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World Premiere - Assembly Festival, Edinburgh, August 2015

Domestic & International touring through 2017

Hannah Ellis & Guy Masterson


Written by Dylan Thomas & Hannah Ellis
Adapted & performed by Guy Masterson
With Original Music & Sound by Matt Clifford

Hannah Ellis (Dylan Thomas' granddaughter) & Guy Masterson, globally acclaimed performer of Thomas' works (Under Milk Wood) present a very personal illustrated biography... Celebrating the life & work of Wales' most revered writer, Hannah Ellis tells the story of her grandfather, with excerpts from his poems, stories and letters performed by the award winning master of his words, Guy Masterson.
"Throughout the show you could had have heard a pin drop. This was theatre that was engrossing and delivered with an assured and considered tone. The words needed airing, no other trickery was necessary." (FringeReview)
"A perfect show for anyone who loves (or wants to love) Dylan Thomas." (British Theatre Guide)
"There's something alchemical to the Welsh poet's self-inventing language, and this is channelled by Masterson, who doesn't 'enact' poetry but inhabits, possesses, is possessed. A treat of music, honey, impishness - in supernova-brief appearances." (Three Weeks)

Edinburgh Festival, August 2015


LISTEN TO Podcast from the Fringe:

Three Weeks 25/08/15
What's Dylan Thomas like, according to his grandchildren? We catch a privileged glimpse in this peep-show biography, narrated documentary-style by Hannah Ellis (D.T.'s granddaughter), with Guy Masterson lending a formidable voice to Dylan's diaries, letters, poems. This collaboration carries an irresistible sense of fate: Masterson is the nephew of Richard Burton, whose baritone became synonymous with Thomas after performing Under Milk Wood. There's something alchemical to the Welsh poet's self-inventing language, and this is channelled by Masterson, who doesn't 'enact' poetry but inhabits, possesses, is possessed. A treat of music, honey, impishness - in supernova-brief appearances. Says Hannah, e.e. cummings was so moved by one of Dylan's performances that he walked the streets for hours. I might just do the same. (Sarah Murphy - Three Weeks - 25/08/15)

British Theatre Guide 16/08/15
Hannah Ellis, who has written and narrates this hour-long hymn to the glory of Dylan Thomas, is the great man's granddaughter. She was born long after he died aged only 39 but was able to enjoy the commemorations of his centenary last year.
This show comprises a step though his biography illuminated in several striking ways.
First, Miss Ellis is able to inject her own personal recollections and also those of relatives who knew the man personally.
Secondly, there are slides that contain photos, manuscripts and other personal material to bring us closer to Dylan Thomas.
Lastly, Edinburgh stalwart and Thomas specialist Guy Masterson delivers 17 recitations in his own portentous fashion, bringing the works to the audience in a suitably accessible fashion. Unsurprisingly, these include bits of Fern Hill and Under Milk Wood, both of which he has adapted for the stage. Indeed, when this production ends, he is presenting his solo Under Milk Wood for a week. There is also the most famous poem, Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.
Masterson also delivers other illustrative material, including extracts from private letters, poems and books.
In short, this is a perfect show for anyone who loves (or wants to love) Dylan Thomas. (Phillip Fisher - British Theatre Guide 16/08/15)

