The Maskers' Studio Theatre

17th - 22th October 2022

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


The Reviews


19 October 2022

My theatre reviewing travels took me this evening to The Maskers Studio Theatre in Shirley, to see William Shakespeare’s Merry Wives Of Windsor.

Merry Wives is the hilarious tale of Sir John Falstaff and the antics that ensue after he attempts to woo two married, middle aged women. This is a fantastic show for any newcomers to the world of Shakespeare, but is also a firm favourite amongst us long term fans.

My star of the show this evening goes wholeheartedly to the show’s main protagonist, and villain, played masterfully by Brian Stansbridge. Brian had a fabulous command of playing dirty old man Falstaff, at times making me forget that I was in the theatre to review as I was lost momentarily in the action and excitement of the play.

Brian had a firm grasp of the text, and was so confidant and vibrant on stage, that I feel he made Shakespeare accessible and enjoyable to both first time viewers, and long time fans.

Other stand outs included Joe Hand as George Page who, even though he was playing a character much older than himself, commanded the stage with such confidence, that I totally forgot that he is in fact a man much younger than the character of Master Page.

Simon Burke played the love lorn Fenton who was on stage very little, but he sprung into action, like a love sick Labrador, and stole all of our hearts along with Anne Page’s.

Neil Maddock was a revelation as heavily Welsh Reverend Hugh Evans. His accent was so solid that he confused this Welsh woman into questioning her own heritage as his accent was stronger than my own! He was also warm, inviting and charismatic.

I also wish to commend João Pinto as French Dr Caius, who was hilarious, smile inducing and all round a hoot to behold on stage. My only advice would be not to lose some of the dialogue behind the strong French accent, as a few phrases were lost; this didn’t stop me from looking forward to his next appearance, however.

There were so many standout performances this evening, that I can’t mention each of the 17 actors by name sadly; my only advice overall would be not to rush through the text, as there was the odd tripping over of lines, however this really didn’t put me off from enjoying the play, and having a jolly good evening.

The show’s direction by Graham Buchanan must also be heavily commended as Merry Wives Of Windsor is not the easiest play to choreograph and direct. With so many characters and a whole host of actors on stage at the same time, it can easily become muddied, woolly and messy, but this evening’s production did not have that happen, and each scene felt like it had a real purpose and drive to it, with even the busier scenes feeling crisp, tight and brilliantly held together by Graham’s direction.

I must confess that Merry Wives Of Windsor is my very favourite Shakespeare play, and I am a bit of a self confessed Shakespeare nerd.

As such I have seen at least a dozen productions of this play, and this was one of the better ones.

The recipe of a great production calls for a good understanding of the text, a strong and well rehearsed cast, a vibrant and lecherous Falstaff, and a director who can really choreograph the play to a tee. The Maskers Theatre Company’s production had ALL of these things, and if you are looking for an evening of fun that is full of antics and thigh slapping humour, then this is the show for you.

- Hannah-Cait Harrison

Dedicated to the most famous wife of Windsor - Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth

Shakespeare's classic comedy of morals

When financially embarrassed fat old Knight Sir John Falstaff decamps in Windsor Town at The Garter Inn with his down and out companions, his prime concern is solvency. His intent is to locate a wife or two with wealthy husbands, woo them and win them, and so obtain access to their spouses fortune.
However, the merry wives have different ideas!
With feminine cunning coupled with impish plans they set out to avenge themselves of this affront from the fat old Knight.

At the same time, the daughter of one of these wives is being wooed by suitable and unsuitable suitors aided and abetted by the the towns gossip and self styled matchmaker.

The culmination of all these merry machinations is enacted at midnight in the haunted Windsor Park Forest!

The outcome is both bizarre and romantic whatever your point of view may be!

