In the beautiful grounds of
Townhill Park House
The Gregg School, Cutbush Lane, Southampton SO18 3RR
20 - 24 July 2021

Performances at 7:30pm nightly plus a matinée at 2:30pm Saturday 24th


This is an OPEN AIR production

Our FOH colleagues will be ensuring that Government guidelines and regulations applicable at the time of performance are followed for everyone's safety and enjoyment of the production.  These guidelines could include the wearing of facemasks and social distancing – please check and observe the latest Government guidelines.  Thank you.
Should we have to cancel a show due to a change in Government regulations we will refund your ticket price.

The Reviews


22 July 2021

I can imagine Shakespeare’s audience trudging through a wet London, transported to the warmer climes of Messina, to see a play about love. The MTC had the benefit of not needing a roof. Glorious sunshine overlooking a stage simply set to evoke the spirit of warm renaissance Italian nights on the terrace. Picnic chairs and a clink of glasses. An irresistible spirit on a hot July night.

The director, Brian Stansbridge, is right. Gender politics plays a large part why this is more ado in Much Ado. Elizabethan men saw that the role of women in society was diversifying (Beatrice) but also, where more traditionally modelled (Hero), they could not depend solely on a jolly machismo to see them through. Male interaction with women – which was being shown to be more attuned and worldwide – required an adjustment. It is that interplay that is the undercurrent. The comedy is at the heart of it.

In this production, the first half transports the audience to our salad days. Halcyon they are! The large and strong ensemble cast showed great unity and zip in bringing a spirit of silly summer evenings, where love is hanging in the breeze, mistakes and villainous deeds are brewing. The second half is always tricky, as it forces a sort of operatic melodrama in the wronged Hero narrative. From a narrative point of view, it is always something of a relief when Claudio has done his required penance, we can all forget about being wronged, and get back to the party.

From Lee Taylor pedalling on to kick off the proceedings, this was a warm and engaging cast that were to provide the audience some respite for a few hours. Beatrice (Anna Hussey) had great fluidity and comic timing, shared by Benedick (Sam Hussey). Their interpretation of the narrative was more whimsical and flirtier than the usual battle of wits; a refreshing change. Hero (Katherine Evans) and Claudio (Calum Daly) were equally imaginative in lifting the play. Katherine with a great naturalness and Calum in his ability to stay the right side of subtext. Ironically for a play about gender politics, some of the best scenes were when the men and the women were separated; my highlight – probably everyone’s - being the much-loved individual ‘deception’ of both Benedick, and then Beatrice. This included some lovely interaction with Adam Taussik and Jo Fox. Often the songs are left out and, whilst they will never win Novello awards, Chris Williams made them his own. I had a soft spot for the old guard in Philip de Grouchy (Leonato). A more watchy ‘watch’ I can’t remember but they were fun – all of them. It’s impossible to mention everyone – it’s always the case that the villains are the first to go in a review, Alec Sleigh, Jez Minns, David Jobson – oh - but the real message is that everyone played their part, everyone entertained, and it was a job well done.

I would like to make a call out to the staff behind the scenes – loved the costumes Susan Wilson, nice lighting Clive Weeks – but the biggest shout out is to the stream of parking volunteers, front of house, audience assistants. Free insect repellent in the interval? Whatever next! This was a swarm of folk giving up their time to make us feel safe, welcome, and appreciated. It’s so important, and congratulations to you all.

Safe to say you leave this production in the grounds and grandeur of the Townhill Park House knowing that summer has arrived. I am in love. Loved it.

- Darren Funnell

‘Amore! Love’s a funny thing!’

Meddlesome friends and scheming nasties intervene in a story of love and loathing in 1930’s Italy.

Shakespeare’s timeless romantic comedy.  Claudio and Hero fall head over heels in love, almost before they have spoken half a dozen words between them.  Beatrice and Benedick hate each other of old.  Left to themselves they would probably do unspeakable things to each other.

So… wouldn’t it be satisfying if we planted ugly rumours about Hero, to ruin the wedding to Claudio?  And wouldn’t it be hilarious if we tricked Beatrice and Benedick into believing that each actually loved the other?

