Maskers Studio Theatre
20 - 24 October 2015

At 7:30pm.

Silly Cow is as bold and brassy as its leading lady, Doris Wallis, who takes pleasure in trouncing the careers of many of the nation’s actors through her newspaper gossip column. With a cast of misfit characters filling Doris’ hectic schedule, the tables soon turn and events start to spiral out of her control. Step back with us to a time of Sunday paper scandals, toy-boys, and Terry Wogan… a time when a portable fax machine was the height of sophistication. Written and set in the late 1980s, expect loud decor, big hair and even bigger egos as Ben Elton’s black comedy brings laughter, witty writing and a happy sprinkling of farce to this stage of actors.


The Reviews


21st Oct 2015

I went to this play totally in the dark as to its content and have to admit that I was duped – and not in a negative way. The direction of the piece and the combined energy of the ensemble cast led me down a path I had not envisaged: ‘spoilers’ I will not reveal except to say that I did not expect the second half to be what it turned out to be.

None of the characters is likable: I doubt I would want a ‘come dine with me’ experience with any of them, which made the performances all the more engaging as each revealed a grotesqueness about them as the evening progressed. Much of Ben Elton's work is in this vein and I do find his humour coarse and unnatural, but these traits worked well for this parody of ’90s critique.

Central was the performance of Sarah Spencer-Stonehill, who barely left the stage. How she remembered all those lines is a testament to her concentration and focus. (She was not at all distracted by that irritating mobile phone going off that seems to pervade live theatre these days.) I loathed the character, which is the success in the portrayal. The other five characters (enthusiastically played by Izzy Weaver, Paul Baker, Ian Wilson and Christopher Gardener), circling around her, were totally convincing, enveloping a well-dressed set. This contained, amongst other items on display, a recently sourced antique (by today’s standards) fax machine, such was the attention to detail of newbie full play director James Norton. Costume was also well thought out, even down to Eduardo's shocking pink socks.

James can be proud of his work: the intimacy of the setting via the layout of the rugs and furniture gave you the impression you were actually inhabiting the living room as the story played out before you. Yes, the language is a bit ripe but not too offensive, which is mainly down to delivery and the caustic nature of the character involved and to its time.

The denoument was very well played out, each character relishing their moment and all deserving their ‘bravo’.

- David Putley

Southern Daily Echo

22nd Oct 2015

It’s slightly disconcerting to review a show about a caustic, over-the-hill tabloid hack, who has made her name making disparaging remarks about actors, bruising egos and ending careers!

Said hack, Doris (Sarah Spencer-Stonehill) is marvellous as the razor-tongued journalist. Her off-the-cuff delivery of her corrosive views and general sociopathic tendencies add the substance to the first half. It helps that the script is also good, but only in the safe hands of the cast. I won’t spoil the second half; suffice to say that the four supporting actors, Peggy (Izzy Weaver), Sidney (Paul Baker), Douglas (Ian Wilson) and Eduardo (Christopher Gardener) all brought unique characterisations that greatly enhanced the hilarity. To have such good rapport and strong delivery must surely be in part down to the direction (James Norton).

I do a good impression of a dour Yorkshire woman – on a good night you may see a twinkle in my eye, but tonight I guffawed!

- Rebecca Case

Audience Comments

"Really enjoyed the opening night of "Silly Cow' tonight great fun & lots of laughs! Congratulations to James Norton's cast & crew - Ben Elton's sister was in my class at school - if I ever see her again I'll tell her what a great job you all did!" - J.E.

"Congratulations to James Norton, cast and crew of Maskers on the superb and thoroughly enjoyable production of Ben Elton's Silly Cow!" - C.H.

"Absolutely fantastic production of Silly Cow by Maskers tonight, I haven't lol'd that much in ages. For those who have been lucky enough to get tickets, you're in for a treat!! Well done to everyone involved." - J.W.

"Brilliant evening last night at The Maskers studio to watch 'Silly Cow' directed by James Norton. Haven't laughed so much for ages, congratulations to James, cast and crew. If you haven't booked to watch it you have missed a treat. Thank you for a wonderfully entertaining evening." - L.H.

"Twas brilliant. Thanks for sooo many laughs in one night." - J.C.

