light and shade is left to the charismatic voice and mannerisms of the one performer, Martha Lott, as Samantha, designer, hopelessly in love with a married man. Well, I say "one performer". In Wesker's witty and well observed piece on the nature of duplicity and guilt, there are really "four" characters - three are named by Samantha, addressed by her often, and we hear, through her, what they are saying to her. They are the "dummies". The success of this piece relies on these three characters being clearly defined, and here this performance doesn't succeed as well as it should. There's a lack of clarity to the three, as Sam engages in banther with all three. Sharper direction of this piece (particularly in relation to the mannequins) will give the narrative needed extra impact and function. Fleeing into the writing of cheques for charities, spread out before her are countless begging letters; this aspect works well comically and cuttingly, as the chosen charities (partially) assuage the guilt of Sam. I also found an ambiguity in the nature of the fourth wall in this piece. In Masterson's "Follow Me", we, the audience, have a clear role, which serves the drama very well. In The Mistress, the role of the audience is not clear. We are addressed (as her conscience?), and, at one point, she sits on the lap of an audience member. Yet, the scene is set in a room, in a context that we are not part of. So, we don't really know where we stand (or sit) in this piece, and I don't think that is intentional. Guy Masterson sets such a consistently high standard, I am sure some of this will be addressed as the run develops. So, what raises this to a four-star show beyond a less satisfying three? It is of course, the skilled and energised, charisma of Martha Lott. She holds out attention for every second. Her performance creates the pathos needed to carry the piece. And finally, the excellent writing, full of humour and sadness, one-liners and monologue lift this into the category of a play well worth seeing.
( - 16/08/07)

"One of those power-house solo shows that the Fringe is so good at showcasing"
"Samantha is a dress designer. She's also a mistress, the mistress of her best friend's husband. Nor is he her first man, not by a long chalk. But he is the one who triggers her guilt. How can she care so much for a man who would betray her best friend, the one she would make any sacrifice for? Except, of course, when she is having sex with her husband.
As she waits for his promised phone call, or his letter to say it's all over, she frantically scrawls dress designs on the brown paper that covers the floor. She also writes guilt cheques to some of the many charities that demand her attention. And she faces the many silent accusations of her three dressmaker's dummies.
Arnold Wesker's lava flow of a play pours out in an ever more frantic avalanche of words, fueled by guilt, chocolate and Jack Daniels. It needs total command of instant mood switches and precise changes of tone and emotion. It certainly gets all of that from Australian actress Martha Lott, starting composed and elegant, ending exhausted and drained.
Guy Masterson's direction ensures that her prowling, her obsessive sketching and cheque writing, her direct addresses to the audience, all engage us with her disturbed inner life, and never detract from it.
This is one of those power-house solo shows that the Fringe is so good at showcasing. Now funny, now disturbing, Martha Lott delivers one of those emotional roller-coasters that won't let go of you."
Victor Hallett (

"A powerful piece of theatre extremely well performed!"
"Anyone reading my reviews knows I admire those performers who can carry a show on their own shoulders. You will also be aware of my admiration for director and performer Guy Masterson. Once again there are numerous shows under the Guy Masterson banner. The first of which I was able to see is "The Mistress" performed by Martha Lott and directed by Guy himself.
Martha gave a very sensitive performance of a woman who not only talked to the tailors dummies in her design studio but gave each of them personalities to match the different traits for the moods she goes through. It was performed with such passion and reality that most women in the room identified closely with her on several occasions. The powerful emotions poured into the performance leaves her physically shattered at the end.
The combination of amazing performer, superb scripts and great direction is what keeps me coming back to these shows time after time. This one is no exception it is
( - 07/08/07)

Arnold Wesker's The Mistress veers dangerously close to 'Sex & The City' clichés: an unmarried, successful, forty-something woman, Samantha, is staying late at her wedding dressmaker's shop waiting for her married lover's phone call. Armed with a bottle of whisky and a mobile phone, and with three dummies dressed in white for company, Sam talks about her life and loves. Artful direction and acting, however, lift this production above sitcom simplicity. Sam, at first, appears sexy and in control, a twenty-first century woman who has made a deliberate choice. Yet the paradox of being self-determining and yet desperately dependent soon becomes clear as tantrums, hysteria and tears take over. Offering no clear cut ending, 'The Mistress' tackles a familiar subject but gives no easy answers.
(Three Weeks 15/08/07)

Punters' Reviews

(18/08/07) - reviewer: Richard Jaffa, UK
Great acting.For the whole hour one is entirely absorbed into the tensions and drama of the Mistress's life.She poignantly exposes her weaknesses and compels the audience's attention.

Tour de Force - (18/08/07) reviewer: Hannah Johns, UK
This is a great show with strong delivery, a powerful actress, intricate direction a real tour de force. I recommend this to anyone who wants to see a great piece of theatre in this avalanche of stand up comedy and cliché theatre. Keep up the good work Assembly Rooms and thank you.

Fabulous Show (11/08/07) reviewer: darren sutton, United Kingdom
I made an impromptu decision to see this show on its first day to fill a spare hour and didn't expect to see anything special. How wrong I was...the play is totally captivating and the actress powerfully holds your attention through a mix of emotions.

Amazing Actress (06/08/07) reviewer: Penny Ford, United Kingdom
Hadn't heard of this play. Went to fill a spare hour, and so grateful I chanced upon this powerful play expertly performed by a very powerful actress

Amazing Energy (05/08/07) reviewer: Victoria White, Australia
I saw this amazing one woman show this morning and I was blown away. It was so well played and the writing is so clever. I truly empathized with the character of Samantha and the struggle she went through. It was hard to show my true appreciation as I was a little stunned at the end by just how much the actress had to go through. Congratulations, a great show.

Follow Me
Follow Me
Follow Me

Assembly @ George St - Wildman Room - 12.15 (13.30)

Guy Masterson directs Beth Fitzgerald (Oleanna) and Ross Gurney-Randall (Goering's Defence). 1955, Albert Pierrepoint, England's Chief Executioner will hang Ruth Ellis, his most famous client, in the morning. It'll be a very British execution. The crowd are angry.




