The Maskers' Studio Theatre
22 - 30 October 2021

Friday performances at 8pm, other nights at 7:30pm.
No performance Monday 25th


This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Limited.


The Reviews


22 October 2021

An unfortunate overbooking of the village hall results in mayhem. Rather than their expected Brownies meeting, badminton matches (or is it table tennis?!) or fascinating slide presentation, the locals arrive to find themselves caught up with the upcoming pantomime.

With each having their moments to shine individually, the Maskers cast gel together splendidly in a way that the characters do not!

The ensuing chaos and confusion are down to Evonne, the Vicar’s nervous and disorganised wife, who is responsible for the village hall bookings and directing her first-ever pantomime. Sue Dashper portrays her panicky alter ego with first rate timing, physicality and focus.

Ian Wilson is outstanding as Leonard, totally immersed in his character and absolutely believable as the eccentric with the slide show for every subject, one minute boring and infuriating the group, the next endearing them with his peculiarities, even gaining their sympathy when he is disappointed by their indifference to his slide shows.

Johnny Carrington (Bob) and Marie McDade (Cath) brilliantly capture the ‘seven year itch’ with candour as the bickering married couple, especially when Linda (Bob’s secretary and Cath’s nemesis) arrives to join the badminton match! Emma Kirkpatrick (Linda) and Lee Taylor (Wayne) may be new to Maskers, but they have a promising future with them if this production is anything to go by!

Chris Baker dominates as the pompous and officious Brownie leader, Helen, with a very subtle shift into a slightly softened character when David first catches her eye. Poor David, only there as a visiting badminton player, uses all his police experience and diplomatic efforts to rein her in, even though he only has eyes for Sue. Chris Williams (David) and Angela Stansbridge (Sue) are charismatic, confident and charming in their roles, skilfully portraying their personalities with finesse.

This is a thoroughly entertaining production from Maskers under Hazel Burrows’ fine direction. There are no weak links in the performances, and the pace and comic timing are excellent overall (bar a couple of first night minor hesitations, which I’m sure will disappear as the run continues). Every action is driven with intent and purpose in a very natural manner, impressively delivered alongside the dialogue. There is largely a great attention to detail in the props and set dressing, from additions to the village notice boards, the kitchen area and Leonard’s in-depth notebook.

There may be moments in the script that haven’t dated particularly well, but the comic performances lift the production for a very enjoyable evening back in the Maskers Studio.

- Anne Waggott

Winchester Today

I love this job. I get to see top class shows at an amazing range of venues of different shapes and sizes. And this week the two venues (in two consecutive days and just one mile apart) have a surprising amount in common. That is, if you forget that one is a 2,400-seater and the other is a bijou black painted studio that squeezes in just 40.

Both shows feature disastrous fundraising shows that end up by losing money rather than raising it, both have similar size casts, both are brilliantly presented, acted and directed and both are side-splittingly funny.

For my second theatre trip this week, I was privileged to be invited back to an old haunt of mine, a cosy fully working studio theatre in the heart of Shirley, home to the renowned Maskers Theatre Co. to see a comedy by an old favourite of mine, Peter Gordon.

The comedy was a landmark in his professional playwrighting career. Peter says “Out of Focus was actually my ‘break through’ play in that it was the first one accepted for publication, so that tells you how old it is! First published in 1990 but an updated revised edition was published in 2009”.

I am presuming that the Maskers’ current production is the revised version including as it does references to modern tech like mobile phones (one of which somehow gets flushed down the vicarage toilet), flash drives and laptops. However I can see how it might have worked in the 1990s with old school equivalents, and the enduring comedy and storyline is, I’m sure, largely untouched.

Whilst the title gives nothing away, the subtitle does what it says on the tin: ‘A quiet village hall rehearsal turns into chaos’. But before that chaos starts there is the little matter of the phenomenon well known to those who regularly use village halls – the Double Booking. In this case that’s a quadruple booking.

