The Tour

9 - 11 April : Maskers' Studio Theatre
17 April : The Wallops Village Hall
18 April : Broughton Village Hall
24 April : Winchester Discovery Centre
25 April : Studio Theatre, Salisbury
1 May : Landford Village Hall
2 May : Hanger Farm Arts Centre, Totton
8 May : Berry Theatre, Hedge End
9 May : Northney Village Hall, Hayling Island

RSC - Open Stages

In May 2013 the Maskers were invited to submit a production proposal to the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of their “Open Stages Project 2013-2016.” We had already been part of the “Open Stages 2010 – 2012” performing two plays, “Humble Boy” and “A Midsummer Night’s dream.” This time they wanted to narrow down the number of participating groups to about a hundred so that they could work with them more intensely. I offered to direct a touring workshop version of Richard II. In August 2013 we heard that we had been selected, one of only eighty-six companies out of two hundred submissions from across the entire British Isles. Since September 2013, when all the directors of the eighty-six companies were invited to Stratford for two days of workshops, we have been involved in a two day event at our Hub Theatre, The Nuffield in Southampton, and a series of day workshops every couple of months. Those training sessions have covered Voice, Movement, Directing, Editing and Fight Direction presented by specialists from the RSC and our own link director, Robin Belfield.

The Reviews

Southern Daily Echo

Monday 13 April 2015

Although Richard ruled England for 22 years, Shakespeare’s play focuses on the events of the last two years of his reign, and Ken Hann’s accessible touring production told the story with clarity and pace, against a backdrop of ladders and flags, the intimacy of the Studio Theatre emphasising the tensions, betrayals and murders involved in the king’s abdication and his cousin Bolingbroke’s accession to the throne as Henry 1V.

As the eponymous king, William Baggs handled the demanding role with all the petulance, prevarication, and precociousness expected of a king believing in his God-given right to rule, with equally strong performances from Ian Wilson’s usurping Bolingbroke, Eric Petterson’s dignified John of Gaunt, and John Souter’s loyal Duke of York.

Among a slick company playing a variety of roles, Stephen Ward’s banished Mobray, Peter Ward’s turncoat Aumerle, and Marie McDade’s bereaved Duchess of Gloucester also stood out.

- Ed Howson

Audience Comments

" was excellent - the actor who played Richard, in particular, was outstanding." - An audience member

"We do hope you come back again, that was excellent!" - Tour venue host

"A powerful piece. Great to have the Maskers 'come-to-us' as it were." - C.W.

It's a tale of dark shadows, ulterior motives, betrayal, greed, suspicion, incompetence, private armies, murder....

The Story

Shakespeare’s beautifully written play, RICHARD II, brings into sharp focus the last two years of a turbulent a twenty two year reign which swung violently between the people’s adulation for God’s anointed ruler and their fear of a vicious, spiteful despot.
In 1397, when the play begins, after being continually frustrated and humiliated by his powerful uncles and magnates who want to curb his power, he takes his revenge. He has his uncle, Gloucester, murdered, banishes his cousin Bolingbroke and steals the lands of John of Gaunt, his uncle and Bolingbroke’s father, when he dies. These fateful decisions bring about the tragedy that is RICHARD II. We watch an increasingly desperate, deluded and frightened monarch literally fighting for his kingdom and his life.
Our touring production brings all the pain and drama of both a ruler and a country trying to reconcile power and governance with the right of the people to be heard and considered. This tale has many parallels with what we see today in news from around the world. It is an emotionally powerful story very much for the twenty-first century.

