The Maskers' Studio Theatre
28 January - 2 February 2019

Performances at 7:30pm.  


This play contains strong language. Suitable for ages 14 & over


The Reviews


29 January 2019

A rotten apple staring at you from the programme and an underscore wording “a family and a way of life struggle to survive”; there is an awareness from the beginning that the evening is not going to be one of slapstick comedy. The play is set in a fictional West Country Farm but could be the Deep South with Ernest Hemingway as its author, such are its deep rooted themes of family manipulation, each character having wasted opportunities for good relationships with each other, opting for the control aspect and all none the better for it.

Neil Gwynne’s directorial expertise shines through with a deft touch and attention for detail. From a slightly wonky picture, out of sync cup placement on hooks, branches of trees painted more like blackened fingers and apples strewn across the floor, you get a real sense of the deterioration of the farm and of the lost world the family find themselves in. No real comfort is found anywhere.

The matriarch is bereft following the shock death of her husband and, as grief encompasses her, the play follows her relationship with her close family of brother, son, daughter and childhood friend in the days following. Ros Liddiard as Irene is on top form, wonderfully changing the audience perception of this controlling harridan with her earthy shocking language, at times from victim to someone needing our pity but never actually having it, such is her domination of those around her and the total immersion of herself as being the only one who really matters. By turn sly and then winsome, bringing the attention back to herself via a quaint stumble or feigned headache or tiredness, pain (the repeated idea of leaves in her stomach) always steering the picture back to her by any means. Her performance really makes you believe she is jealous of the attention the husband’s death is getting and it is her grief, her situation alone that should be assuaged by the son, not by anyone else, that matters.

She has no time for women, the daughter and the childhood friend who had been banished 3 years ago for the sin of diverting attention from son Roy. Kate Grundy-Garcia as twin sister Brenda turns from perceived villain to sympathetic heroine in a barn-storming second act, more than matching her mother’s vitriolic words and looks: the scene where she is told that she was never wanted and asked to leave was particularly moving as were her scenes with childhood friend Linda, played with equal pathos by Sarah-Jayne Wareham. The scene revealing her own particular secret was so moving and you really believed it was “last chance”, and the real flicker of worry as she asked about “children” of Brenda showed someone who understood her character nuance very well indeed.

As did Matt Avery as Roy, again coming into his own in the second act, the author deliberately writing less for the mother in the second half as an indication of power diminishing, but really too late for all of them to either salvage anything or pursue a dream. His stance and overall prominence seemed to actually make him grow taller and wiser as the play progressed, his leaving for the better future totally eclipsed by earlier private revelation for the audience that it is all for nothing.

It wasn’t all shouting, however, with a smart and intelligent performance by Eric Petterson as Irene’s brother Len. With some astute observations concerning the onset of Autumn neatly reflecting the coming revelations, you totally believed in this character denied again by his sister any other love or focus except at her bidding. His tragedy was that, unlike Roy, he didn’t realise it and played up to this mother-figure in his life, believing that was it. His ambiguous fate hinted in earlier speeches at the end is quite heart-breaking, hating the cold yet being enveloped by it literally.

Lighting and set were exceptional, the moon appearing in the second act was quite beautiful, the atmosphere so charged you quite believed digging, burying, remnants of the night before scattered before you as further hints of the soulless past and the bleak, equally soulless future as being quite real, and the design of the studio lending itself to the claustrophobia of such wasted lives.

Thoughtful, provoking and utterly absorbing, Maskers continue to perform high powered drama to a very high standard.

- David Putley

A family and a way of life struggle to survive

The loss of English country ways?

Winner Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright.
Shortlisted for Susan Smith Blackburn Award.

Irene's husband has died suddenly and she's falling apart, just like the West Country cider orchard where they lived for 40 years. Irene is confused and agitated, but she's determined not to relax her iron grip over her middle-aged son Roy, and her simple-minded brother, Len. In this heightened atmosphere of autumnal decay, and the demise of an ancient way of life, old family wounds are re-opened. Money has run out and the banks are threatening to foreclose. Then Roy's twin sister Brenda arrives, along with his former girlfriend Linda - both of them expelled from the house years before.