FringeReview.com - 12/08/15
Low Down: Hannah Ellis, granddaughter of Dylan Thomas and Guy Masterson, master storyteller provide a run through of one of the most fascinating, engaging and quite simply wonderful poets of the 20th Century. We start from his birth and work towards his death, whilst breathing between the poetic majesty that was Thomas's words. All of the classic and well loved texts were aired whilst his granddaughter gave us a wonderful insight to a man she may never have met, but whose legend has sustained her and her family throughout their lives.
Review: Ellis and Masterson arrive onstage with a massive screen between them. Ellis uses notes from her iPad whilst Masterson gives us tremendous performances between each biographical detail. We are introduced to the life of a man who became a poetic icon and a favourite drunk. What we get is not something which puts him on a pedestal but illuminates the complexities of his life and the vastness of a character that was still a man within a family who loved, lost and almost survived himself.
The fact that Ellis is using an iPad from which she is reading adds to the charm rather than detracts. She is clearly not a performer but a very able advocate. That she has a very capable partner in Masterson which means we can enjoy the words of the man as well as place them in context. Masterson is impeccable. What I find particularly impressive is the lack of Hi de Hi Welsh accent but a Welsh tone that weaves through the words rather than assaults you with clarion cries of authenticity. When delivering the words of Thomas, as Thomas it underlines his universality and removes and suggestion that Thomas might have just been a boyo. I did wonder if the whole experience could have been enhanced by hearing the voice of Thomas but some things may not have been possible.
The set was functional - ample supply of chairs for both performers, enough for one each - whilst the slide show was extremely well put together. Throughout the show, on Masterson's birthday, you could had have heard a pin drop. This was theatre that was engrossing and delivered with an assured and considered tone. The words needed airing, no other trickery was necessary.This was, for me, an indulgence. I once directed Under Milk Wood with a summer school of young teenagers. It was one of my favourite theatrical experiences as the young people, sceptical at the start, became massive fans by the end. They enjoyed the freedom of the piece and responded with as much creativity as possible, understanding the wonderful springboard which the text had provided them. Here it was more than a text but a life that springs from the performance; and what a life too. That he died without cirrhosis of the liver helps deal with the myths and I can see parallels with our own Robert Burns who was told to take the waters of the Solway to cure his ailments; many think it was that which killed him. Two giants lost early but one here celebrated with joy. (Donald Stewart - FringeReview.com - 12/08/15)

TV Bomb: 15/08/15
Dylan Thomas's reputation isn't the only one to precede him as the audience files in for Dylan Thomas - The Man, The Myth: Guy Masterson, the award-winning actor, producer and director who helped hone the script, and who co-presents it with Thomas's granddaughter, Hannah Ellis, is hardly a recluse when it comes to the Edinburgh Fringe. Still, it is difficult to know what to expect from something that is not a play, but - in Masterson's own words, a 'theatrical event' with an emotional arc.
In the event, DDTMTM is closer to a lecture than a play, with Ellis narrating her tale of Thomas's life from her seat at one side of the stage (Masterson is seated opposite), the upstage area being taken up by a large screen depicting photographs of the author, his family, and the idyllic places he has lived. However, the word 'lecture' does not do it justice, for there are two key ingredients that lift the event beyond this pedestrian term, and these are Ellis and Masterson themselves, injecting the show with their own individual and highly personal charm.
Ellis's touch is the most outwardly obvious - being the granddaughter of Thomas, she naturally has access to images, family anecdotes and personal reflections that only she could bring, and this does much to draw the audience in. What keeps us there are Masterson's brief but powerful turns as Thomas, his acquaintances, and various of his literary characters, including Masterson's now famous and ground-breaking characterisations from Under Milk Wood. Spontaneous applause is not unusual after one or two of these, such is his dramatic impact in this intimate space, and it serves as a sneak peek of what can be expected of his upcoming run of Under Milk Wood - Semi Skimmed, when it opens at the same venue on Sun 23 Aug.
For now, though, the audiences of The Man, The Myth are treated to what feels like an exclusive and intensely personal insight into the literary icon who has inspired Masterson since childhood, and whose legacy Ellis has come over time to embrace. Even those who are not similarly excited by Dylan Thomas, The Man - or his work - will find something special and touching in this unravelling of The Myth. (Laura Ingram - TV Bomb - 15/08/15)

Punters Reviews:

Absolutely loved the show. I knew very little about Dylan Thomas but Hannah Ellis (granddaughter) gave a very personal, entertaining and moving account of his life while Guy Masterson brought some of his work to life. The hour flew by and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'd recommend this to everyone! (Jenny Collins 15/08/15)

Great show. The biography beautifully described by Dylan Thomas's granddaughter gave it a personal feel. Wonderful narration by Guy Masterson of the poetry and quotes. Time flew as the story unfolded. Recommend. (Janette McDonald - 13/08/15)