The Play

King Richard II was the first play of the Shakespeare’s History Cycle spanning the end of the Plantagenent Dynasty through the Wars of the Roses, culminating in the coming to power of the Tudors with Henry VI in the play, King Richard III. The whole cycle spans a period of eighty-eight years from 1397 – 1485.
Richard II deals with a period of just over two years from 1397 until his death in 1399. It was written in 1595, four hundred and twenty years ago. It is unusual in that it is written entirely in verse. Even the rustics such as the Gardener speak in verse. It contains some of the most beautiful and moving speeches ever written by Shakespeare. The play was very popular with Elizabethan audiences. They could see parallels with their own Queen; no direct succession and rumours of plots to depose her. Indeed Elizabeth is quoted as saying “I am Richard II, know ye not that?”
In 1601 The Earl of Essex’s followers asked Shakespeare to perform the play to an invited audience for the sum of forty shillings. Afterwards the Essex men marched on the palace hoping to gain support on the way. It did not come, they were arrested and “The Essex Rebellion” failed. Shakespeare was lucky not to be imprisoned and executed. It seems that the Court accepted the plea that the players only did it for the money and apparently left out the deposition scene so as not to upset Her Majesty. Essex was not so lucky. He was sentenced to be hung drawn and quartered. He is supposed to have joked that as he had served the queen in the four corners of her kingdom it was only fitting that his body should be sent to the four quarters of London.


The BBC South Today Report piece was transmitted on 9th April 2015

Director & Cast

The Director

Ken Hann
I joined The Maskers in 1969 wanting to act. My first role was a character named Vermin, which says it all really. Over the years I gathered a fair number of vicars, stiff upper-lip Englishmen, and Regency fops to my repertoire. This will be my eighth attempt at direction since 2003 including Chekhov, Vanbrugh, Russell, Fielding, and four Shakespeares. I hope to get it right soon.

The Cast

King Richard II played by William Baggs
This is the second time William has played a monarch in a Maskers production - in 2013 he played James I in Anne Boleyn. Before that he squeaked his way around the stage as Pricklemouse in Can You Hear The Music; pranced around as Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and was suitably mischievous as Algernon in The Importance of Being Ernest. But Richard II offers the greatest challenge yet, and he's looking forward to the demands of returning to the throne while touring the South of England.

The Queen Isabelle played by Lydia Longman
Lydia is accustomed to working with her company, Shakespeare in a Week, and so is looking forward to having more time to get to know her character in depth! Having just come off the Nuffield Theatre in her Maskers debut as Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights, she's also looking forward to a role that doesn't regularly prompt people to sing Kate Bush at her. She's excited to be royalty and excited to tour a show - both new but welcome challenges.

Henry Bolingbroke played by Ian Wilson
Ian has been with Maskers since 2007 and has played a range of roles from the owner of a strip club in The Graduate, to a lepidopterist in Butterfly Kiss, Brendan the Barman in The Weir, and Parris in The Crucible. He has also directed for the company and had a spell as Productions Manager. This is the first Shakespeare Ian has appeared in since college and he is very much looking forward to becoming king.

John of Gaunt & Gardener played by Eric Petterson
Eric started a late acting career with the Maskers in A Christmas Charivari in 2012. His straight acting roles included the guard in Forward to the Right and Jack in The Weir. He also played James in The 13th Floor and a manic mass murderer in the latest Christmas offering. In 2014, he acted in two plays at the Chesil Theatre, and is really pleased to be back at Maskers and touring in Richard II.

Duke of York played by John Souter
John has many years' experience with Maskers, including major Shakespearean roles at the Nuffield Theatre and in outdoor productions. In the 2007 Curtain Call awards, he was voted best actor in a Shakespearean play as King Lear; this was also under the direction of Ken Hann, so John knows how Ken works and is looking forward to an intensive period of rehearsals and an exciting run of this touring production.

Duchess of York played by Hazel Burrows
Hazel has been a Masker since the 70s and has enjoyed taking part in many of the rich variety of productions: Mai in Our Lady of Sligo, Hannah in Little Women, Piggy in the Owl and the Pussycat, and last summer Lady Bracknell in the Importance of Being Earnest to mention a few. A year ago, Hazel directed the successful comedy Sitting Pretty at the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton. Hazel looks forward to sharing this challenging play and taking a break away from her studio as a commercial artist.

Duke of Aumerle & Lord Ross played by Peter Ward
Peter, or Peewee as he is generally known, is a recent engineering graduate, originally from North East England. Quite how he ended up going into theatre, therefore, is a mystery to many people, including himself. Perhaps he got a bit overzealous when watching an Alan Bennett play. Whatever the reason, Peewee is now a regular performer with several companies in the local area with aspirations to go professional in the near future.

