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Tuesday, 7 August, 2001, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
Festival's master producer
Guy Masterson
Guy Masterson: Just can't keep away
By BBC News Online's Darren Waters in Edinburgh

Guy Masterson is one of the busiest men at the Edinburgh Festival.

The Port Talbot-born performer is producing eight shows, directing another and also appearing in his one-man show, Fern Hill, based around the writings of fellow Welshman Dylan Thomas.

"I started as a performer and I love coming to the festival and keeping my feet on the ground and producing successful shows and getting a reputation," he says.

Most producers have enough anxiety hoping to attract audiences for one play, let alone eight, but Masterson is an old hand at Edinburgh.

I am constantly finding talent and I have to find a way to bring it to the Edinburgh festival

Guy Masterson

A festival regular, he has built up a following at the festival which helps to put the audiences through the turnstiles.

"I wouldn't call it misery," he says of the pressure to attract audiences, "there is hardship certainly financially because it's very difficult to put up the kind of cash to make such a programme work.

"Hopefully that gets covered by ticket sales and its only a temporary hardship."

This year, Masterson's shows include a production of Animal Farm - promoters roam the streets of Edinburgh in pig masks - Hip Harp Fantasies, It Was Henry Fonda's Fault, Resolution, Moscow, Slaps 'n' Tickles and Castra Diva.


The shows are enormously eclectic, from a production about the castrati in 6th Century Rome to a production about a Henry Fonda obsession, but Masterson says all the shows have a commonality.

"Commitment and quality. All of these performers are extraordinary, mainly solo performers, but they are unified by my trademark which is passion and quality and commitment.

Actor Richard Burton
Richard Burton has inspired his great nephew

"That is what people expect of my work and that is what I endeavour to give them."

Masterson's voice, a deep bass-baritone, is redolent of other actors who were brought up amidst the industrialism of Port Talbot, such as Hopkins and Burton.

His voice is closer to the dark timbre of Burton than Hopkins, and there is a reason for that.

"My great uncle was Richard Burton and his older sister was my grandmother Sis, who brought him up," he explains.

"So there are ties to Welshness and when I recite the Dylan Thomas it really brings back those early memories of life in Port Talbot and Aberavon Beach and the uncles.

"It comes from the heart."

Masterson admits his career as an actor and producer was enormously influenced by his great uncle.

"I certainly wouldn't have been as exposed to it unless I was aware of my uncle's stature, if you like.

"I like most people would have gone to a school, studied and gone down that route and acting might not have come into my realm of awareness."


In his latest production, Fern Hill, Masterson plays tribute to the writings of Dylan Thomas.

The new show was borne out of a one-man version of Under Milkwood which he has toured around the world.

"I still do Under Milkwood, crazy as it may sound, with all 69 characters and a cat.

"I do it as a physical performance and story telling with nothing on stage, just me and the words.

Dylan Thomas:
Dylan Thomas: Masterson pays tribute

"During the touring I was able to give readings of the other works of Dylan Thomas and they were incredibly popular.

"I learnt many of his pieces by heart and here I am presenting the works of Dylan Thomas."

Poems that are incorporated into the show include Memories of Christmas, August Bank Holiday, Death Shall Have No Dominion and Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night, as well as Fern Hill.

After many years coming to Edinburgh, Masterson admits the increasing size of the festival does add to the pressure of attracting audiences.

"I'm in a fortunate position of having a great reputation and I get more of my fair share of audiences and critical response," he says.

"It's not as easy to have eight shows getting the same cut of the cake as it would be if I was by myself.

"But I can't help myself because I am constantly finding talent and I have to find a way to bring it to the Edinburgh festival.

"This is the highlight for me and it's what we build towards every year."

Guy Masterson's shows are performed at the Assembly Rooms, Traverse and Komedia until 27 August

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Producer Guy Masterson
"My great uncle was Richard Burton"
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