The vicar’s dutiful, well-meaning but rather inept wife Evonne, played emotionally by Sue Dashper, has managed to allow four different events to occur at the same time: a badminton match, an unruly bunch of Brownies led by the formidable Helen-‘I’m a Miss’-Beever (a wonderfully scary Chris Baker takes this role on), a talk on locomotives by a cycling nerd who has another 70-odd VERY interesting talks tucked away in his Sainsbury’s carrier bag, and finally Evonne’s very own attempt at rehearsing her version of Cinderella. More of those last two later.

Like a lot of Peter Gordon’s plays, they start off a little slowly with an empty stage, building the pace and characters until the end of each scene is invariably chaotic. It’s gentle, very British, humour and nearly always involves a disparate bunch of oddball characters thrown into a sticky situation together to see what will happen.

There is the bickering couple Bob and Cath whose marriage is held together by a thread that is threatening to unravel the whole thing as the jealous Cath, haughtily portrayed by Marie McDade, accuses her husband (played with suitable exasperation and facial expressions by Johnny Carrington) of having the hots for Luscious Linda, played in short skirts and with a shedload of flirting by the talented Emma Kirkpatrick, who is new to Maskers but obviously is going to be a great asset to the group.

Add to the mix a young man called Wayne (another newcomer Lee Taylor has nailed this intriguing character) who pretends to be a macho ladies’ man but actually finds it difficult to make friends or do anything meaningful because he’s basically as thick as two short planks.

In marches super-efficient, mature but believable police officer David, played by veteran Masker Chris Williams, to add his police team of badminton (or table tennis?) players to the mêlée and you’re nearly there. Bob worries that David is there to finger him for a minor offence but luckily David, from the off, is busy taking a keen interest in Sue Dixon, the attractive single lady who ends up playing the male lead in the ensuing panto. The role of Sue is in the safe and experienced hands of Angela Stansbridge and she has made the part her own.

Confused yet? I’ve already mentioned the final piece to create chaos and he is by far my favourite character – the pedantic Leonard Trotter, played to perfection by Ian Wilson. This character, rather reminiscent of another of Peter Gordon’s Neville who pops up in a couple of his other plays, holds his specs together with Sellotape and always carries with him his ‘interesting’ talks on all sorts of dull subjects like earthworms and steam locomotives. He lives in his own little ordered world ruled by the belief that he is a sought-after presenter of said interesting talks. The sad thing that he can’t work out the reason for is that he’s never booked to come back to do another…

And all this is before the fun really starts as the compromise over the quadruple booking culminates in them all taking part in Evonne’s fated production of Cinderella. Of that I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoiling the fun. Suffice to say that despite everything, all’s well that ends well and the relationships between them all wax and wane as misunderstandings and mayhem combine to hilarious effect.

Occasionally the pace is a little hesitant, with the odd disjointed sound effect, but the overall production is wonderful. Attention to detail is perfect, down to the ‘extracts from church newsletter no. 73’ as part of the printed programme. Costumes are spot on, especially for the panto scenes, the lighting and set is all just as it should be and the venue, despite rather cramped knee room for those long in the leg like me, is perfect for this play. For a very small venue, the acting area is actually quite large and enables separate conversations, essential to the show, to be carried out in different areas of the stage.

Bravo, Maskers, for bringing theatre back to Shirley, with such a fun, warm and endearing play to cheer everyone up after such a long absence of live performances. Director Hazel Burrows, tells me “As soon as I read Out of Focus, I knew this was just the play people would want to see. One rehearsal night we were told we were making too much noise laughing from those in the room upstairs rehearsing another play”, and concludes “It was joyous this week to sit in the Maskers Theatre with people who were brave enough to come out, they were certainly rewarded with two hours of silliness, just what we needed with winter waiting in the wings”. And I don’t disagree with that. 

- David Cradduck

Audience Comments

"Great show – laughed so much" - B.E.S.

"Fun show – didn’t know what to expect but loved the little studio" - K.C.

"Really enjoyed it. Well acted" - Anon

"It’s was a wonderful show. very well written and performed. Well done to all!" - C.J.

"Very enjoyable evening with plenty of laughs. Thanks everyone!" - Friend of C.J.

"Seeing people wearing their masks made me feel safer. It was a Super show!!" - M.B.