Duchess of Gloucester & Scroop played by Marie McDade
Marie’s first ever production with Maskers was touring with Mitchell’s Wings and she is looking forward to going on the road again. Apart from playing a mad fairy/clown in the Maskers' A Midsummer Night’s Dream, her previous Shakespearian outings have been in two very different productions of The Tempest – the first one, a long time ago now, touring to schools and village halls in Devon, so she is used to working with minimal sets!

Thomas Mowbray & Exton played by Stephen Ward
This is Stephen's first production with Maskers. He has had previous roles with other companies in Macbeth, The Crucible and The Dumb Waiter. His interests include running, eating, sleeping, talking and people. Stephen lives by the motto of "What happens on tour, stays on tour!"

The Earl of Northumberland played by Adam Taussik
Since Adam was the King of England a couple of years ago, he was demoted to the lower classes for a while, but hard work and dedication (and fortunate casting) has brought him back to the nobility. When not in ermine, he has another life in Student Services at the University of Southampton.

Bagot & Captain played by Adam Warren
Adam has been looking forward to taking part in another Shakespeare play since his first appearance on stage in 2004 as a servant moving the buck-basket containing Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor with SUP at the Nuffield. A couple of years ago he played Sir Robert Cecil in the Maskers production of Anne Boleyn at Hamptworth, and thought that had many Shakespearean qualities – but it is great to be involved in the real thing again!

Bushy & Lady played by Jill Desborough
Jill's first acting role for decades was as a rather dim-witted house-keeper in the 2014 Maskers Christmas Show. She enjoyed the experience enormously. Having taught Shakespeare to teenagers in the classroom for many years, she is looking forward to the challenge of working as a group to bring his words to life on the stage.

Greene & Marshall played by David Jobson
This is David’s first acting role at the Maskers, having only previously played a lurker for Anne Boleyn. He has performed in many productions during his time at Winchester University, particularly as General McKenzie in And Then There Were None, and Porthos in The Three Musketeers. He is a devoted fan of Shakespeare, having seen most of the plays at the RSC since 2006. He is thrilled to be in this production of one of his most poignant plays.

Live Music played by The Melting Pot Theatre Band (Jane Warren & Mark Littleton-Gray)
The band was originally formed to provide incidental music for a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor by the Southampton University Players in January 2005. It has had several other incarnations since then, with Southampton University Players in Lark Rise to Candleford in January 2006 and Molière’s Tartuffe in February 2007, and as the show band for the Gantry Youth Theatre’s rock pantomime Cinderella Rocks in January 2007. In 2013 Anne Boleyn was its first collaboration with the Maskers, returning, as it were, to its Tudor roots. This was followed by a contribution to the annual Christmas show the same year.
Jane Warren (vocals, recorders) has been playing and singing mostly early music around Southampton since the early eighties. She was a founder member of the Frescobaldi Consort, Quattrio and the Melting Pot Theatre Band and currently sings with Southampton Choral Society. Mark Littleton-Gray (percussion) came to the Melting Pot Theatre Band via prog, punk, avant garde and finally folk. He has previously participated in the Lark Rise and Cinderella Rocks incarnations of the Melting Pot Theatre Band.

Creative Team

Production Manager
Graham Buchannan
Tour Manager
Chris Baker
Stage Manager
Angie Barks
Set Design
John Hamon
Lighting Design
Clive Weeks
Lighting Operator
Angie Barks
Stage Crew
The Cast
John Hamon
John Hamon & cast
Set Building
Roger Lockett, Ken Hann, Graham Buchanan & Geoff Cook

Poster, Flyer & Programme

For the Maskers

Technical Manager:- Jamie McCarthy; Marketing Director:- Sarah Russell; Marketing Team:- Angela Stansbridge, Ruth Kibble, Leah Barlow, James Norton, Clive Weeks, Greg Parr; Front of House Manager:- Chris Baker; Front of House Display:- Hannah Swieton, Leah Barlow; Box Office Manager:- Chris Baker; Photography:- Clive Weeks; Bar Manager:- Jan Spiers
Image Gallery
Click on the images to display them in full size.

Ken Hann and Ian Wilson discuss the script in rehearsal


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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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