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The London-based actor has come to Arts Festival Dunedin to perform his one-man shows Under Milk Wood and Shylock.
Tomorrow’s performance of Under Milk Wood has sold out but some tickets for Shylock, which is on Sunday, are still available.
Shylock is a miserly Jewish moneylender in Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice.
"Shylock has always been one of the most controversial characters of Shakespeare and a lot of Jewish people believe it is anti-Semitic because of the way he is portrayed."
In The Merchant of Venice there were 60 references to Shylock and 95% of them were insults, he said.
However, Shylock is a victim rather than a villain and he only demands a ‘‘pound of flesh’’ after his daughter is stolen from him and he lends money, which never gets paid back, Masterson says.
When Shylock gets his day in court he gets "entrapped" by an ancient law.
The Merchant of Venice was about a man being turned into a monster by the fears in other people’s heads, Masterson said.
"You realise Shakespeare has written a very clever anti-racist play."
Masterson has performed Shylock about 500 times and Under Milk Wood more than 2000 times, but this will be the first time he has performed either show in Dunedin.
The father of two said the toughest part of solo performance was learning lines.
An actor had to ‘‘drill lines’’ for about four hours a day for two months to be ready for a solo show.
"You have to write it and then you have got to learn it — learning it is a drudge — there is no worse job than learning lines; it takes up your entire life. You can’t watch TV, you can’t participate with the family because all you are doing is churning these lines, lines, lines, lines, lines, until they’re in."
But when a solo actor knew their lines intimately they could immerse themselves in the character and use all their energy to connect with the audience, he said.
● Under Milk Wood is on at the Fortune Theatre at 8pm tomorrow.
● Shylock is on at the Fortune Theatre at 2pm on Sunday.