Guy Masterson and the granddaughter of Dylan Thomas present a biography of the Welsh poet by alternating her reading from her book about Thomas' life, and Masterson performing excerpts from his works while photos of cited locations were projected above them. I could not ask for a better arrangement of information, images, and live performance. It was a pleasure to see Masterson recite poetry he clearly relishes. (Sean Davis 13/08/15)

Loved the show. Very moving. Highly recommended. (Sarah Matthias 13/08/15)

A truly solid set of recitals from Guy, the story of Dylan is fascinating too; I knew little of Dylan before this show and enjoyed it so if you like Dylan Thomas or are a fan of poetry then you'll love it I reckon. (Nocreview - 08/08/15) LINK TO FULL REVIEW

Reviews from the British Council "Lecture" Presentation October 2014

"Dylan Thomas poetry is so powerful and fraught with beautiful imagery, onomatopaeic sounds, inventive words, wittiness! His poems are a delight and it is a must for teachers to expose their learners to such sensitive, imaginative, really brilliant land/seascapes and all his life stories. Dylan Thomas' granddaughter and the actor Guy Masterson have also delighted us. Both Hannah's narrative and Guy's performance are wonderful." (Maria do Céu Costa - October 2014)

"Very enjoyable. I have been fortunate enough to see Guy Masterson perform many times at the Edinburgh International Festival and enjoy his Dylan Thomas performances immensely. Dylan will live on forever." (The Welsh Lovely October 2014)

HANNAH ELLIS - writer/narrator
Hannah Ellis lives in Northamptonshire, England with her husband Paul, a University lecturer, seven year old son Charlie, and cat Boris. She is also the granddaughter of Dylan Thomas
After studiying at Oxford Brookes University she worked for a number of years as a primary school teacher. She particularly enjoyed teaching English and Drama, co-ordinating and leading in both and demonstrating how drama techniques can encourage the children to fully appreciate stories and poems. She also directed and produced many school productions. Most recently, Hannah also worked on an initiative to support children and their families who faced potential barriers to their learning such as behavioural problems, learning difficulties and attendance issues. Her role was to implement early strategies to prevent future problems.
Hannah was the spokesperson and family representative for "Dylan Thomas 100", a year-long festival marking the centenary of her grandfather's birth. She supported a variety of influential organisations to bring Thomas's work to a wider audience, while celebrating the richness of Welsh culture, as well as finding ways to teach Dylan's work in a more creative way to motivate children and young people. As a result of this work, Hannah is now the creative director on behalf of the Dylan Thomas Estate. She has also discovered that she has inherited her grandfather's enjoyment of writing and is a published author and is currently writing children's stories.

Download: Guy Masterson Headshot (image: Brigitta Scholz-Mastroianni 2014)

GUY MASTERSON - Performer (click for additional biographical material)
After obtaining a Joint Honours degree in Biochemistry and Chemistry from Cardiff University in 1982, Guy studied drama at UCLA's School of Drama and started as an actor in 1985 in Hollywood. He returned to the UK in 1989 to study further at LAMDA.
Following a conventional start in plays, film and television, Guy began solo performing in 1991 with The Boy's Own Story and thence Under Milk Wood in 1994 and Animal Farm in 1995. He first produced/directed in 1993 with Playing Burton and participated at the Edinburgh Festival for the first time in 1994. The following 25 seasons saw his association with many of Edinburgh's most celebrated hits, and his company has become the Fringe's most awarded independent theatre producer - garnering 8 Scotsman Fringe Firsts, 3 Herald Angels, 25 Stage Award nominations (including 4 wins) together with numerous lesser awards. Guy was the force behind Edinburgh's 3 biggest grossing dramatic hits 12 Angry Men, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (2004) and The Odd Couple (2005). His 2009 production of Morecambe transferred to London's West End and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment - plus another nomination for the actor playing Eric). At Edinburgh 2014, his epic 30 actor production of Animal Farm with Tumanishvili Film Actors Theatre of Tbilisi, Georgia, won the Stage Award for Best Ensemble.
As a performer, he was nominated for The Stage Award for Best Actor for A Soldier's Song (1998). He won The Stage Best Actor in 2001 for Fern Hill & Other Dylan Thomas. He was nominated for Best Solo Performance for Under Milk Wood in 2003 and again for Shylock in 2011. In 2003, he also received Edinburgh's most prestigious accolade, The Jack Tinker Spirit of the Fringe Award. At Edinburgh 2016 he created his first overtly stand-up comic piece, Barking Mad! which then toured to Perth and Adelaide. At Edinburgh 2017, he directed Hollywood star, Michael Brandon in his debut stand-up piece Off Ramps. At Edinburgh 2018, along with performing A Christmas Carol, he co-wrote, produced and directedThe Marilyn Conspiracy. At Edinburgh 2019, he directed Owen O'Neill's brilliant black comedy, Shaving The Dead along with the smash hit of the Fringe The Shark Is Broken - the back story of the making of Jaws, starring Ian Shaw, Rober Shaw's son. This was due to transfer to London's West End in May 2020, however, due to Covid-19, it has been postponed to 2021.
His theatrical commitments have largely kept him out of mainstream film and television, however, he has made the obligatory appearance on Casualty (Christmas Special 2004) and has been the Franziskaner Monk - the main character of the premium German beer - since 2007. He also writes plays, screenplays and poetry.
His passion is to bring great ideas to life and new talent to the stage.
He is married to Brigitta and father to Indigo and Tallulah...