But don’t worry!
Thanks to Constable Dogberry and his rustic Neighbourhood Watch team the baddies are put to flight and everything ends happily ever after.

Director & Cast

The Director of this production is Brian Stansbridge
A member of Maskers for much longer than he cares to remember, 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 Mistletoe Junction, Room at the Inn, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Servant of Two Masters and The Comedy of Errors. Last summer during the Covid restrictions, Brian wrote and directed a one act play called Parklife, which we performed in parks and open spaces around Southampton.

Messenger is played by Lee Taylor
Lee is currently doing extra work for a tv series. Despite always having had a passion for the creative arts, Lee hasn't performed on stage since college so he’s very excited to do so again. In his spare time, he likes to upload videos to his YouTube channel, called LeeeWithanE.

Leonato is played by Philip De Grouchy
A member of the Society since the early 1970's, Philip has played a large variety of parts in every kind of show, including several of Shakespeare's plays; each time, for some reason, an older character than before! He appeared in Much Ado about 44 years ago, as Benedick, but only when moonlighting with another group, so it doesn't count. He is much enjoying the stimulation and challenge of learning - and sometimes even remembering - lines and working with such a young and talented company.

Hero is played by Katherine Evans
Katherine is delighted to be playing a ‘role’ in reviving live theatre this summer, especially one as aptly symbolic as Hero – who undergoes something of a demise and rebirth herself! Much Ado About Nothing is Katherine’s fourth production with Maskers, having previously appeared as Cecily Cardew in The Importance of Being Earnest (2014), Emily in Our Town (2014) and Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (2016). She has also performed a wide range of roles with other local companies, including principal parts in musicals and operetta, and directed several shows. She has a degree in Classics and is currently completing further studies in English Literature.

Beatrice is played by Anna Hussey
Anna joined Maskers over 2 years ago and has been involved both on and off stage. Debuting in Wyrd Sisters as part of the ensemble in 2018, Anna has contributed backstage and started helping with marketing in 2019 before returning to the Maskers’ stage for 100 to play Nina in October 2019.
Anna has been excited to take on the role of Beatrice ever since she was originally cast at the beginning of 2020. Beatrice is one of Anna’s favourite Shakespearean characters and she really hopes that she can do her justice! The cherry on top for Anna is that she gets to play alongside her husband and have a “merry battle of wits” with him as Benedick.

Don Pedro is played by Adam Taussik
Since joining Maskers 17 years ago, Adam has played characters of many ranks, from peasants to kings (with a smattering of vicars, soldiers and bears), but this will be the first Prince (though the second Spanish Don after Don Quixote). For this show, Adam will also be keeping up the Shakespearian tone of Twelfth Night, and hopes Sir Toby's hard drinking will not haunt the groves of Messina...

Claudio is played by Calum Daly
Much Ado About Nothing will be the second Maskers’ production Calum has been in; the first production being Great Expectations, directed by Sarah Russell back in 2017.
Energetic and talkative by nature, Calum feels Maskers as a group have always felt like a large family and he jumps at the opportunity to find himself among a fun cast of people who will enjoy laughing until it hurts and then some!

Benedick is played by Sam Hussey
Sam joined Maskers for their last open-air Shakespeare production 2 years ago, playing Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night. Following that, he appeared as The Guide in the studio show 100. Before that, his experience has mostly been in musicals, with roles including Joe Casey in Our House and the Mayor in Rock of Ages, although he has dabbled in Shakespeare before as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With the last year obviously being a complete loss for live audiences, he has kept the acting muscles occupied during lockdown and had great fun appearing in online murder mysteries with Murdered4Money. Sam is very much looking forward to getting in front of an audience again in one of his all-time favourite Shakespearian roles!

Don John is played by Alec Sleigh
Alec trained at the Identity School of Acting in London. His first stage role was as the lead in yt2’s 2017 production of Birdland which enjoyed a run at the Edinburgh Fringe. This was then followed by roles with several other companies in theatre productions like Miss Julie, At The Mountains of Madness, and Hamlet. He has also appeared in multiple independent films and is currently working on a modern-day film adaptation of Prometheus Bound; portraying the titular character.
Much Ado About Nothing is his first role with Maskers. This is a play he has always wanted to be a part of and he cannot wait to get back on stage with such a wonderful company!