"It was the best comedy we’ve seen Maskers do!" - R.R.

"Really enjoyed your SUPER show last night – it was hilarious. Well done to you all" - D.N.

"LOL – just the tonic!!" - S.C.

"The show was so brilliant and so funny. Well done to the whole cast" - H.S.

"Lovely evening, thank you and very well done." - D.C.

"Adorable funny play, congratulations on another success, and you and your casst deserve it, you have all worked so hard." - J.S.

"... we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of OUT OF FOCUS. Our friend said (...) 'THAT WAS JUST WHAT I NEEDED. A LITTLE SILLINESS.' That's what we all needed. It was great fun. Thank you very much." - T.S.

A quite Village Hall Rehearsal turns into chaos!

An overbooked village hall leads to hilarious confusions!

As the locals arrive for their various activities, they suddenly find themselves involved in Evonne’s, the Vicar’s wife, first ever pantomime. There is bossy Brownie Leader Helen trying to get her claws into delicious David. Sexy secretary Linda is threatening to derail Bob and Kath’s marriage. Wayne is more concerned with finding a phone signal than remembering his cues and will anyone ever actually want to listen to one of Leonard’s illustrated slide shows on steam trains, spiders or Genghis Khan? Before long it’s a chaotic mix of painted sandwiches, broken wands, and an embarrassing incident in the Tesco wine aisle.

“How will they sort this mess out?!”

Director & Cast

The Director of this production is Hazel Burrows
Hazel has been a member of Maskers since 1977, taking on some lead roles in The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Our Lady of Sligo, Pygmalion, The Importance of Being Earnest and, most recently, Quartet, a most enjoyable play, just before Covid forced us to shut down.
Hazel directed several productions in a row at the Nuffield Theatre, including An Italian Straw Hat, Ten Times Table and Sitting Pretty; all light-hearted pieces. The writer of Sitting Pretty, Amy Rosenthal, daughter of Maureen Lipman, came to see it. She said it was better than her mother’s production, also at the Nuffield before it was taken to New York.
Hazel’s last production at the Studio was A Bunch of Amateurs, which sold out and played to rave reviews.

Helen Beever is played by Chris Baker
Chris Baker is a long-standing member of the company, having been involved with many productions both on and off stage; she is currently the treasurer and can usually be found running the box office. Chris is pleased to be appearing in this production.

Sue Dixon 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 as a member of the Watch in Much Ado about Nothing. Other highlights have been: Twelfth Night, Don Quixote, Ten Times Table, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Treasure Island and various Christmas shows. Angie is enjoying the challenge of playing Sue who has her hands full trying to keep everyone happy in this riotous comedy. Angie is currently Chair of Maskers so is also busy working with the committee on the smooth running and creativity of The Maskers.

Evonne Duckworth is played by Sue Dashper
During Sue’s time in Maskers, she has been involved in many productions including: Contractions and Metamophosis in the Studio and Sitting Pretty and An Italian Straw Hat at the Nuffield theatre. Sue particularly enjoys the open-air productions and was last seen as 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.

Kath Enfield is played by Marie McDade
Marie has been a Masker since 2011 and has appeared in a wide range of productions at the Studio, the Nuffield Theatre and outdoors. Her last role was as Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing at Townhill Park House this summer. Marie has played many parts from Shakespearian Midsummer fairy to Kipling’s jungle Panther and assorted eccentric sea captains travelling Around the World in 80 Days, The Angel Gabriel in The Flint Street Nativity, Granny Weatherwax in Wyrd Sisters and Lauren Bell in A Bunch of Amateurs.

Bob Enfield is played by Johnny Carrington
Johnny made his stage debut at the tender age of ten... as the back end of a donkey in the school nativity! A year later he was making his Maskers’ debut at the Nuffield as a paperboy in Oh What a Lovely War. Having parents who were founding members meant he was always around the theatre and he started appearing with the Maskers Youth Theatre whilst at college.
Johnny has been in numerous shows both in traditional venues and outdoors, but four of his favourites have been The Rover (Willmore), The Three Musketeers (D’Artagnan), The Man in the Iron Mask (also D’Artagnan) and The Wind in the Willows (Toad). He also began directing with the Maskers with the tribute play to the Spitfire, Mitchell's Wings, in 2011(which he also wrote). His last appearance with Maskers was in A Bunch of Amateurs (also directed by Hazel Burrows) as the fading Hollywood heartthrob, Jefferson Steel.