WINNER: HERALD ANGEL 2007 Ruth Ellis was the last woman in Britain to be hanged, who whether by good luck or the sheer crime-of-passion glamour of her circumstances, became an accidental pin-up girl for capital punishment's abolitionists. The man who put the noose round her neck, Albert Pierrepoint, wasn't nearly so pretty, but in his own way became equally iconic.
Ross Gurney-Randall and Dave Mounfield's play puts the spotlight on both parties in the lead up to the final 15 seconds - because that's all it takes - of Ellis' life. While Ellis sits in her cell, going over things one last time to her lawyer, writing to her murdered lover's parents, Pierrepoint gossips about his fellow executioners via a series of bar-room anecdotes as he makes preparations.
In Beth Fitzgerald's hands, Ruth is a brittle, social-climbing bottle-blonde post-war glamour girl. Like some back-street Dorothy Parker, she's painted here as the epitome of gallows humour. By contrast, Gurney-Randall's Pierrepoint carries the air of a self-made man with the gait of a professional wrestler, taking pride in his work like any other civic dignatory. "Sober and discrete" is his patrician-like maxim, and one shudders to think how quickly executions, whether authorised or not, would end up on YouTube today.
Fitzgerald is on cracking form as Ruth, all second-hand movie star moves and fragile but still flirty bravado. Gurney-Randall is a bluff, gruff counterpoint as Pierrepoint in Guy Masterson's simple but effective staging, which allows Gurney-Randall and Mounfield's script space enough to breathe in a damning but all-too human indictment of how the scales of justice can be corrupted.
Neil Cooper (The Herald 08/08/07)

A play about the executioner and the condemned is an intimidating prospect, and rightly so. Everything about Follow Me is deceptively simple; the bare set, the two-person cast, and the lack of interaction, dialogue or practically any action at all. Dave Mounfield and Ross Gurney-Randalls' writing provides only a series of monologues for the executioner Pierrepoint, and the murderer Ruth Ellis. But through this their remarkable individual characters and Ellis's tragic life story unfurl with quiet and devastating effect. As Pierrepoint, Gurney-Randall presents his character, fully formed even in his opening sentences, as rational, caring and yet totally cold to the implications of his 'duty'. Fitzgerald's Ellis is an outstanding frank and agonising portrait of an unspeakable situation. Heartbreaking and disturbing, but thoroughly worthwhile theatre.
Victoria Prest (Three Weeks 20/08/07)

This compelling play explores the horrors and hypocrisies of capital punishment through the stories of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the UK, and Albert Pierrepoint, her executioner. And whilst the monologue format may initially seem rather predictable, the observations contained within it are compelling and strong. Beth Fitzgerald is brilliant as the vivacious Ellis, accurately capturing her façade of flippant humour and false bravado, whilst Ross Gurney-Randall effectively embodies the focused composure of Pierrepoint. It's impossible to dislike either Ellis or Pierrepoint, who come out feeling more like victims of a flawed system than malicious killers. Ellis seems to have killed her husband out of self-defence and Pierrepoint wants to save the about-to-be-hanged from the unnecessary suffering other hangmen care little about. As the day of the hanging draws near, the characters' composures start to break. It's a fascinating insight into what happens when two strong individuals are put under the extreme pressure of waiting to die and waiting to kill. Whilst there are moments when this sense of bubbling tension loses stream, generally it builds up well to the tragic conclusion. Written by Gurney-Randall and Dave Mounfield, the huge amount of research never overshadows the action. This clear and well-conceived play is simply staged by director Guy Masterson, who recognises that this is all that is needed. By the end, we are left to consider the blurred boundaries between crime and punishment, and how the definition of "murderer" depends upon the fickle fancy of the media. Despite the subsequent abolition of capital punishment, it's a thought that still feels relevant.
Sally Stott (The Scotsman 11/08/07)

Dark, warm, funny & powerful! "Guy Masterson has been bringing quality work to the Edinburgh Fringe for many a year, with the likes of Animal Farm & Under Milk Wood to name but two. So is this year any different? Does Follow Me follow in the footsteps of Masterson's previous triumphs?
In 1955 Chief Executioner Albert Pierrepoint is set to hang Ruth Ellis, a media star for her crimes. Will the media and the people be able to turn around what seems to be a done deal? Will Ellis hang for her crime? Is she ready to accept her fate?
Randall & Mounfield have created a wonderfully written script that has drama, truth, depth and finds humour in the darkest of places. They take the audience into the cell of the doomed Ellis and give them a role to play in the unravelling tale of her life and her pending death.
Masterson's direction is simple, fluid and to the point, never complicating the flow of the story. He does a great job and plays to the strengths of the script and characters. Both Pierrepoint and Ellis are played to perfection, with fire, emotion and dark humour. Beth Fitzgerald puts in a powerhouse performance as Ruth Ellis, who drags you into every emotion that the jailbird feels.
Follow Me is a dark, warm, funny and powerful piece of theatre with a superb cast. I hope more and more people follow me to see such an excellent show."
Wayne Miller (British Theatre Guide 06/08/07)

Against a black stage and a black curtain, one executioner and one victim face one another Friday 10 August by Leo Robson On a black stage against a black curtain, there are two tables and two chairs, two bottles of beer, and two characters: Ruth Ellis, sentenced to be 'hanged by the neck until you are dead', and the man who is responsible for doing it, Albert Pierrepoint, Her Majesty's Chief Executioner. The play, which takes place over the twenty-four hours leading up to the execution, is structured as a series of one-sided dialogues in which the audience assumes the role of dumb interlocutor. Pierrepoint instructs staff at Holloway Prison, sharing his top tips on execution technique; Ellis, fiddling nervously with a jigsaw, repeats the salient details of the case to her lawyer Mr Bickford, and then recites a few letters.Pierrepoint has the air of a chummy publican moonlighting as executioner, and proves to be a surprisingly affable and engaging prescence, although he is played with a little too much working-class bluster and good cheer by Ross Gurney-Randall. Beth Fitzgerald's Ruth Ellis is a gaunt and haggard figure, who stares through her gem-studded spectacles with preamturely dead eyes. Fitzgerald is suitably disturbed in the role, a perfect antidote to Pierrepoint's frighteningly warm Yorkshireman in a play which offers many small pleasures. In contrasting ways, they form a morbid pair, dominated by their dealings with death, but the atmosphere of dread and remorse is punctuated by flashes of wit. Ellis initially appears blasé about her encroaching fate, before relishing its potential for verbal play. 'I'd kill for a cigarette', she says at one point. Viewers may find the tension leaves them with a similar craving for relief. (Skinny Fest 15/08/07)