Borachio is played by Jez Minns
Jez Minns has been acting, mostly in amateur theatre but sometimes professionally, for the last 35 years (it seems so long when you write it down!) and he still loves everything about the theatre, even learning the lines. His most recent appearances were as Antonio, the gay sea captain in Twelfth Night and as the bully-boy Innkeeper in The Flint Street Nativity two years ago. He is very happy to be directing the one-act comedy Sharks in the Custard as part of a double bill in the Maskers’ Studio this September.

Conrade is played by David Jobson
David returns to the Maskers having appeared in Richard II, Jungle Book, Ten Times Table, An Italian Straw Hat and Around the World in Eighty Days. He has a love for Shakespeare and has had the honour of performing the bard’s plays at the Titchfield Festival Players’ Tithe Barn. Playing Cassius in Julius Caesar, Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing, Malcolm in Macbeth, Sir Thurio in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Angelo in The Comedy of Errors. He is also a trustee for Flute Theatre, a company that uses the language of Shakespeare to help autistic youngsters to communicate.

Antonio is played by Paul Baker
2019 marked the end of a run of twenty-three consecutive appearances for Paul in Maskers’ open-air productions and he hopes this year’s production is the start of another as he returns to play Antonio. Paul has appeared in a variety of parts over the years, playing pirates, demons, weasels and doctors. He is looking forward to testing his skills in projection against the aeroplanes this year.

Margaret is played by Jenni Watson
Jenni’s love of acting was ignited when she appeared as an extra in A Man for all Seasons whilst at Drama School. Over the years she has performed for Maskers, as well as many local groups, in a variety of settings. Her favourite roles include, Lady Booby (Joseph Andrews), Nancy (Sitting Pretty), Mrs Pearce (Pygmalion), the Contessa (An Italian Straw Hat), and in A Remembrance Anthology. Jenni is delighted to be able to act again (and with such a talented team) after an agonising absence of many months due to the Covid pandemic!

Ursula is played by Jo Fox
Jo has been an active Masker for 13 years and has played a variety of roles in that time, including Lady Jane Rochford in Anne Boleyn, Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest and a monkey in The Jungle Book. As well as acting, Jo is also kept busy in her role as company secretary on the Maskers’ committee. Jo is really excited to be getting back on stage after the enforced break and is having fun being part of the mischief and meddling in Much Ado!

Balthasar is played by Chris Williams
Chris joined the Maskers just before the end of the last ice age. Due to work commitments he only manages to appear in Maskers’ shows about once every decade, so he is really looking forward to this production of Much Ado About Nothing.
He last appeared for Maskers in Treasure Island at Hamptworth Lodge in 2011 and before that in Flare Path at the Plaza Theatre in Romsey in 1989. So, in fact, once a decade is an exaggeration!

Dogberry is played by Marie McDade
This will be Marie’s 5th outing on the Maskers’ outdoor stage – from Shakespearian Midsummer fairy to Kipling’s jungle Panther and assorted eccentric sea captains travelling Around the World in 80 Days. Indoor shows (remember them?) have included Richard II, Granny Weatherwax in Wyrd Sisters (based on Macbeth) and A Bunch of Amateurs (based on King Lear) – so Much Ado will also be her 5th Maskers’ Shakespeare and she is very Much looking forward to it.

Verges is played by Jo Iacovou
Joanna has played many roles since joining Maskers over seventeen years ago; Favourite roles have included Ruby Birtle in When We Are Married and Rita in Educating Rita and playing multiple parts in Around the World in 80 Days. Jo branched out into directing with Our Town at Maskers Studio Theatre for which she won Best Director of a Drama in the Curtain Call Awards 2014.

The Watch is played by Sue Dashper
During Sue's time in Maskers, she has been involved in a number of productions, including Contractions and Metamorphosis in the Studio and Sitting Pretty and An Italian Straw Hat at the Nuffield Theatre. She has been in many outdoor productions including: Don Quixote, Around the World in Eighty Days, The Jungle Book, Ann Boleyn, Treasure Island and Twelfth Night.