Can the family heal their wounds or, like the neglected orchard, has their relationship shrivelled beyond repair?

Director & Cast

The Director of this production is Neil Gwynne
Neil's involvement with Maskers has been varied! This is his second outing as director (the first being Betrayal). He has also performed for Maskers at the Studio (Proof) and the Nuffield (The Graduate), as well as bringing two RAODS shows to the Studio (Scaramouche Jones and Briony Lavery's Frozen).
Neil has enjoyed the immense challenge of keeping this particular cast in check … immensely.

Irene (Roy and Brenda's mother) is played by Ros Liddiard
Ros has been a Masker for over 30 years, during which time she has enjoyed acting and directing for the company. Her favourite roles are Rose in Rose; Beatrice in A Servant of Two Masters; Angellica Bianca in The Rover at Mottisfont Abbey; Dotty Otley in Noises Off, Esmé in Amy’s View (awarded Best Actress/Curtain Call) and Marina Timaféevna in Uncle Vanya at The Nuffield. Ros has two directing credits for The Maskers, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, again at The Nuffield Theatre and Humble Boy in The Studio (nominated Best Drama/Curtain Call). Ros also acts and directs for The Chesil Theatre, Winchester.

Len (Irene's brother) is played by Eric Petterson.
Eric joined Maskers in 2012. He enjoyed picking up young ladies in Chekhov's The Yalta Game, was Joe Gargery, Wemmick and Drummel, sometimes in the correct costume, in Great Expectations, and a particularly bolshie guard in Antigone. He was considered weird enough for Wyrd Sisters. He has just appeared in his sixth Christmas show and has enjoyed them all.

Roy (Irene's son) is played by Matt Avery
Although frequently succoured by cider, this is Matt’s first experience of being comforted with apples. He has enjoyed a variety of roles with Maskers (unquestionably the most challenging of which was that of Chairman!) and is hoping that playing Roy counts towards his five a day.

Brenda (Roy's twin sister) is played by Kate Grundy-Garcia
Kate has played many relatives over the years with the Maskers including a neurotic daughter in An Italian Straw Hat, the long-suffering sister of the tragic Antigone and a hen-pecking wife in Don Quixote. She is now paying the prodigal twin in this latest play, where she is certainly not comforted by apples.

Linda is played by Sarah-Jayne Wareham
Sarah-Jayne loves acting and directing with Maskers. Her fave roles so far include Mrs Robinson in The Graduate, numerous characters and furniture moving in Great Expectations, and most recently as the lead in Antigone, Magrat in Wyrd Sisters and Maisy the maid in the Christmas show. She’s looking forward to getting her teeth into ‘apples’!

Creative Team

Production Manager
Neil Gwynne
Stage Manager
Kathrina Gwynne
Set Designer
Peter Liddiard
Set Construction
Set Painting
Hazel Burrows
Set Dressing
Neil & Kathrina Gwynne
Lighting Designer
David Cowley
Lighting Operator
Kathrina Gwynne
Sound Designer
Sound Operator
Kathrina Gwynne
Stage Crew
Neil Gwynne
Costume Design & Wardrobe
Cast & tba
Properties & Furniture
Mille Webb
Rehearsal Prompt
Val Struthers

Ticket Information

Tickets £11

No concessions

Poster, Flyer & Programme

For the Maskers

Technical Manager:- Jamie McCarthy;   Lighting Consultant:- Clive Weeks;   Sound Consultant:- Jamie McCarthy;   Marketing Director:- Vacancy;   Marketing Team:- Angela Stansbridge, Kate McCraken, Clive Weeks, Robert Osborne, Meri Mackney, Paul Baker;   Front of House Manager:- Chris Baker;   Box Office & FOH Manager:- Chris Baker;   Photography:- Clive Weeks, Stuart Gray, & Ian Wilson;   Bar Manager:- Meri Mackney
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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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