Director & Cast

The Director of this production is Graham Buchanan
Graham is a founder member of Maskers and has been very actively involved throughout the fifty-four years of our existence. A wonderful comic actor and director, Graham has been involved in every type of play and part, from playing Don Pedro in the first Maskers’ production of Much Ado about Nothing in 1968/1969, through directing such shows as The Taming of the Shrew, The Comedy of Errors, Lock Up Your Daughters and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, playing parts in very many shows, taking care of Maskers’ business and marketing, building and painting sets and generally being an amazing all-rounder, to playing a lovely cameo in Sharks in the Custard last year. We are delighted that Graham has stepped back into the Director’s role for this production of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Mistress Alice Ford is played by Jill Desborough
Jill has been a member of Maskers for over seven years and has been involved in many shows, both on and off the stage. In 2020, just before lockdown, she directed her first show, Quartet, at Maskers Studio and last Christmas co-directed the Christmas show, A Box of Delights, with Brian Stansbridge. This summer she assisted the director for The Three Musketeers. Jill is enjoying being back onstage.

Mistress Meg Page is played by Maria Head
Maria has been a member of Maskers for some time and has played a wide variety of roles including Goneril in King Lear at the Nuffield Theatre and most recently Mary Plunket in A Bunch of Amateurs. She has also appeared in the Maskers’ production of The Merry Wives of Windsor at Mottisfont Abbey several years ago. She is delighted to have the opportunity to repeat this role in such a great comedy.

Sir John Falstaff is played by Brian Stansbridge
A long-term member of Maskers, Brian has been involved in many shows, both as an actor and director. Recent acting credits include:Tim in The Flint Street Nativity, Miguel de Cervantes in Don Quixote, the Station Master in Mistletoe Junction and Long John Silver in Treasure Island. During his acting life, Brian has made an unintentional habit of taking over parts at short notice when other actors fall ill. He swears he didn’t poison them. Recent directing credits include A Box of Delights, Much Ado About Nothing, Mistletoe Junction, Room at the Inn, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Servant of Two Masters and The Comedy of Errors. During the Covid restrictions, Brian wrote and directed a one act play called Parklife, which we performed in parks and open spaces around Southampton. He has also written a short play about the Cratchit family which will be part of our Christmas show this year.

Frank Ford is played by Ian Wilson
Ian has been with Maskers since 2007 and has played a wide range of roles including the Fool in Wyrd Sisters and Leonard, the trainspotting pedant, in Out of Focus - no acting was required for either of these roles! Amongst other parts, he has played a lepidopterist in Butterfly Kiss, the barman in The Weir, Bolingbroke in Richard II and Samuel Parris in The Crucible. Frank Ford is only his second stab at Shakespeare with Maskers, although he did play Oberon for Southampton University Players. He has also directed a number of times: 100, Chair, Closer and Zoo Story.

George Page is played by Joe Hand
Joe has been performing in Southampton for nearly 10 years, with highlights including stints as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof with University of Southampton's Light Opera Society, playing Andre Thibault in Southampton Musical Society’s production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and co-writing and starring in Gauntlet Theatre's My Life Closed Twice. This is Joe's second show with Maskers after Four Weddings and an Elvis in February, in which he provided 50% of the Elvis and, indeed, 50% of the weddings.

Dr. Caius is played by João Pinto
After graduating as an engineer, João arrived in the UK from Portugal 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 writing stories, he has now, for the first time, joined the theatre and embarks on his first part in The Merry Wives of Windsor – playing a Frenchman!

Anne Page is played by Katherine Evans
Katherine is delighted to be appearing in another Shakespeare production with Maskers, having previously played Hero in Much Ado About Nothing last year. Other roles with Maskers include Cecily Cardew in The Importance of Being Earnest (2014), Emily in Our Town (2014) and Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (2016). In addition to acting, she is a keen singer and has performed in a wide range of local musical and operatic productions. She has also directed several shows including Mozart’s Magic Flute (Pocket Theatre, 2017).

Ruby is played by Meri Mackney
Meri has been a Masker for more years than she cares to remember as actor, director and just about every job going. When not onstage or backstage, she can be found running the Studio bar.