Matt Clifford

Dylan Thomas was born in Swansea, South Wales on October 27th 1914, the son of the English Master of Swansea Grammar School, where Dylan was later educated. He began writing poetry as a schoolboy before taking his first job as a junior reporter for the South Wales Evening Post in 1931. His first volume of verse Eighteen Poems was published in 1934 prior to a move to London where he worked in journalism, broadcasting and script-writing. His next volume, Twenty Five Poems was completed and published in 1936. In the same year, Dylan married Caitlin Macnamara and they moved to Laugharne in Carmarthenshire, South West Wales. During World War II, Dylan spent most of his time in London where he wrote & broadcast for the BBC. In 1940 Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Dog - a collection of short stories, brought him widespread critical acclaim. He also wrote several plays and scripts including The Doctor And The Devils. Deaths And Entrances which followed in 1946, contained some of his finest poetry and resulted in his being invited to lecture in the USA. Thomas eventually visited the USA on four separate tours which paid handsomely, enabling the upkeep of his family back in Wales. His heavy drinking, however, had seriously weakened his health and on 9th November 1953, after a famous binge in the White Horse Pub in New York, he died, ostensibly of alcoholic poisoning - although it has since been suggested that he, being diabetic, entered a fatal diabetic coma induced by excessive alcohol. His body was returned home and buried in Laugharne with a simple wooden cross marking his grave. He was 39. Under Milk Wood and Quite Early One Morning,a collection of his works for the BBC were published posthumously in 1954.
See Also:
UNDER MILK WOOD (performed by Guy Masterson, directed by Tony Boncza)
FERN HILL & OTHER DYLAN THOMAS (performed by Guy Masterson directed by Tony Boncza)

