The Maskers' Studio Theatre

5th - 11th December 2022

Friday performance at 8pm, other performances at 7:30pm.

Our playlet
"Christmas with the Cratchits"
was written by Brian Stansbridge


The Reviews


5 December 2022


Masker’s member Brian Stansbridge has captured the written moment in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when Spirit takes Scrooge (a wonderfully emotional Philip de Grouchy) to the Cratchit household and re-imagined an alternate timeline. What if the Cratchits were in fact more Larkin/Del-boy-esque than the all accepting of their poor lot characters portrayed by the great writer (Joao Pinto giving a very dignified and warm performance throughout). Jez Minns beautifully casually throwing away the crutch usually associated with Tiny Tim, cleverly giving him more ADHD than a physical deformity, alongside Bandy Smith doing a grand Bradley Walsh protagonist performance against regular character submissive type, provided much initial intrigue and slight confusion (as commented by Jill Desborough’s spritely Ghost of Christmas Present).

All the family are on the make in one shape or form excepting the ever reliable Hazel Burrows bringing her stage presence and engaging dulcet tones to both Mrs Cratchit and subsequent readings (The Inn-Keeper’s Wife was particularly well done): her mirth inducing moment with husband Bob was comedically well timed to perfection.

Molly McDade flushed out a rounded character for Martha Cratchit and her scene with her father regarding the acquisition of the gifts from Mr Sainsbury was well presented. Jane Russell and Maria McDade as Peter and Belinda Cratchit added to the proceedings ably acting the “spoilt” teenagers and coming into their own with enthusiastic readings in the second half.

Taughtly directed by Philip de Grouchy, the assorted readings were well chosen and put together and were not the usual Christmas reading/song fare. I liked the Letter from Egypt, The Ghost Dance, telephone Call to Mother and Just Doing My Job particularly but all performed very well to a high standard. Choral Group The Nightingales provided musical interludes throughout, nicely interpolated into the family scene and a joyful “Night of the Bells” and “Shepherd’s Farewell”.

I always get a warm welcome here at Maskers. With added mince pie and mulled wine this is appealing well thought out entertainment for the time of year: a perfect prelude.

- David Putley

Enjoy Christmas with the Cratchits and discover the "truth" behind the family!

The Cratchit family let you into their home and share their favourite Christmas snippets!

In a traditional Maskers’ offering, complete with mulled wine, mince pies and candlelit tables, we are pleased to join Dickens’ favourite, loveable and warm-hearted Cratchit family for an evening’s entertainment – but it appears all is not what it seems!

Be prepared for startling revelations of the terrible truth behind the Cratchit’s cosy façade!

However, after a brief pause for mulled wine and mince pies, sentiment must prevail over cynicism, as Dickens would demand, and all will be reconciled as they present to us an anthology of seasonal readings and music, varying from the serious to the comic, and culminating in some jolly Christmas carols.

Come and start your Christmas with us!

Director, Cast & Author

The Director of this production is Philip de Grouchy
Philip has been a Masker for fifty years, mainly as a performer, but with occasional forays into directing. He has directed quite a few Christmas shows over the last fifteen years or so and also directed The Beggar's Opera. He hopes you enjoy this latest foray!

The Author of our playlet is Brian Stansbridge
Brian is best known as an actor and director, with his most recent credits being the role of Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor and directing Much Ado About Nothing for our summer show in 2021. He has, however, been known to turn his hand to writing the odd sketch, poem or song lyric. In 2020, all that changed! Covid caused all our theatres to close and we were desperate to find a way to continue delivering theatre to the people of Southampton and the surrounding area. At his wife Angela’s bidding, he sat down to create a short piece that we could perform in the open air at various parks and gardens. The result was Park Life, a two handed play about a friendship blossoming in the adversity of the pandemic. Many people saw and enjoyed the performances. Buoyed up by this success, Brian went on to start a full-length play (still in the pipeline) and a piece originally intended for Christmas 2020 but, again, thwarted by Covid. So… tonight, at no expense whatsoever …. Brian hopes you will enjoy his cheeky little peek behind the scenes at the Cratchit home. We hope that Mr. Dickens will forgive him.

Assistant Director for this production is Jillian Desborough

Bob Cratchit is played by Bandy Smith
This is Bandy’s first show with Maskers. He has previously been in a couple of pantomimes, playing Prince Charming and Caesar. Bandy has enjoyed the rehearsals and has been made to feel really welcome. When he is not treading the boards, he works as a barber in his shop at Foyes Corner. He hopes you all enjoy his spin on Bob Cratchit’s character.