"Follow Me opens curiously with a bespectacled woman putting a jigsaw puzzle together whilst jazz standards play in the background. She is Ruth Ellis, the last woman in Britain to be sentenced to death, and she is about to be hanged.
Her case was one of a number of actually or possibly unsound judgements which lead to the abolition of capital punishment in the United Kingdom. Ellis was also among the last to be executed by Albert Pierrepoint, whose own curious career as the most well-known executioner in Britain was the subject of a recent film.
The Wildman Room provides a suitably claustrophobic space for an exploration of these two individuals, and the circumstances which have brought them to such proximity. Although both characters exist within the confines of the prison in which Ellis is to meet her fate, they do not encounter until the final moments of the play, spending the best part of an hour in anticipation of this, inventing each other like putative lovers imagining their first assignation.
Sex and death are very much on the minds of Albert Pierrepoint (Ross Gurney-Randall) and Ruth Ellis (Beth Fitzgerald), although much of what they may have wished from life remains hidden, most especially from themselves.
Ellis was charged with and convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely, and the case became notorious, partly through the public outcry which ensued and a sense of injustice which has endured even though a judicial review of the case upheld the original verdict as recently as 2003.
Fitzgerald's Ellis is composed and sure of herself for much of the play, which makes her late breakdown, when it is announced that there will be no reprieve as anticipated, the more credible. Ross Gurney-Randall's Pierrepoint is solidly conceived and delivered, although his character's journey is perhaps less extensive and demanding than Fitzgerald's.
Follow Me is not simply a meditation on a single controversial judgement, but a consideration of the whole question of both the morality of capital punishment and the methods used to impose it in one country at one particular time. It may not be to the taste of a) those of a squeamish disposition (there is much on the mechanics of execution), b) those uninterested in recent history (there's a lot of reality to digest in 75 minutes), c) those who imagine there's nothing wrong with capital punishment in the United States that a few more gallows and hanging judges couldn't cure.
Although (and perhaps because) we spend so long imaging Ellis' and Pierrepoint's brief encounter its actual moment falls rather flat. It's difficult to imagine an alternative, and what is, is perfectly well managed, but nonetheless feels like a script resolutely painting toward the last remaining corner.
Nonetheless, this is a show which does not disappoint in any other respect, and deserves the attention of the thoughtful audiences it's sure to ge." Bill Dunlop ( 06/07/07)

"One of the must-see shows of Fringe!
Ruth Ellis (Beth Fitzgerald) is sharing her last hours on death row with us. We also meet Albert Pierrepoint (Ross Gurney-Randall) the Executioner charged with the humane hanging of Ms Ellis. From the onset, the audience were addressed as if the females were prison warders charged with her care and the men as her escorts to the gallows. I found this very disconcerting at first but it suited the atmosphere of the piece perfectly.
Beth Fitzgerald as Ruth began with a quiet dignity, which dissolved into despair when she discovered there would be no stay of execution. Ross Gurney-Randall should know exactly what Pierrepoint is thinking at any one time as he wrote the play. His matter of fact approach to the subject matter is both fascinating and unnerving. These two superb performances along with Guy's impeccable direction and the amazing writing blend together in one of the must-see shows of Fringe 2007."
( - 07/08/07)

Terrifyingly intoxicating!
Over the years Guy Masterson has given Edinburgh some marvellous theatre, and more recently in venues filling by hundreds rather than dozens. It is so refreshing therefore to see him return to the intimacy of a chamber play - one whereby he gets to combine some handpicked talent into a powerful cocktail of glamour, suspense and thought-provoking drama.
The subject of this dual monologue is the historical event of the last female execution in Britain - that of Ruth Ellis, hanged by the former Nuremberg executioner Albert Pierrepoint. Gurney-Randall, a skillful author of his monologue, portrays Pierrepoint as a conscientious and thoughtful man who only hardens at a notion of a threat to the procedure. Ellis, meanwhile, is initially stiff-upper-lip witty - some nervous energy simmering under the catseyes. But as the murmuring masses outdoors unsettle Pierrepoint's cool, Ellis begins to let us in on her maternal fears and her anger at the irony of her fate. Essentially this piece poses a puzzle of three different kinds of killing, and the power of the popular verdict. By extension, the piece as a whole is terrifyingly intoxicating - and its moral up to your own judgment....
(The Stage 08/08/07)

"An outstanding piece of writing!"
It might sound like a grim way to begin the afternoon, but two-hander Follow Me, by Ross Gurney Randall and Dave Mounfield, is an outstanding piece of writing, here given a superb production by Guy Masterson's TTI. The two performances are simply terrific. Ruth Ellis is waiting to be hanged. Albert Pierrepoint is preparing to hang her. A crowd of protesters outside are chanting. The other roles - a group of men assisting with the execution, and a woman talking with Ellis in her cell - are assigned to the audience.
What makes Follow Me such a riveting experience is the way in which the text introduces two fascinating characters while simultaneously posing so many crucial questions about humanity, celebrity and justice.
This is a period piece about a historically significant event - Ellis was the last woman to be hanged in Britain - but its contemporary resonance is striking. It's difficult to resist trying to devise a new defence case for Ellis, taking into account provocation or temporary insanity, while Pierrepoint's angry condemnation of US executions includes casually gruesome details that one fears may still be applicable 50 years on.
Appropriately, the play contains a liberal sprinkling of gallows humour: Albert describes how his father 'showed him the ropes' of his occupation, while bad-taste jokes pepper Ellis's conversation as she becomes increasingly fraught.
The two performances - by Beth Fitzgerald as Ellis and Ross Gurney-Randall as Pierrepoint - are simply terrific. One would expect a chill down the spine during the closing moments of a drama about a hanging, but when the condemned woman finally acknowledges her fate the ripples of horror feel like a brief haunting. Shona Craven ( 07/08/07)

"Theatre at its absolute best!"
The Nightingale Theatre in Brighton played host to this Edinburgh Preview of Guy Masterson's production of Follow Me, written by David Mounfield and Ross Gurney-Randall. This drama about the imminent execution of Ruth Ellis is shown through her own eyes, and the eyes of her executioner, Great Britain's premiere Hangman, Albert Pierrepoint.
Ellis was sentenced to death at the Old Bailey for shooting her lover, 25-year-old racing driver David Blakely, outside the Magdala public house in north London. Albert Pierrepoint was Britain's most prolific hangman, executing 400 people - including Ruth Ellis. Yet his wife, and the drinkers at the pub he ran, never knew. He truly was the "secret executioner." Here we enter his world, and world of the woman he had the task of hanging.
In Follow Me, we are given direct insight into the thoughts, feelings and experiences of both Ellis and Pierrepoint, in an intimately staged piece which makes simple but effective use of the Nightingale studio space. The audience is addressed directly in a series of monologues by both characters, who only meet at the very end, when Ellis is invited by Pierrepoint to Follow Me. Yet the heart of this piece is really an invitation to the audience to "follow" them into this world at the precipice of mortality.
A collection of soliloquies, and the use of some clever alienation as we, the audience, are addressed as the witnesses to the execution to come, briefed by Pierrepoint, confided in by Ellis, all combined for a piece of genuinely electric theatre. The writing is engaging and often moving, it's witty and the humour that comes in the midst of a preparation for the ending of life, is sharp and only adds to both the chill of the moment, and the tragedy of the hour.
It's a truly inspired script, the authors have researched their subject well and there is such a lot of well observed detail, we're drawn into the lives of these two people, into an external world of cells, clanking doors, footsteps, as well an inner landscape of regret, reflection, fear, sadness, irony and anger.
Pierrepoint is both humourous and yet exacting in his rationale and method. He becomes a man of principle who believes firmly in the correct "artfulness" of his task. He has little faith in the powers that be, for whom he carries out his duties. The impressive Ross Gurney-Randall has created a Pierrepoint who sighs when he remembers "how it used to be", a man full of stories to tell, tips and wisdom to impart. He brings depth to the character. He creates a consumate teller of tales, imparter of experience that dates back to the hanging of Nazis at Nurenberg.
Beth Fitzgerald's Ellis is utterly engaging from the first moments, on a bare stage of just table and chairs, she's stepped into this party-girl turned pariah character, and I cried with her at the end, and laughed with her and her superb comic timing throughout.
She portrays Ellis as a likeable-dislikeable enigma, whose poise cracks at the end, and our own human fears are thrown back in our faces, as we share a cell with her, her fears and her terrible regrets. Five star performances from both actors.
But this is a five-star show. Five star sound adds to the atmosphere and supports the narrative, simply and effectively. In true Guy Masterson style, we have bare theatre, brought to dramatic life by the skills of very tight direction, andbeautifully paced performances. if I have one quibble it is that the piece might benefit from just a small shortening. After an hour the sheer emotional power starts to trip over a lot of the "information" given to us via the two characters. But it's a minor criticism in an example of theatre at its absolute best. ( 25/07/07)

