The Maskers' Studio Theatre
4 - 9 April 2022

Friday performance at 8pm, other nights at 7:30pm.


This play contains strong language; flashing lights; loud explosions, gunshots & music; some graphic images and some scenes that may be upsetting.
Recommended for ages 14 years and older.


The Reviews


7 April 2022

Three tours of Afghanistan would leave anyone with a certain degree of emotional scars. For wounded veteran Jess, this is compounded by the physical scars she also carries following severe burns from an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). Battling constant and excruciating pain, as well as the psychological trauma from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Jess turns to an unconventional and pioneering treatment, immersing herself in a Virtual Reality environment (based on the real-life virtual therapy game, Snow World) in her therapeutic search for effective pain relief and rehabilitation. Returning to her Florida childhood home, overlooking the NASA base where preparations for the next space launch risk triggering her PTSD at any time, can she rebuild her health, relationships and life?

With the exception of long-standing member Hazel Burrows, this is a relatively new cast, with three of the actors making their debut performances for Maskers, each bringing new strengths and charisma to the intimate Maskers Studio.

Emma Bates Garcia gives a committed and heartfelt performance in the demanding role of Jess, her mental anguish palpable, although less convincing with capturing the relentless pain and physical effects that Jess’s injuries would have incurred, while Suzanna Tompkins provides dependable support as her steadfast sister, Kacie.

Neil Maddock is terrific as Jess’ ex-boyfriend, Stevie, with a real aptitude for comedy while seamlessly switching to a more sensitive and vulnerable persona. Lee Taylor’s portrayal of Kacie’s boyfriend, Kelvin, is in turn irritating, funny, insensitive and then surprisingly perceptive to Kacie’s needs. It’s refreshing to see a play where the male characters are not written as chauvinistic boars!

Chris Moses’ video effects bring the virtual reality therapy sessions to the fore, accompanied to a Paul Simon soundtrack, while the ever-excellent Hazel Burrows’ off-stage coaching suggests she would do equally as well in audio dramas as she does on stage. The cast are consistently convincing with their American accents and the production is set at an essentially steady pace, with some very well-timed poignant pauses interspersed at appropriate moments.

Director Paul Green shows a desire to bring cutting-edge and thought-provoking productions to the stage, freely admitting that he’s “a bit bored with so-called ‘entertaining’ plays and the opinion that we need comedy and humour to offset all the bad things that are happening”. With a running time of just 90 minutes, Ugly Lies The Bone promises to be an intense, immersive, powerful and emotional play – and for large parts of it, it is.

The trouble for me is it seems to stay on the same level and not really explore the layers of emotional depths that have also been promised. Yes, I enjoy ‘entertaining’ plays and sometimes do just want relief from what’s happening in the world through sheer escapism. However, when intentionally challenged by a production, I also want to really ‘feel’ an emotional connection with the characters and the narrative, particularly when some things are left to the audience’s imagination, like Jess’s physical scars – and sadly on this occasion, I didn’t overall. Of course, theatre is subjective and what a boring world it would be if we all enjoyed the same things!

There are two more opportunities for you to form your own opinion (8.00pm on Friday 8 April and 7.30pm on Saturday 9 April) – it’s well worth the effort!

- Anne Waggott

Local Reviewer

4 April 2022

After three tours of duty in Afghanistan Jess returns to Florida with devastating injuries and burns all over her body caused by the explosion of an IED. The small town on the Space Coast has changed and the people – her sister, mother and ex-boyfriend – have moved on in their lives and Jess struggles with this almost as much as she struggles with her physical pain and her PTSD.

Reading some reviews of this piece when it was staged at the Lyttleton in 2017 you might get the impression that it is only about the restorative power of “virtual reality therapy” in which Jess escapes her physical pain in a virtual landscape of snow and forests. But the piece is more about how she begins to restore her relationships and recover her life and herself.