The Watch is played by Angela Stansbridge
Angie has been a member of Maskers since 1973 and has enjoyed playing a wide range of parts, most recently in Twelfth Night (our first show at Townhill Park House), Don Quixote, Room at the Inn, Ten Times Table, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Treasure Island and The Importance of Being Earnest. Angie is the Chair of Maskers so is always busy working with the committee on the smooth running and the creativity of the company.

The Watch/Sexton is played by Jill Desborough
Having managed to squeeze in her directing debut with Quartet just before lockdown in February 2020, Jill is thrilled to be back onstage with Maskers this summer. This will be her third outdoor show, following Jungle Book and Pygmalion, both at Hamptworth, and she is enjoying exploring the comic possibilities of a female Watch.

Fr. Fancis is played by Michele Zadra
Much Ado is Michele's first production with Maskers - and his very first Shakespeare! - previously he appeared in a long play (the hilarious farce Inspector Drake and the Time Machine), festival plays, single acts, sketch shows, mystery murders, radio drama, and even a Halloween horrorfest, for other local amdram companies. He loves the opportunity to be acting outdoors and he is very excited about becoming Friar Francis, the mastermind behind Hero's marriage with Claudio.

Creative Team

Advisor to the Director
Graham Buchanan
Production Manager
Chris Baker
Stage Manager
Robert Osborne
Deputy Stage Manager
Kathryn Salmon
Mollie McDade
Set Design
John Hamon
Set Construction & Painting
John Hamon, Graham Buchanan & Ken Hann
Lighting Designer
Clive Weeks
Lighting Operators
Oliver Trojak & David Cowley
Sound Designer
Jamie McCarthy
Sound Operators
Oliver Trojak, David Cowley & Jamie McCarthy
Costume Designer
Serena Brown
Costume Supervisor
Susan Wilson
Costume Supervisor assisted by
Sheana Carrington
Adam Taussik
Electrical Infrastructure Design
Clive Weeks
Electrical Engineering Overseer
Jamie McCarthy
FOH Manager
Meri Mackney
Car Park Manager
Brian Stansbridge
Rehearsal Prompt
Christine Baker

Ticket Information

EARLY BIRD OFFER - buy before 31st May and get £2 off Adult fixed night ticket!

Fixed night: £14* until May 31st, then £16;
Flexible night in advance: £18;
On the gate: £18 (Cash & cheques only)

(Not recommended for under 5s)
5 to 16yrs: £13 (all options)

(16+ in full time education - ID required)
£14 (all options)

10% off fixed night tickets for groups of 10 or more (not applicable for Early Bird Offer)


Patrons are welcome to picnic in the beautiful grounds of TownHill Park House (The Gregg School) from 6.00pm (1.00pm on Saturday 24 July for the Matinée).

Note – the Gertrude Jekyll garden also will be open for viewing but no picnics are allowed in that area.

You are advised to bring low-back chairs, rugs, etc., as NO SEATING IS PROVIDED.

We suggest you also bring jumpers or coats, as it can get cold even on the warmest of evenings.  Please also come prepared for our English weather, we have been known to have the occasional shower.  Usually, we continue to perform unless the weather is extremely bad.  Any decision to postpone a show or cancel a performance will not be made sooner than 30 mins prior to the published start time.  Should we have the misfortune to have to cancel a whole show then no refunds will be given but tickets for alternative performances will be offered.

The Gregg School is a private school, and the grounds are not generally open to the public.  There is no public access prior to the performance dates.  Dates of occasional open days to view the gardens at other times can be found on the Gregg School website.

Ample free parking and toilet facilities will be provided with provision for disabled patrons.   There is a short walk of approx. 100 metres to the performance area.

Hot and cold drinks and snacks will be available to buy.  There will be no alcohol for sale, but you are welcome to bring your own.

No unaccompanied children under 16.   No dogs (except guide dogs).

Poster, Flyer & Programme

For the Maskers

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

click on a photo to enlarge it

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The Cast with the Director

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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