Punters' Reviews

I cried! 24/08/07 - reviewer: Danielle Gordon, UK
What powerful acting, I simply felt every emotion. Actors were so clear and I couldn't help my chest heaving with sadness, despair and the sense of duty. Truly amazing acting.

Hair raising! - 22/08/07 - reviewer: Ken M, US
Stunning performances from two great actors, and brilliant writing and direction. Best I've seen at the Fringe so far. Extraordinarily moving.

21/08/07 - reviewer: John McGlynn UK
You won't see a better production than this on the fringe. Tautly directed, well written and quite chilling in parts (the audience forced to think about the grim mechanics of killing someone and their own views on capital punishment)it features a stand out performance from Beth Fitzgerald, who takes the audience from ambivalence to pity in just over a hour. Stunning.

17/08/07 - reviewer: Jonathan Smith, UK
The play is a pair of alternating monologues spoken by an executioner and a condemned woman, which come together briefly at the end to devastating effect. The condemned is Ruth Ellis and the executioner, Albert Pierrepoint, both of whom address the audience as witnesses to the ensuing tragedy. Both characters are initially composed, Ellis with the bravado of the unrepentant and provoked killer, Pierrepoint with the dispassion of an experienced professional. As the play unfolds, however, the certainty of both crumbles amidst the media circus as they explain their position. By the end, it is unclear who is the more distraught, Ellis at her rough justice, or Pierrepoint at the dubious morality of his increasingly controversial work. The quality of the production is such that the end of the play, although inevitable, is both brutal and shocking. In short, the play is a powerful indictment on capital punishment.

Fantastic! 07 Aug 2007 - reviewer: Fiona , Edinburgh
A fantastic production. The performances were so entirely convincing, both moving and humorous at the same time. Well worth a repeat visit.

Highly Effective Drama! 07 Aug 2007 reviewer: Gilly, United Kingdom
On the surface a fairly simple re-telling of two oft-told stories. No tricks, no skewing of events. What made this so compelling was the quality of the writing and the pitch perfect delivery o both performances. My companion and I were both utterly gripped throughout. Who needs complicated sets etc. Excellent writing,acting and direction plus a few well placed sound effects can achieve wonders. Congratulations to all concerned.

Excellent! 06 Aug 2007 reviewer: Kirsty R, United Kingdom
Both Pierrepoint and Ellis are beautifully protrayed. Captivating.

Powerful and Moving! 05 Aug 2007 reviewer: Tim, Edinburgh
Not really a two-hander, more like two intertwined monologues which come together at the end. Both excellent performances, Pierrepoint planning everything down to the second but gradually losing his conviction, Ellis confidently expecting a reprieve, gallows humour from both of them, and a dramatic finale. Simple set, good use of sound effects, and I'm sure everyone in the audience was timing the last scene.

Gripping 05 Aug 2007 reviewer: Elaine M, United Kingdom
This outwardly simple vehicle depicts the last hours of Ruth Ellis (Beth Fitzgerald) as her execution is meticulously prepared by Pierrepoint ( Ross Gurney-Randall), a bluff Lancastrian with a long history of giving a good death via the drop. The action simply shifts between the two, allowing both actors and the audience to focus in on these complex characters. I saw this in preview and was held enthralled by the quality of the performances. Quite simply, this becomes real. The characterisation of Ellis in particular is deeply moving, and their meeting in the final scene ,respectful and peaceful in the face of death, is counterpointed in the next few seconds by the shocking noise of the drop. Highly recommended



Assembly Universal - Majestic - 12.20 (13.40)

Guy Masterson directs Pip Utton's chillingly accurate invocation of the Führer's last hours. One of the finest solo shows ever! "Terrifying, searing, transfixing! *****" (Scotsman) "Utterly brilliant!" (Independent) "Superb!" (Herald) "If you see only one show, see Adolf!" Kaleidoscope.

It is not often that an actor manages so brilliantly to blur the boundaries between staged performance and reality. Pip Utton can successfully do so.
Utton chillingly looks, moves and sounds like the 'Great Dictator' himself. He looks you straight in the eyes and you know it could be him, the most familiar face of evil glossed with charm. He lays out chapter and verse, like a skilled politician, or better still, like an outstanding QC defending a terrorist, making him sound logical, sensible , visionary and just in his cause. In his last hours in the bunker there is not a hint of defeatism. The backdrop of the large stage with its high ceiling is a large red banner bearing the swastika. He stands, paces and very occasionally sits by the single simple table on the side of the stage towards the front. The limelight is all on that single individual who transfixes all present with his oratory.
Adolf the man becomes far more reasonable than the Hitler we have learnt to detest. At the end of his demagoguery and in a surprising move Utton removes Adolf's masking gear, namely the wig, moustache and then his jacket with its swastika, sits casually on the edge of the table and asks the audience for a fag and beer. He sounds just like an old acquaintance in a pub. The transition is so craftily designed that you will be forgiven for thinking he is a friendly chap you can trust and that now we are just having a 'heart to heart' chat. We are now subjected to modern day racism which sounds as convincing as that of Hitler. Then a second monologue starts. It is here and now. This time Utton is justifying the previous character, namely Adolf, just to show us, in modern parlance, why there is a serious problem. "Did you know that since World War II, 35% of the British Cabinet ministers were Jewish?" He then rants about immigration, the country his father fought and died for in WW II, not the country we have now, certainly not the country invaded by foreigners. Utton gives expression to views many British people think yet refrain from airing, to avoid being branded as "racist" or offending political correctness. Utton's Adolf should travel beyond the fringe into every High School and be used as an important text in serious political, historical and social debates. (British Theatre Guide 16/08/07)