Maskers’ Director, Paul Green has created a masterful production, balancing the story of Jess’s physical and mental pain with moments of unlikely humour. We must also give credit to Chris Moses, the Video Effects Designer for his images, which provide a backdrop to the entire performance. Without them the “virtual reality therapy” episodes would have been hard for the audience to grasp.

Emma Bates Garcia’s performance as Jess is breath-taking – literally! I found myself wincing with her as every move of Jess’s body brings lightning bolts of pain. Emma almost makes us feel Jess’s pain, but she also skilfully shows us Jess’s first steps in recovering herself. The final scene where Jess reconnects with her ailing Mother (beautifully played by Hazel Burrows) brought a tear to this reviewer’s eye. Hazel also plays “The Voice” the unseen Virtual Reality Therapy coach and does so very well.

Suzanna Tompkins performance as Jess’s protective sister Kacie is also full of nuance. It isn’t an easy part to play as some of the aspects of Kacie’s personality and motivation are quite subtle. She is kind and caring – maybe a little over-protective – but maybe not as gullible in her relationship with her boyfriend as Jess, at first, thinks. Tompkins handles this extremely well.

Neil Maddock’s handling of Stevie, Jess’s former boyfriend (now married), is fabulously funny most of the time, but every now and then brief glimpses of his own self-doubt and uncertainty come smashing through the humour to make us feel slightly guilty for laughing at Stevie’s awkwardness. Incidentally Stevie’s confusion between IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) and IUD’s (Intra-Uterine Devices) was hilarious.

And then there is Kelvin, Kacie’s ne’er-do-well boyfriend, played by Lee Taylor. Kelvin appears to think that everything anybody says is some kind of joke, resulting in escalating tension with Jess, until she finally clocks him one on the nose. Lee, too brings tremendous humour to the piece – the scene where he scoffs pizza, whilst trying to impress Jess, is particularly notable. As with the other characters, though, there is a little more to Kelvin than meets the eye and Lee demonstrates that admirably. I have seen Lee three times, now, in Maskers productions and he just gets better and better.

- Ed Whitlock

Audience Comments

"Once again Maskers takes risks and comes up triumphant.
The synopsis may seem bleak but this production counter balances the pain with humour and affection.
The decision not to make Jess look disfigured was justified by the impact the photo of her injuries had at the end. Although the acting conveyed her injuries more than makeup would have.
A five person cast that made each role their own playing off each other superbly. ( casting take a bow )
To mention one role on its own would be churlish, but Mum at the end, Comic Genius!
Hats off to the Director and the whole of the production crew for the set, sound and visuals.
Well done Maskers, Stay safe." - C.O.

"Such a strong piece of drama" - J.F.

"I was so glad I came along it was a great experience" - J.W.

"The effects were great they really helped tell the story" - M.H.

"I just got home from my first visit to this theatre (have been meaning to....) and wow! What a lovely intimate venue to put on such a striking play - the set / visuals / acting were tremendous. I laughed and cried. It was emotional... Part of this was down to the character of Jess who is in constant pain - I've had an acute inflammatory arthritis for 3mths and I will tell you that was amazing acting, at one point I thought she must have seen me at home trying to walk and put my arms up and talking gruffly at those trying their best to help. Just great on so many levels... Well done team " - D.W.

"Such interesting ideas and so well done. Thank you for a thoroughly enjoyable evening! Can’t wait for the next one! Everything is so different. Haven’t seen a bad show yet!" - C.J.

"Fantastic production I was blown away by how good it was" - C.W.

Can Jess readjust to reality with VR?

Afghanistan takes it toll...

It is 2011. After three tours of duty in Afghanistan, wounded veteran Jess finally returns home to Florida, where she must confront her scars - and a hometown that may have changed even more than she has. Undergoing an experimental virtual reality therapy, she builds a new world where she can escape her pain. As the nearby NASA site prepares to launch the final space shuttle mission, Jess advances deeper into her virtual world, gradually learning how to restore her relationships, her life, and slowly, herself. Thought provoking, moving and at times humorous, this play explores unflinchingly the human aspects of rehabilitation and readjustment to relationships in the real world.