"It's a great show!" - S.L.

 Read between the lines... 

The Author

Ben Elton carved out a name for himself in the 1980s as one of television’s funniest writers, with credits including The Young Ones and the Blackadder franchise, plus winning four Bafta awards along the way. He has collaborated with musical royalty including Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen for the hit musical We Will Rock You, and Andrew Lloyd Webber for the sequel to Phantom: Love Never Dies. Elton wrote and produced the 1990s police comedy The Thin Blue Line starring Rowan Atkinson, gaining more awards along the way. Having written 14 novels to date, Silly Cow is the second of only three West End plays penned by Elton and was critically acclaimed during its original run in the early 1990s. It’s a fantastic comedy that showcases Elton’s infamous talent for tongue-in-cheek satire and lampoons the world of the 1980s tabloid perfectly.

Director & Cast

The Director

James Norton
James joined Maskers in 2007 for the outdoor production of Pride and Prejudice, and went on to take a leading role in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors in 2008. Since joining he has also played a WWI soldier in Accrington Pals, a fumbling Mississippi lawyer in Crimes of the Heart, the legendary Spitfire designer R.J. Mitchell, and the gay lover of King James I, among others. This is James’s second outing as director, having brought two one-act plays to the Maskers Studio Theatre in 2012, Monkey’s Paw and Look at Me. Silly Cow is raucous, rude, and a tiny bit ridiculous… the polar opposite of the dark and spooky plays he directed before.

The Cast (In order of appearance)

Doris played by Sarah Spencer-Stonehill
Sarah has been a Masker since the late 1980s, starting as some kind of dancing maiden in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Since then, she has played innumerable tarts, nutters, unhinged bitches, psycho hose-beasts and flakey weirdos. She only ever auditions for parts she really really wants to play, even if that means she disappears from the Maskers scene for years at a time, only to reappear in a clatter of stilettos and expletives when you least expect it. She is enjoying working with new and old friends on Silly Cow.

Peggy played by Izzy Weaver
This is Izzy’s debut with Maskers but she has been acting all her life. Appearing in a few youth theatre productions with RAODS and acting all throughout school and college, she is very excited to be getting into the swing of things on a gap year, before taking her studies in Acting further. She is thrilled to have been cast with such a brilliant role for her first production with Maskers and is looking forward to more to come.

Sidney played by Paul Baker
Paul joined Maskers in 1996 and has been in every production in the open air since. However, this will be his first show indoors since 2012 when he played Eldermouse in Can You Hear the Music? Other roles include Thomas Cromwell in Anne Boleyn and Weasel Norman in Wind In The Willows.

Douglas played by Ian Wilson
Ian has been with Maskers since 2007 and has played a range of roles including a lepidopterist in Butterfly Kiss, a barman in The Weir, Parris in The Crucible and finally royalty playing Bolingbroke in Richard II. He has also directed for the company and has had a spell as Productions Director. He is looking forward now to being an accountant and hopefully not a boring one….

Eduardo - Cocky toyboy of Doris' played by Christopher Gardener
Chris has enjoyed imitation and impersonation ever since childhood. He joined the Gantry Youth Theatre in Southampton, performing in several comedic sketch shows with his peers and a number of youth pantomimes, all of which found to be highly enjoyable and stimulating. Silly Cow will be Chris's second outing for Maskers after last year's role as George Gibbs in Our Town, for which he was nominated for a Curtain Call Award.

Creative Team

Production Manager
Chris Baker
Stage Manager
Tom Foyle
Set Design
Pete Burrows and Graham Buchanan
Lighting Design
Clive Weeks
Lighting Operator
David Jobson
Sound Design
Stuart Gray & Jamie McCarthy
Sound Operator
Stuart Gray
Stage Crew
Tom Foyle and Adam Taussik
Adam Taussik
Sheana & Emma Carrington
Set Building
Graham Buchanan, Ken Hann, John Hamon and James Norton

Ticket Information

Tickets £8.00

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; Front of House Manager:- Chris Baker; Front of House Display:- Leah Barlow; Box Office Manager:- Chris Baker; Photography:- Clive Weeks; Bar Manager:- Jan Spiers
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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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