The stage is sparsely furnished with a desk, the eye instantly drawn to the vast swastika swathing the back wall. Pip Utton looks convincing as Adolf Hitler and his mannerisms are carefully observed and well executed. The show starts with a speech from Hitler, about his ideologies and plans for Germany. As the audience we are directly addressed as his loyal followers, and thus are made to feel complicit as he denigrates and abuses the Jews, the gypsies, the Slavs and the homosexuals. While the first half of the play is interesting in parts, it feels over-long, and as though we are being subjected to a reading of Mein Kampf. The content is interesting, but the same effect could have been achieved in half the time.
However the show comes into its own in the second half. Pip comes out of character and begins some light banter with the audience. However, soon the chatter becomes more serious and he begins to touch on issues such as colonialism, asylum seekers, and immigrant workers. Light-hearted at first the things he starts to say become really shocking, even more so because they are things you hear every day in the media, and on the streets. By the end, the furher's mannerisms are back, but it is Pip talking and contemporary issues being cited. This play is a clever and thought provoking piece of theatre, well worth going to see. ( 08/08/07)

Pip Utton's one man play "Adolf" was first performed at the Fringe in 1997, winning him a nomination for best actor award by The Stage. Since then it has toured the world - including Hong Kong, India, Australia and Berlin - as one of the most successful solo shows of the last decade. Ten years on, Adolf is back in town. The spectre of Adolf Hitler is closer than we think. We meet him in the bunker near the end of his regime. At first he seems weakened, almost beaten as he rails against his generals who have abandoned him, but he has a message for us. The audience are drawn in, complicit as he refers to us as his friends, the party faithful who have stayed by him. "Sit up straight" he instructs as he delivers a calculated guide to rebuilding the cause. The tools are brutal, uncompromising, manipulating and ultimately beyond reason. Now the orator, he stirs to a rousing explanation of his pre-ordained role, his destiny. While we know his techniques for winning hearts and minds, he is transfixing, the reasoning beguiling. "How can it be wrong when we put the German people first?" he demands as he lists his triumphs and rages against the Jewish conspiracy. With a simple loosening of the tie he starts the transformation to an avuncular cheeky-chappie, cadging a fag and a beer. He jokes about modern conflicts, asylum seekers, his vision for a green and pleasant land and we are challenged whether we haven't had similar thoughts. The little Hitlers are still out there just waiting to be let in. In humanising a monster Pip Utton has created a piece of mind-bending theatre. ( 16/08/07)

Pip Utton's portrayal of Adolf Hitler in his final days in 1945 is convincing and frightening. Hitler is addressing his most loyal followers in his personal staff exhorting them never to let go of the dream of creating a dominant, racially pure German. Two sides of Hitler are portrayed. All his prejudices are revealed in their crudely perceived logic. There is the ranting demagogue; "Death solves all problems". Thus the Jewish race must be exterminated as the scapegoat for Germany's enfeebled position at the end of World War I.
There is the beguiling human side in his regard for Eva Braun and the absolute loyalty of those closest to him. Suddenly, the ranting Adolf ends and Pip Utton drops the Hitler role, discarding the moustache and wig. The lights come up. He talks to the audience apparently as himself, easy going and humorous. There is a noticeable easing of tension.
However, he takes on a darker mood as he expresses the racial views of an ordinary man. Hitler may have perished in 1945 but his racist spirit lives on and may be seen in many guises, perhaps in all of us.
Adolf is a powerful drama raising issues about what lies lurking at the core of the human personality and how readily it can be manipulated. ( - 07/08/07)


American PoodleAmerican Poodle

American Poodle

Assembly @ George St - Wildman Room - 17.00 (18.00)

A screwball look at the special relationsip from both sides of the pond from one of the most awarded creative teams at Ed 2007 Guy Masterson is directed by Peter McNally in SNOWBALL; and David Calvitto is directed by John Clancy with words by Brian Parks in SPLAYFOOT.

As refreshing as a cold shower!
This one always had the pedigree to be something special and despite looking a little under-rehearsed early in the Festival, is likely to prove one of the most professional as well as funniest shows on the Fringe.
Guy Masterson's Snowball consists of two complementary monologues delivered by Edinburgh regulars that together form a jaundiced view of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States of America. It's a partial and anachronistic half-hour American history lesson rendered by Guy Masterson in a series of different personae. He starts off by pointing out in his native Welsh tones that three centuries before Christopher Columbus bumped into America, the Welsh colonised Alabama. Moving into bullying estuarine, Masterson reminds us of forgotten moments in the history of the colony finally getting to 1776. At that point, he becomes a posh English naval captain, indicted for killing a few locals who is only saved by the advocational skills of John Adams, a future president. Before the end of a brisk monologue, a few more swipes are taken at the nation that the first George W(ashington) took away from us and another now rules, though only as a result of some dodgy voting practices in Florida! This is great stuff, delivered in a relaxed style that soon wins over the audience.
Brian Parks is best known to British audiences for his recklessly fast political satire Americana Absurdum that featured David Calvitto under the direction of John Clancy. The same team has re-formed with similarly devastating effect to offer us Splayfoot; the story of a first-time American tourist to London. The style is typical of Clancy. It gives Calvitto the impression of a toy wound up to its full extent so that it rushes madly around a room hitting out at numerous targets. This guy could easily be an alien from outer space, having apparently learned about England from a literary resource that seems to concentrate on Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens and their ilk with little newer than the Nineteenth Century. This allows Parks plenty of scope for quirkily hilarious observation of the foibles of the country that gave up his own so long ago.
If you want to know why Americans are obese and how poodles have attained their current status then go to the Assembly Rooms. You will also discover a great deal about the history of our "special relationship" and why Brits and Yanks love each other quite so much. In fact, American Poodle is as refreshing as a brisk cold shower and even in Edinburgh, with 1,000 shows to pick from, that is a great rarity. Philip Fisher (British Theatre Guide 11/08/07)

Guy Masterson, writer and performer of Snowball, presents the first of a double bill investigating the roots of Britain and America's increasingly suspect "special relationship". As Masterson moves through history, from pre-Columbus times to the American Declaration Of Independence, from Dubyas Washington to Bush Jnr, the sheer cack-handed stupidity of how we got here is served up via a series of amusingly pop-eyed observations.
Meanwhile, from the other side of the pond comes Splayfoot, Brian Parks's scatalogically manic monologue performed by the ever brilliant David Calvitto. He plays an American businessman in thrall of a London seen through his alien's eyes, and still stuck in the historical mud.
As he discovers England, "Where capitalism was invented before America perfected it" as he puts it, Calvitto becomes a living pop-up history book of cliched presumption concerning us quaint l'il Brits.
This is clever if throwaway stuff, though worth it for its underlying tone of anti flag-waving, which makes a mockery of the differences between apple pie and stiff-upper-lipped sensibilities. And if you're wondering who's dumber, you are probably the type who would try to buy London Bridge. Neil Cooper (The Herald 20/08/07)