Dylan Thomas has been there my whole life. The paintings and photos on the wall, the books on the shelves, the name ever present in everyday discussions. But he was also there in my mum's hazel eyes, my uncle's intelligence and perfect wit, not to mention the ever increasing horror stories about visits to the dentist, always blaming dad and the 'Thomas' teeth. He's still there when I see my snub nose and uncompromising, rebellious curly hair in the mirror and as I hear my son read, playing with words and using a natural and innate gift. The cheeky personality is still about too!
Although always near, I took him for granted. With an element of embarrassment, I have to admit, until recently, I knew very little about my grandfather's life and only read a small amount of his work. I'm not sure exactly why. Perhaps I thought I wouldn't like it. Maybe I thought the rich language was beyond me. It was only, as is often the case, some life events that started my voyage of discovery.
My mum died on the 27th July 2009 and then my son Charlie was born a few weeks later on the 19th August. Suddenly, I was in a very alien role as a mummy to a baby boy, without my own mum to guide me. I became acutely aware of the closeness of life and death and realised the importance of knowing more about where I came from. Who was this talented wordsmith I called Grandpa?
So, it was with caution that I delved into his poetry, stories and letters, and, what a relief, it was delightful. I loved his writing! One moment I could be brought to tears reading a powerful description describing the horrifying effects of war, and the next I was rolling about in laughter at the antics of Dylan's eccentric aunts and uncles.
Though, as I unearthed his magical writing, I could not escape the fact that often the image of the roaring welsh boyo seemed to overshadow it. I found myself getting very confused by the conflicting stories about him and wanted to find out more. I knew that some of the myths needed to be challenged so I dug deeper. I spoke personally to people that knew him well, while also looking in detail at our family. I thought carefully about how we might behave in similar situations - not perfectly I would imagine. Yes, Grandpa was a man with flaws but also a funny, loving, empathetic person that struggled when far away from home.
I had a strange experience as I learnt about the events of 1953 that ended in my grandfather's life being cut tragically short. It was with increasing frustration that I found myself unable to stop them. I observed my grandfather in a deep depression slowly neglecting himself, and realised that there was no one there to help. The questions were endless. What if he had not been given that injection of morphine? What would an opera with Stravinsky have been like? How would my mum's life have been different? Would I even be here today?
I think the most fascinating discoveries for me, which I hope you will see in this show, was uncovering the exquisite quality of his writing, learning how young he was when it was completed and seeing just what a meticulous craftsman he was, as well as the understanding that there was a vulnerable man behind those words. Hannah Ellis

Excerpts performed by Guy Masterson

  • Excerpt: Reminiscences of Childhood I
  • Poem: The Force That Through The Green Fuse...
  • Excerpt: Reminiscences of Childhood II
  • Poem: The Hunchback in the Park
  • Letter: to Pamela Hansford Johnson about The Gower
  • Excerpt: The Peaches
  • Excerpt: Adventures in the Skintrade
  • Poem: Refusal to Mourn the Death by Fire, of a Child in London.
  • Letter: to Margaret Taylor about the characters of New Quay
  • Poem: Fern Hill
  • Excerpt: Return Journey
  • Excerpt: A Child's Christmas in Wales
  • Excerpt: Laugharne
  • Letter: to Caitlin from New York
  • Excerpt: Under Milk Wood - The Pughs
  • Poem: Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
  • Poem: In My Craft or Sullen Art

Under Milk Wood:
Opening Monologue
"To begin at the beginning.... It is Spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible black..."
1.5Mb - 2.05 mins
Under Milk Wood:
Voice of the Guide Book
"Less than five hundred souls inhabit the thee quaint streets, and the few narrow bi-lanes and scattered farmsteads that constitute..."
1.1Mb - 1.32 mins
Under Milk Wood:
Polly Garter's Song
"I loved a man who's name was Tom, he was strong as a bear and two yards long..."
2Mb - 2.48 mins
Under Milk Wood:
Captain Cat & Rosie Probert
"What seas did you see, Tom Cat, Tom Cat, in your sailoring days, long, long ago..?"
3Mb - 4.20 mins
Under Milk Wood:
Multi-Character Excerpt
"Now, frying pans spit. Kettles and cats purr in the kitchens. The town smells of seawead and breakfast..."
1Mb - 1.25 mins
The Force That Through The Green Fuse
"The force that through the green fuse drives the flower, drives my
green age, that blasts the roots of trees is my destroyer..."
0.5Mb - 18 sec
A Visit to Grandpa's
"In the middle of the night, I was woke out of a dream of whips and
lariats as long as serpents..."
1.1Mb - 40 sec
A Christmas Story
"One Christmas was so much like another in those years around the sea-town" corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking...
1.2Mb - 50 sec
Holiday Memory
"August Bank Holiday... A tune on an ice cream cornet, a slap of sea and a tickle of sand, a fanfare of sunshades opening..."
1.4Mb - 60 sec
Fern Hill
"Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green"
0.7Mb - 30 sec

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Hannah Ellis & Guy Masterson in Dylan Thomas The Man, The Myth
Hanah Ellis & Guy Masterson in Dylan Thomas The Man, The Myth
Dylan Thomas The Man, The Myth