Leonard Trotter is played by Ian Wilson
Ian has been with Maskers for a fair while now and his varied roles have included a usurping King of England (Richard II), an Irish barman (The Weir), a crazy ham actor (Silly Cow), a lepidopterist (Butterfly Kiss) and a school kid (The Flint Street Nativity). He is looking forward to getting back on stage after the enforced hiatus and what better way than as a know-it-all and a bad actor, which shouldn’t stretch his acting skills too much?

Wayne Bryant is played by Lee Taylor
This is Lee's second show with Maskers, following his debut as the messenger in Much Ado About Nothing. Lee is also a member of the National Youth Theatre and has his own YouTube channel, Leeewithane. Lee is enjoying rehearsing Out of Focus and having actual lines!

David Wright is played by Chris Williams
Chris has been a Masker for nearly 35 years and yet this is his first time performing in a play at the Maskers Studio. He’s been “a bit busy” for the last 20 years.
Chris appeared briefly as Balthasar in this year’s open air production of Much Ado About Nothing and before that in Treasure Island at Hamptworth Lodge. As a younger man he appeared regularly for The Maskers at The Nuffield Theatre in (amongst others) The Owl and The Pussycat, The Servant of Two Masters and Lock Up Your Daughters. He also performed at Mottisfont Abbey for Maskers in Cyrano de Bergerac and Ring Round The Moon. Other Maskers productions include Murder on the Nile and Rose.
For other companies Chris has taken roles in productions including The Fair Maid of the West, The Shaughraun, The Taming of the Shrew, Dancing at Lughnasa and The Marriage of Figaro.
Away from the theatre, Chris runs his own business, loves walking the hills of The Lake District and sings with a rock & roll covers band.

Linda Hammond is played by Emma Kirkpatrick
Emma has recently joined Maskers and this is her first performance with the company. She studied Drama at university before training to become a Primary School teacher. On top of working and rehearsing for Out of Focus, she is also a mum to 3 children!

Creative Team

Production Manager
Robert Osborne
Stage Manager
Magda Witkowska
Set Design
Clive Weeks & Hazel Burrows
Coach Design & Construction
Hazel & Andy Burrows
Set Painting
Hazel Burrows
Set Construction
Clive Weeks & Peter Hill
Set Dressing
Alison Tebbutt
Lighting Designer
Tony Lawther
Sound Designer
Jamie McCarthy
Lighting & Sound Operators
Robert Osborne, Kathryn Salmon & Tony Lawther
Wardrobe & Costumes
Hazel Burrows and The Cast
Alison Tebbutt & Adam Taussik
Rehearsal Prompt
Val Struthers
Rehearsal and Archive Photography
Anna Hussey, Hazel Burrows & Ian Nicholls

Ticket Information

Tickets £12

No concessions

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 we will be operating some Covid risk reduction actions.  Please use the hand sanitising stations on arrival, & temperature checks will be in place.  We will also be increasing the fresh air circulating throughout the venue.
  • NHS Track and Trace QR codes are available for you to check in when you are at the venue.
  • We strongly recommend that customers use face coverings whilst in the building for the safety of our staff and other customers. Please be kind to our staff and those around you.
  • Our staff will continue to wear face coverings for your protection.
  • 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

  • Please continue to wear your face covering throughout your visit. Unless exempt, or whilst you are drinking in the bar only.
  • 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.

How will we exit 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

If you or a member of your party are displaying COVID-19 symptoms or are required to self-isolate, you must not attend the theatre and all tickets 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, Anna Hussey, Abigail Caveney, Clive Weeks, Robert Osborne, Meri Mackney, Paul Baker;   Front of House & Box Office Manager:- Chris Baker;   Photographer:- Clive Weeks;   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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