There is no doubt that Guy Masterson has juice. He has made the Assembly his home for the past ten or so years. And - he has earned it! Masterson is a triple threat; actor, director, writer. As a producer, he is wicked! (Okay, that's four.) His productions may not always sail but he never fails.
He more than proves his worth with American Poodle, two one-act plays on the state of the Anglo/American relationships. In Snowball, written and performed by Masterson, he gives us the English everyman's take on how the English lost America. Masterson uses chronology to get from beginning to end. It's quite a stinging history lesson. Masterson moves effortlessly from character to character; the English King George jumping on the furniture and farting versus the tepid George W the First (that's George Washington) and the cronies who launched America in spite of themselves. He's all feathers and fairy dust between these mammoth decision makers of history. (Breathe, Guy!) Very funny stuff, this. He consumes the stage and his topic with relish, lashing out at us 'til we're bloody. The direction by Peter McNally is light and Masterson wears it well. We love the characters as we swallow the bitter pill of Masterson's dead-on take of the botch-up. Mastery.
Masterson's Snowball is hard to follow. Splayfoot by Brian Parks doesn't quite work as well. The American counterpart is a businessman, the ugly American in its most charming if numb form, coming to the UK on a mission to buy some more good ol' English history to add to take back to the collection. We get a good dose of how quaint the dull Americans find their distant relatives. The script jumps back and forth between the travels of this American and the insights of his encounters, leaving the security of the airport to be launched by taxi through the streets of London to the much anticipated business meeting. The setup for the punch-line is almost nonexistent so it comes in awkwardly and fails to get the proper respect. Not to worry. Veteran performer David Calvitto works hard at making the material fluid and facile. John Clancy's direction has a stuttering feel to it as he moves his character from arena to the next. Catherine Lamm (British Theatre Guide 18/08/07)

This is truly "a play of two pairts" as they once said in Scotland. Guy Masterson leads off the first part with Snowball as historic commentator. He gives us a verbal history of English empirical philosophy delivered in the style of football parlance, embroidered by wonderful historic character cameos. Mostly, they are Englishmen who featured in the development or the destruction of the American colonies, as well as those who were responsible for creating its independence from the English crown. David Calvitto in Splayfoot is superb as the stereo-typed American who relates the development of the philosophy of the American, post revolution to the present day. Wonderful cross references from history with contemporary USA, like George Washington being George W. In Splayfoot we see all that is naive and annoying about our American cousins. In Snowball we see all that was rank about imperialism. Excellently translated by both players, this an excellent piece of work both in its writing and production with a very apt conclusion. John Ritchie ( 15/08/07)

Insightful, entertaining and incredibly warped!
Guy Masterson and David Calvitto present two takes on the 'Special Relationship' from both sides of the Atlantic. Masterson flips seamlessly between numerous roles to recreate the founding of the USA, from discovery (Alabama is a Welsh word, by the way - who knew?) to independence and beyond - a history lesson with a British sardonic twist. Calvitto picks up the tale as an American businessman visiting London for the first time, a place filled with poets, actors and chimney sweeps. Enthralled by everything he sees, his cheerfully naive descriptions make for brilliant - if slightly disturbing - comedy. Insightful, entertaining and incredibly warped - if this is how each side views the other it's a wonder the 'relationship' has lasted so long. (Three Weeks 08/08/07)

American Poodle it's actually two shows for the price of one.
In the 1700 the relationship between America and Britain began and with one thing and another the relationship has changed and developed not always for the better.
Snowball the first part of American Poodle is written and performed by Guy Masterson and directed in the UK by Peter McNally. Several characters take us through the history of the Americas from a European point of view. Guy as always an expert in guiding his audiences through the tales he is presenting. His ability to capture us in the first few minutes always amazes yet delights me. In this section both his literary and performance talents are displayed to their best.
Splayfoot by Brian Parks performed by David Calvitto directed by John Clancy in the USA. Brings an American, with old world expectations, in to modern London. I have seen David Calvitto in previous plays although he is not as well known to me as Guy. His story telling and performance is as compelling.
Both parts of this unique experience met in Edinburgh for the first time for the Fringe and for me the Experiment worked extremely well. We have the advantage of being presented with two superb performers and a company who's high standards are legendary to Edinburgh Fringe Festival goers. This is still in a process of development and I would love to get back to see it towards the end of the run to be able to make a comparison.
( - 07/08/07)

"American Poodle is a pairing of two short pieces, one looking at American history through British eyes, the other at Britain as perceived by a naive American. Snowball, written and performed by Guy Masterson, is a monologue, concerning, mostly, the American War of Independence. A lot of it is very funny (I particularly enjoyed the early passages from the Welsh perspective of Prince Madoc) but the bulk goes over a lot of familiar ground with no particularly pertinent modern parallels. The energy and conviction of the performance is not in doubt. Splayfoot written by Brian Parks, directed by John Clancy and performed by David Calvitto, this extremely funny piece takes the American misunderstanding of British Heritage to sublimely absurd heights. Almost nothing that this blissfully ignorant businessman experiences is as he sees it. His grasp of English history, literature, politics and culture is almost non-existent. There's a wonderfully inappropriate poem he recites to what he perceives to be a Dickensian waif. The best passage is actually about America, in particular the world-paralysing effects of American backsides."Victor Hallett (

An Age Of AngelsAn Age Of Angels

An Age Of Angels

Assembly @ George St - Drawing Room - 17.50 (18.35)

Mark Soper brilliantly interweaves ten tall Hollywood tales in a fascinating, taut thriller, directed by Ines Wurth (I Miss Communism). Mass murder in La La Land has never been such a spiritually uplifting experience! Ten Stories. Ten suspects. You decide!

A VIRTUOSO PIECE! The vast majority of one-man shows involve the performer talking to the audience in his/her own or an assumed persona, possibly briefly taking on other characters as they make a more or less brief appearance. Mark Soper eschews this "easy" option: he plays no less than ten different characters, ranging from a little girl to an elementary school "dweeb nerd" with weak bowels to a Los Angeles policeman. They all tell the same story of the incidents that lead up to mass murder, each detailing their own inadvertent part in the building tragedy, and all with nothing more than a simple change of costume and his own versatility as an actor to help him.
For most of the time we simply don't see where all this is going. In fact, it is very hard to see - at least in the first quarter of an hour or so - just what connection these individuals and their stories have with each other, let alone understand what they are leading to. But gradually the connections emerge and the story unfolds with almost tragic inevitability.
It's a virtuoso piece, running for an hour and twenty minutes, and requires very careful attention to pacing and this is where, for me, An Age of Angels doesn't quite come off, which is why it misses the five star accolade: although the characterisation is excellent and the story unfolds in a fascinatingly subtle way, the dynamics of the performance (essentially the pace and vocal range) are a little too restricted. But it's still a show well worth seeing and a piece of writing to admire. Peter Lathan (British Theatre Guide 15/08/07)