Abraham Slender is played by Simon White
After being inspired by watching a performance, from the lighting box at the Birmingham Hippodrome, Simon went on to operate the lighting at his school’s productions and later developed an interest in movie special effects. Having not been involved in the arts since then, Simon decided it was time to re-explore his interests and joined Maskers in May. Merry Wives is Simon’s acting debut, and he is enjoying learning the process with the friendly and helpful support of fellow Maskers.

Robert Shallow 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, including several of Shakespeare's plays; each time, for some reason, playing an older character than before! Since our reopening in 2021, he has appeared as Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing, Lou in Four Weddings and an Elvis, Mark in Yards Apart and in the Christmas Show, A Box of Delights. He will also be directing this year’s Christmas Show, Christmas with The Cratchits.

Mistress Quickly is played by Sue Dashper
During Sue’s time in Maskers, she has been involved in a variety of productions including: Out of Focus, Contractions and Metamorphosis in the Studio and Sitting Pretty and An Italian Straw Hat at the Nuffield Theatre. Sue has appeared in many open-air productions and was part of The Watch in Much Ado About Nothing. Previous outdoor performances were in Don Quixote, Around the World in Eighty Days, The Jungle Book, Anne Boleyn, Treasure Island and Twelfth Night.

Hostess is played by Dawn Gatrell
This is Dawn's first appearance with Maskers, her most recent appearance being as a member of the community cast, in the premiere of The Shadow Factory, at the Nuffield Theatre.
Prior to that, she was involved in the 'highbrow' Christmas pantos, at the now defunct Bent Brief pub.
Her pièce de resistance was playing the eponymous hero of Cyrano de Bergerac, but she is equally comfortable playing the maid, or tavern wench, and she is looking forward to managing the Garter Inn, as well as to the comedic subtleties of the Shakespearean language, in this particular production.

Hugh Evans is played by Neil Maddock
Neil is originally from Bristol but has lived in Southampton for the past 20 years and is a local Shirley resident.
Neil has toured the UK with Activate Theatre Company, working in schools throughout the country. He also spent two years working with Detour Theatre Company in NZ. Neil has performed a variety of roles including Peter (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), Jonathan Harker (Dracula), and Jesus (The Southampton Passion). He has appeared in musicals such as West Side Story and Half a Sixpence and was a member of the community cast for Shadow Factory at the Nuffield Theatre. Most recently, Neil played Stevie in the Maskers’ production of Ugly Lies the Bone. This will be his second appearance on stage with the company.
Neil runs the charity Martis Productions (formerly E-QUIP Arts) and, in this role, he has written, directed, and performed in a number of productions, from large outdoor events in Guildhall Square to one man shows in schools!
Neil is excited to be fulfilling an acting goal by being on stage in his first Shakespeare play!

Simple is played by Daniel Chopra
Daniel joined Blue Apple theatre company in Winchester in 2017 and has appeared in 13 plays with them before recently joining Maskers for the summer production of The Three Musketeers. For Blue Apple, he has appeared in The Wizard of Oz, The Tempest, The Railway Children, Much Ado about Nothing, Frankenstein, A White Christmas, Family on the Frontline, Change, Pinocchio and Macbeth. Blue Apple supports performers with learning differences to develop and present high-quality productions for the widest possible audience – performing and touring theatre, dance and film within a variety of venues around Hampshire and the southern regions. Daniel has cerebellar ataxia.

Fenton is played by Simon Burke
This is Simon's first performance with Maskers Theatre. He has appeared in a variety of performances since 2014, including Christmas Shows (The Eight Reindeer Monologues, Seven Santas and An UnXmas Story), Paid Street Performances (Mad Hatter's Tea Party & Beware of Pirates) and traditional theatre performances (Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead). Simon was also the Director of 44 Inch Chest which made its debut at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019. Most recently Simon has performed at Chichester Fringe 2022 with his company Original Case Theatre in their original performance The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.