Mrs. Emily Cratchit is played by Hazel Burrows
Hazel has been a keen Masker since the early 70s. Over the years she has taken up a huge variety of roles, as well as directing, set design, painting and costume design. Hazel has been on the committee as membership officer and social secretary, always welcoming people into the company with enormous enthusiasm and a sunny smile. Over the last year Hazel has been seen in our production of Ugly Lies the Bone as a psychiatrist and in our open air production, The Three Musketeers.
Her favourite role over the years was in The Beauty Queen of Leenane, a dark Irish comedy. Hazel is hoping to direct another show next year, a comedy, an aspect of theatre she enjoys immensely.

Martha Cratchit is played by Molly McDade
This is Molly’s third Christmas show with Maskers, having been performing with the company since 2014. She has recently been in two productions with Southampton Operatic Society (Legally Blonde and Crazy for You) at the MAST Studios, and before that has been in several Maskers’ productions over the years, including A Bunch of Amateurs, Around The World In 80 Days, Pygmalion, The Jungle Book and Our Town.

Peter Cratchit is played by Jane Russell
Without any shadow of a doubt, the run up to Christmas is Jane’s favourite time of year and the opportunity to share that festive joy with others is always a real pleasure. Jane has been a member of Maskers for a few years, performing in last year’s Christmas show, A Box of Delights, as a cleaner in Sharks in the Custard and as Mary in The Flint Street Nativity. Jane has also recently performed and directed for RAODS and, even more recently, performed in the musical Chess with EOMS. Jane loves the intimacy of performing in the Studio and she hopes you enjoy the Christmas cheer that this production brings.

Belinda Cratchit is played by Marie McDade
As a member of Maskers since 2010, Marie has performed many times on the outdoor stage – with roles ranging from Shakespearian Midsummer fairy to Kipling’s jungle Panther, assorted characters travelling Around the World in 80 Days, Pygmalion, Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing and most recently The Three Musketeers. Indoor shows, both at the studio and touring, have included Richard II, Our Town, Butterfly Kiss, Ten Times Table, Granny Weatherwax in Wyrd Sisters, A Bunch of Amateurs and Out of Focus, amongst others. This will be Marie’s 6th Christmas Show – as in Flint Street Nativity once again playing a small child!

Tiny Tim is played by Jez Minns
Jez has been working in the theatre as an amateur, and sometimes professional, actor for the last 35 years and he has been with the Maskers for 25 of them. He’s really happy to be in this show (for all over-acting blame the director!). Recent appearances for the Maskers include Borachio the drunkard in Much Ado About Nothing and, before Covid, the bullyboy Innkeeper in The Flint Street Nativity. When he’s not doing theatre, Jez enjoys painting and sketching and writing poetry.

Ebenezer Scrooge is played by Philip de Grouchy
A member of the Society since the early 1970s, Philip has played a large variety of parts in every kind of show, most recently playing Justice Shallow in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Since our reopening in 2021, he has also appeared as Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing, Lou in Four Weddings and an Elvis, Mark in Yards Apart and in the last Christmas Show, A Box of Delights.

Ghost of Christmas Present is played by Jill Desborough
Jill has been involved with many Maskers' shows, both open air and Studio productions, as an actor, stage manager and director since she joined 7 years ago. Christmas shows are particularly close to her heart. The first Maskers' production that she appeared in was Christmas is A-Comin' in 2014. Since then, she has appeared in Mistletoe Junction (2016) and Let it Snow (2017), has stage-managed An Edwardian Christmas Soiree (2018) and co-directed last year's A Box of Delights. Now she is delighted to be assisting Philip with Christmas with the Cratchits as well as adding a ghostly presence to the fun.

Charles Dickens is played by João Pinto
João made his debut with Maskers in October in The Merry Wives of Windsor, playing a Frenchman. Portuguese João is again demonstrating his versatility with accents in this play as he takes on the character of Charles Dickens himself. After graduating as an engineer, João arrived in the UK about 2 years ago for work and soon got involved in many different activities around Southampton, from playing live music with his guitar to pursuing his passion for writing stories and now acting.

The Carol Singers are played by "The Nightingales"
Southampton Operatic Society, founded in 1924, has produced a wide variety of shows, from grand opera, Gilbert and Sullivan to modern musicals. A group of singers from this society have formed to entertain on behalf of local and national charities. They are called SOS Entertainers and part of this group, Brigitte Lavoie, Tina Adams and Clare Minns, are The Nightingales in this production.

Accompanist is Rosa Longman
Rosa was seven years old when she first learned to play the piano. She has played with so many societies, too numerous to list here. She has appeared in a number of Maskers’ Christmas shows and we are delighted that she is able to play for us again this year.