"One day, in Los Angeles, a schoolboy kicks a ball over a chain-link fence on to a highway, and a series of mundane events cascade into a tragedy. In this extraordinary one-man show, written and performed by American actor Mark Soper, the story unfolds through the eyes of ten different people.
The opening monologue takes the voice of a paedophile who hangs around playgrounds, a complex, fragmented, even poetic voice which evokes an inner turmoil of shame and longing. It sets the tone for a challenging multi-character show which refuses to bow to audience expectations or sensibilities.
Many of Soper's characters are hard to like: the control-freak executive traumatised by a bead of sweat; the school bully who shrugs off any responsibility for those who copy him; the redneck in the unlicensed truck who blames his problems on the immigrants; the geek with the high IQ and flatulence problem.
But Soper's versatile acting, clever, often funny, writing, and the direction of Ines Wurth - whose own solo show, I Miss Communism, was a hit on the Fringe two years ago - means that we not only begin to find these characters palatable, we actually start seeing through their eyes.
Soper shifts between characters with little more than minor costume changes, weaving each unique voice into a picture of a complete person.
In the background he sketches out a society in crisis: disenfranchised youth, Iraq vets who can't readjust, politicians who are too worried about the next photo opportunity to care. The black motorcyle cop serves the state but knows his son will not. The politician's flunky begins to wonder how much of the "message" is lost in endless ribbon-cutting. The truck driver believes in "red, white and blue and God", but finds his country has little belief in him.
Within the tight structure of a gradually unfolding plot, Soper brings us a gallery of tortured souls, and the mundane world they inhabit becomes darkly illuminated. Susan Mansfield (The Scotsman 10/08/07)

The play looks at an incident in Los Angeles, starting from a minor accident with a football and ending in mass murder. It does this by telling the story of ten individuals involved, one at a time - a sex offender, girl, studio executive, handicapped boy, trucker, mentally ill man, candidate's worker, young bully, motorcycle policeman and finally an angel. Each character is beautifully played by Mark Soper, with a rapid change of clothes on stage for each character. At first the stories are not obviously related but it gradually becomes clear that they are all really parts of a single story and that small events can have major consequences. ( 07/08/07)

Mark Soper's solo play imagines the events leading to a mass killing on the Los Angeles streets, with Soper playing ten characters who unknowingly play a part in the process leading to the tragedy. A paedophile hangs around a schoolyard watching one girl, who notices him but is more interested in the boys playing ball. A nerdy kid tries to impress her by kicking the football and somehow sends it over the fence into the street. A motorist annoyed by the traffic jam this produces tries to speed away and draws the attention of a cop, but another driver stops to get the ball, which a street crazy imagines to be a space alien come to take him to his home planet, and so on. Each step is essentially innocent, each character makes sense, but somehow they lead inevitably to someone pulling a gun and firing wildly.
Actually, a couple of characters in the chain don't really seem necessary to the story, and only a few, notably the helpful driver and the cop, are developed or presented fully enough to really come alive. So one senses more authorial manipulation and less natural inevitability than Soper the playwright might wish, especially since Soper the actor does not quite get inside some of the secondary figures. (The Stage 15/08/07)

Playing BurtonPlaying Burton
Playing Burton

Assembly @ George St - Supper Room - 18.30 (19.30)

Guy Masterson directs the original. "With a mountain shattering presence, Josh Richards (Rosebud) becomes Richard Burton in an exceptionally powerful, darkly haunting performance. Faultless, riveting, brilliantly charismatic, peerless." (Scotsman) "Deliriously literate!" (Daily Mail) Written by Mark Jenkins.

Josh Richards IS Richard Burton in a brilliant one-man portrayal of a one-off, brilliant man. As witty, illuminating and humorous an hour as one could possibly have asked for: Writing, playing, production - all 100%. My disbelief was quickly suspended and I was happy to feel myself in the virtual presence of this towering Welsh genius.
This was truly the 'Authentic voice of the Valley of the Shadow of Coal' himself giving audience. The voice itself was very evocative of the original too - not a cheap 'Burton voice' to amuse a circle of friends in the pub, but in the hands of the accomplished Josh Richards, the veritable 'voice of Burton'. I believed too in this untameable, determined character who rose from unpromising beginnings to straddle the world of screen and stage. The Burtons were real theatre royalty and the majesty of the man filled the theatre. Why are so many of the greatest luminaries in the Arts either monsters or self-destroyers? Burton certainly was: but on such a grand scale he created a genuine art form of his own - probably better observed from the safe distance of a seat in the Assembly though! Where though are the giants today to match the Burtons? Their vulgarity transcended vulgarity in a way that the drugged-up pop star recidivists, Big Brother nobodies or the shop-alcoholic footballers' wives don't approach by a million iambic pentameters, succeeding only in displaying lamentable and selfish lack of taste. Burton had style - even when he falls backwards on to the floor in a drunken stupor - we forgive the man for he was a genius. This was a solo performance, and also a piece of writing of quality. 20/08/07

Josh Richards has returned to the Fringe in Mark Jenkins' Playing Burton directed by Guy Masterson. These three young warriors of the mid 1990's have become part of British Theatre's old guard. Each has developed their own niche but this coming together is a perfect balance. Originally brought to the Fringe in 1994, Playing Burton is meant to dig under the "Liz and Dick" muck and provide some insight into and history of the man originally named Richard Jenkins. Mark Jenkins' play is very much in the here and now of Burton looking back on his life as a Welsh coal miner's son rocketed into the limelight, more for his relationship with Elizabeth Taylor than his much respected acting career. Before Warhol limited fame to fifteen minutes, Burton of "Liz and Dick" fame often provided the tabloids as well as respected newspapers with limitless fodder. Burton wore the heavy mantle of fame well.
With Josh Richards' homage, we see little of the celebrity that was Burton. Richards' Burton begins with his Welsh childhood and transformation. It's hard to let go of the miner's tradition but under the paternalist wing of acting coach Philip Burton, Richard Jenkins' future as a miner is sealed off and his Hollywood star quickly meteors. It's almost painful to watch.
Never aiming for the sombre or self-pitying, Richards' proves his love and respect of his character. And for his audience. His performance is so subtle as to woo the audience in. Dramatic effects are light; the set is dressed only with the requisite bottle, glass and cigarettes as props.
Playing Burton is an actor's dream and not to be missed, even by those who never knew the personae that was Richard Burton. It'll knock your "red" socks off. Catherine Lamm (British Theatre Guide 18/08/07)

Perhaps this is strange to say but where as I admire and enjoy watching Richard Burton perform in film, I almost idolise Guy Masterson. I admit to being a little surprised to discover the close blood relationship between these two very talented men.
I went to see Josh Richards performing as Burton directed by Guy Masterson, with slightly different expectations. I know that everything Guy is involved in is top quality but to have had intimate personal knowledge of the subject took this show to a higher level still.
I sat back and enjoyed this show, not just as a performance, but a glimpse into the personal life of one of the worlds most famous actors. There were times when Josh sounded exactly as I imagined Burton would and when he is describing Elizabeth Taylor for the first time you are in no doubt who she is although her name is not mentioned at the time.
Part of the magic in any solo show is in the writing without a good script even the best actor in the world struggles to produce a creditable performance. Mark Jenkins himself also welsh certainly seems to have magic in his writing. He has brought out many different facets of the man, the actor and the legend.
I can not imagine how different the show would be without Guy's input. I did not look at the programme before seeing the show and was therefore not aware of all the facts and relationships.
This is a well written, skillfully directed and beautifully performed glimpse into the life of one of the most idolised welsh actors ever. Despite being at the back of the room I felt I was the only one present and couldn't believe it was over when the lights went on. ( 18/08/07)