Pistol is played by Liam Willat
This is Liam’s first production with Maskers. Previously, Liam has performed in a variety of shows, including the lead role in 44 Inch Chest performed at the Edinburgh fringe festival. He has been acting since early childhood and is now happy to perform in one of the classics of Shakespeare.

Nym is played by João Godinho
After finishing his academic goals, João decided to stay in the United Kingdom where he would find multiple opportunities within the film industry. Having the chance to experience acting on stage was a challenge different from anything he has ever done, so he decided to give it a go.

Creative Team

Production Manager
Ken Hann
Stage Manager
Angie Barks
Set Design
John Hamon
Set Painting
John Hamon
Set Construction
John Hamon, Ken Hann, Clive Weeks, Robert Osborne, Maria Mackay, Donald Coe
Lighting Design
Clive Weeks, Freya Mackay
Sound Design
Jamie McCarthy
Lighting & Sound Operator
Freya Mackay, Antony Lawther, Angie Barks
Wardrobe & Costumes
Sheana Carrington, Susan Wilson, Gill Buchanan
Alison Tebbut, Gill Buchanan
Show Photography
Ian Wilson, Clive Weeks
Admin Assistant
Meri Mackney
Marketing Assistant
Alison Buchanan

Ticket Information

Tickets £12

No concessions

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, Alison Buchanan, 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 - Philip de Grouchy, Neil Maddock, Simon White
Dress Rehearsal - Simon White, Joe Hand, Katherine Evans
Dress Rehearsal - Liam Willat, Brian Stansbridge, João Godinho
Dress Rehearsal - Liam Willat, João Godinho
Dress Rehearsal - Sue Dashper, Daniel Chopra, Meri Mackney
Dress Rehearsal - Sue Dashper, Daniel Chopra, João Pinto
Dress Rehearsal - Sue Dashper, Simon Burke
Dress Rehearsal - Maria Head, Jill Desborough
Dress Rehearsal - Ian Wilson, Dawn Gatrell
Dress Rehearsal - Ian Wilson
Dress Rehearsal - Brian Stansbridge, Liam Willat
Dress Rehearsal - Brian Stansbridge, Sue Dashper
Dress Rehearsal - Brian Stansbridge, Dawn Gatrell, Ian Wilson
Dress Rehearsal - Brian Stansbridge, Ian Wilson
Dress Rehearsal - João Pinto, Meri Mackney
Dress Rehearsal - Dawn Gatrell, João Pinto
Dress Rehearsal - Joe Hand, Philip de Grouchy, Neil Maddock, Dawn Gatrell, João Pinto, Meri Mackney
Dress Rehearsal - Maria Head, Brian Stansbridge, Jill Desborough
Dress Rehearsal - Maria Head, João Godinho, Liam Willat, Jill Desborough
Dress Rehearsal - Jill Desborough, Maria Head
Dress Rehearsal - Sue Dashper, Philip de Grouchy, Katherine Evans, Simon Burke
Dress Rehearsal - Brian Stansbridge, Dawn Gatrell, Sue Dashper
Dress Rehearsal - Maria Head, Brian Stansbridge, Jill Desborough
Dress Rehearsal - Liam Willat, João Godinho, Ian Wilson
Dress Rehearsal - Brian Stansbridge, Daniel Chopra
Dress Rehearsal - Neil Maddock, Katherine Evans, João Godinho, Liam Willat
Dress Rehearsal - Brian Stansbridge
Dress Rehearsal - Jill Desborough, Brian Stansbridge, Maria Head
Dress Rehearsal - Neil Maddock, João Godinho, Brian Stansbridge, Philip de Grouchy, Liam Willat, Katherine Evans
Dress Rehearsal - Brian Stansbridge, Ian Wilson

Thank You

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Shirley's own LOCAL theatre!

Maskers Theatre Company
Off Emsworth Road
SO15 3LX

Registered Charity 900067

Established 1968

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