Creative Team

Production Manager
Robert Osborne
Stage Manager
Donald Coe
Set Design
Zoe Haris & Clive Weeks
Set Painting
Zoe Harris plus Maskers
Set Construction
Clive Weeks, Peter Hill, Donald Coe, Maria McKay, Robert Osborne
Set Dressing
Angela Stansbrdige
Lighting Design
Clive Weeks
Sound Design
Jamie McCarthy
Lighting & Sound Operators
Robert Osborne, Simon Mewett, Simon White
Wardrobe & Costumes
Hazel Burrows
Maria McKay
Rehearsal Prompt
Ruth Smith
Room Decoration
Angela Stansbrdige

Ticket Information

Tickets £12

No concessions

Ticket price includes a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine or orange juice.

Please do not come to the Theatre if you feel unwell, have a temperature, have a continuous or intrusive cough, or have temporarily lost your sences of taste and smell.

On arrive at the Masker’s Studio

  • Please give your name (or the name the tickets were booked under) to our Box Office receptionist, and they will confirm your booking.
  • If you have pre-ordered a programme you will be given it on arrival. Programmes will also be available for £1 from a FOH member.
  • For the safety of all our audience members and staff are still operating some Covid risk reduction actions.  Please use the hand sanitising stations on arrival.  We will also be increasing the fresh air circulating throughout the venue.
  • Wearing of face coverings is optional.
  • Our bar will be open for purchases of hot drinks and alcoholic beverages.  We would encourage you to pre-order you interval drinks, to assist our bar staff and reduce crowding at the bar.
  • We are now able to take, and prefer, card payments but can also take cash.

During your visit

  • We ask you to keep movement around the theatre to a minimum.
  • Toilets are open for use. Please wash your hands before and after using the toilet facilities.
  • Hand sanitiser will be available for your use at various points around the theatre building.
  • We have installed an extra extractor fan to vent studio air to the outside pulling fresh air in from the other side of the building.
  • Where possible windows will also remain open.  This may make the venue cooler than you are used to, so please be prepared.
  • Enhanced cleaning will take place throughout the venue before, and after the performance.
  • The taking of photographs or videos whilst the show is on is not permitted.

Exiting the building/event at the end of the performance

  • When leaving, please do not crowd the stairwell and allow everyone to leave easily and quickly.
  • Please take any rubbish with you or leave it in the bins provided.

What if I have specific access needs?

  • The stair chair lift is available and our FOH staff will assist you should you need to use it.
  • Any other requirements may be discussed with our Box Office manager in advance of your arrival.

Book with Confidence, Exchange with Ease – COVID-19

Anyone displaying COVID-19 symptoms, or required to self-isolate, must not attend the theatre and their ticket in your booking will be exchanged or a gift voucher issued up to 24 hours prior to the performance. Tickets cannot be refunded after a performance has passed.

If the show is cancelled, will I get a full refund?

  • If we are required by any COVID-19 government guidance or restrictions to cancel a performance, tickets may be exchanged or refunded.

Poster, Flyer & Programme

For the Maskers

Technical Manager:- Jamie McCarthy;   Lighting Consultant:- Clive Weeks;   Sound Consultant:- Jamie McCarthy;   Marketing Team:- Angela Stansbridge, Clive Weeks, Robert Osborne, Meri Mackney, Paul Baker;   Front of House & Box Office Manager:- Chris Baker;   Photographer:- Clive Weeks;   Bar Manager:- Meri Mackney

click on a photo to enlarge it

Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal
Dress Rehearsal
João Pinto
The Nightingales
Bandy Smith
Jane Russell
Molly McDade
Bandy Smith & Hazel Burrows
Marie McDade
The Nightingales
Jez Minns
The Cast
The Cast
The Cast & Crew

Thank You

Your message has been sent. You should receive a confirmation email shortly. If the email does not arrive it is possible that your email address was not entered correctly, please try resubmitting your enquiry.

Shirley's own LOCAL theatre!

Maskers Theatre Company
Off Emsworth Road
SO15 3LX

Registered Charity 900067

Established 1968

 Contact Us


Our postal address is: Maskers Theatre Company, Unit 1, Off Emsworth Road, Shirley, Southampton, SO15 3LX

General Enquiries Form

Please use this contact form for contacting us about any issue. Use the drop-down list to ensure your enquiry gets directed to the correct person.

Any contact details provided will only be used in relation to your inquiry and will be deleted after conclusion.

 Support Us

 Join Us

Join our Email list
and receive updates
about our shows

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Are you a member of Maskers Theatre Company?

The Maskers Theatre Company will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing by email. Please confirm you would like to hear from us by ticking the box below:

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at We will treat your information with respect. For more information about our privacy practices please visit our website By clicking below, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.


 Update Contact Details

Other local theatre events

Some of our performance venues:
Maskers Studio Theatre
The Berry Theatre
Townhill Park House

View our Image Gallery

Access Members Site (Maskers Members only)