"a profound, highly personal and beautiful insight"
I left the theatre desperate to tell all of my friends about this play. Josh Richards' performance grips you from the beginning, tracing the story of Richard Jenkins, son of a drunken Welsh miner, who became Richard Burton, one of the biggest stars of his time. This compelling production seeks to discover the real man behind the 'Burton' persona, revealing his frailty, his desperation and his genius. Mark Jenkins' script is lyrical, with Richards savouring every line - some Shakespeare, some Marlowe, some Burton's own; his anecdotes delivered with his wonderful dry wit even as he succumbs to alcoholism and personal tragedy. It makes for a profound, highly personal and beautiful insight into an actor destroyed by his own performance. (Three Weeks 08/08/07)

In the age of Heat and Popbitch, an endearing portrayal of Richard Burton reminds us it was always so. We live in the age of celebrity culture and the Heat generation, but Playing Burton reviews the rise, scandals and demise of one of Hollywood's finest for a more mature audience. Still, the show is not only aimed solely at those who remember when the price of a Mars bar was a mere sixpence. Richard Burton's life has all the makings of a compelling story. From miner to movie star, the play covers his poor beginnings, his journey to becoming Hollywood's highest paid actor, to his descent into alcoholism and marriage to Elizabeth Taylor. The one man show is sustained by writer Mark Jenkins' rich script, filled with humour and retrospective irony. The frequent intertwining of quotes from Shakespeare and Orwell into the narrative reflects Burton's love for the English literature and acclaimed stage career. Jenkins also remains true to Burton's roots emphasising his patriotism through outbursts of the Welsh language. Actor Josh Richards portrayal of Burton is fantastic, captivating his audience and elevating the play above what could become a dreary monologue. He initially creates an endearing and likable Richard Burton but then transforms him into an ill, bitter alcoholic adding an increasingly sombre tone to the conclusion of this first class piece of theatre. (Fest Magazine 15/08/07)


Under MIlk WoodUnder Milk Wood

Under Milk Wood

Aug 13 & 20 ONLY Assembly Music Hall 14:15 (16:15)

Guy Masterson's world acclaimed interpretation of Dylan Thomas' enchanting masterpiece brought rivetingly to life in "one of the most remarkable inventive performances of the decade!" (Times) "A mesmerisingly brilliant tour de force."(Scotsman) "Simply bewitching!" (Three Weeks)

Just occasionally we are reminded what Fringe Theatre is really all about - brilliant performances and the very best of theatre production. Yesterday between 2.15 and 4.15 in the Assembly rooms, I had the great privilege of attending a masterclass of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood by Guy Masterson. Productions of this all-too-rare calibre, give us the yardstick by which all future reviews will be measured. Guy Masterson two hour solo performance of Thomas's major work Under Milk Wood does not have a parallel, it stands on its own as easily the best production of this piece by any actor. Burton may have had the voice, but Masterson's physical portraits of almost seventy characters, kept a full house in the Music room on the edge of their seats. An audience, I must add who were, in majority, senior enough to have been aware of the original Burton production and were no strangers to Dylan Thomas's wonderful canon. Guy Masterson's love of Thomas's work was very evident in his 2001 Fern Hill production, but as brilliant as it was, it came a poor second to this wonderful performance. The physical comic portraits by Masterson, of all characters from Mr and Mrs Pugh to the child Gwennie Gwennie were all given individual colours and brush strokes to create a composition to rival Marc Chagall's masterpiece I And My Village. The greatly deserved standing ovation that he received at the end of his extraordinary two hour performance speaks more eloquently than any words this reviewer could scribe. Thank you Mr Masterson, for reminding us why we should love great wordsmiths and superb theatre. If you see no other theatre performance at the Fringe, and you see next Monday's only other performance you will see the very best that the Edinburgh Festival has to offer.
John Richie ( 15/08/07)

Actor Guy Masterson has become one of the Fringe's leading theatre producers with a growing list of popular and critical successes, but he dates the beginning of his success to this remarkable one-man show that he first performed in February 1994.
Dylan Thomas's 'play for voices' describes in wonderful poetic language a day in the fictional tiny Welsh village of Llareggub from before anyone is awake until the time they all return to their beds. It is written to be told by two narrators, referred to as 'first voice' and 'second voice', but also weaves into the story a cast of 69 beautifully-drawn characters, from the old blind Captain Cat dreaming of long dead loves and colleagues to lovers-by-correspondence-only Miss Myfanwy Price and Mr Mog Edwards to Polly Garter and her babies from different fathers to Mr Pugh who dreams of poisoning his wife.
In the programme, Masterson says he was influenced by the work of Berkoff to create a physical theatre production of the play after 'having been a "neck-up" actor for my entire career'. There is certainly a great deal of physicality to his performance, but this is more a vocal tour-de-force than a physical one. There are physical and vocal differences between the characters, but they are not all immediately and uniquely identifiable; however this does not at all detract from the clarity of the piece, which Masterson sings out over the packed auditorium without causing any doubt about who is speaking or being spoken about at any time. There are some lovely touches in his performance that really bring out the humour in the piece and also create some genuinely moving moments.
Matt Clifford's sound cleverly weaves sound effects and music around the words in a way that subtly enhances the whole piece. There are many one-man shows on the Fringe and many that claim to perform a whole story, play or film, but this is the real thing. In about an hour and three quarters with just one performer and a chair onstage, there are no dull moments, and the fact that one person can sustain a gripping performance at such a pace for this length of time is very impressive.
David Chadderton (British Theatre Guide 15/08/07)

Punters' Reviews

Spellbinding 15/08/07 Reviewer: Keith S, UK
"What a terrific show - a wonderful performance. One man brings all the characters in this marvellous work to life and had us all entranced for just short of 2 hours. What a shame that there are so few chances for others to see this genuine highlight (I know it is a revival, but it sure is worth a little more exposure for such a tremendous performance by a genuis of an actor)."

Masterly 19/08/07 Reviewer: Ruth Wilkinson, United Kingdom
This is a must see, one very talented actor playing a multitude of different characters - the audience can distinguish between them all by his facial expressions, his tone of voice, his mannerisms... Quite stunning. Only one production left so catch it while you can!! Strongly recommended.

21/08/07 Reviewer: Sara Coyle, UK
'An amazing performance - warm, entertaining and vibrant. At times, lighting complications broke an otherwise enchanting spell but Masterson drew us back into this magical world effortlessly. How does he learn it all?'