In the light of the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan, this play is still massively relevant.

Director & Cast

The Director of this production is Paul Green
Paul has been acting and directing in Southampton and the surrounding area for over 45 years. He was the Artistic Director of The Talking Heads Theatre Pub in Portswood during the 90s. Since then, Paul has worked with many companies in and around Southampton. Paul has also directed at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall - a well-received production of The 39 Steps. He joined Maskers in 2013 and has acted in and directed several shows. Acting roles include an Italian Waiter in Betrayal, Akela the Wolf in The Jungle Book and most recently Mr. Samsa in Metamorphosis. Directing credits for Maskers include Di, Viv and Rose, and Around the World in 80 Days. The last show he directed was The Railway Children at the Nuffield Theatre Campus for SUP Theatre, just before lockdown in 2020. He has a background in physical theatre, and this heavily influences his approach. Ugly Lies the Bone appealed to him from a visual perspective, and he hopes that the audience will appreciate the emotional and immersive aspects of this brilliantly written play.

Jess is played by Emma Bates Garcia
Emma is a new member of the company who is thrilled to have found Maskers. She didn’t waste any time getting involved. After helping front of house with A Box of Delights, being backstage for Four Weddings and an Elvis and now cast in Ugly Lies the Bone, she is chuffed with her progression at Maskers! Emma is very happy to play Jess as she felt an instant connection with the character and is delighted by the professionalism and talent across the cast and crew for this moving play.

Kacie is played by Suzanna Tompkins
Suzanna is delighted to be performing in her first show with Maskers. She has had the pleasure of working with other companies within Hampshire; most recently she has been in Season's Greetings with RAODS and performed as Cecily in their outdoor production of The Importance of being Earnest last July. Since the pandemic, Suzanna also performed with YT2 at Totton Drama Festival, where she was nominated for best supporting actress in their production of The Sentinels. She is very excited to have truly gotten back into the swing of things and has really enjoyed getting to know the lovely people at Maskers and working with Paul again. Ugly Lies the Bone is a beautifully written play and is certainly a rollercoaster of emotions, with a very important message. She hopes you enjoy the show.

Stevie is played by Neil Maddock
Neil is originally from Bristol but has lived in Southampton for the past 20 years. Neil toured the UK with Activate Theatre Company, working in schools throughout the country. He then spent two years working with Detour Theatre Company in NZ and, whilst there, he also recorded an album of his original songs!
Neil has performed a variety of roles in his time including Peter (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe), Jonathan Harker (Dracula), and Jesus (the Southampton Passion). He has appeared in musicals such as West Side Story and Half a Sixpence and was a member of the community cast for the 2019 run of The Shadow Factory at the Nuffield Theatre.
For the past 12 years, Neil has been running the charity Martis Productions (formerly E-QUIP Arts), which creatively communicates the Christian faith. In this role he has written, directed, and performed in a number of productions, from large outdoor events in Guildhall Square to one man shows in schools!
This is Neil’s first outing on stage with Maskers and he is excited to be joining a group with such a long, rich history of great productions.

Kelvin is played by Lee Taylor
This is Lee's third show with Maskers and he's having loads of fun with the character Kelvin. His dream is to pursue a career in acting and he hopes to go to Drama School. He enjoys uploading videos to his YouTube channel leeewithane . He currently works at The Forest Park Hotel in Brockenhurst.
This play tackles trauma and pain in creative ways that Lee hasn't seen explored before. The cast is amazing and every character has their moments. The energy that he brings to a scene drew Lee to Kelvin, a man who sees no error in his ways.

Voice/Their Mom is played by Hazel Burrows
Hazel has been a member of Maskers since the 70s, playing many roles, modern and classic. Among her favourite roles are Queen in Alice in Wonderland, Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Ernest, Mother in Pygmalion, Hanna in Little Women, Mai in Our Lady of Sligo, and Cissie in Quartet. Directing comedy has also been her great pleasure; her most recent show being Out of Focus.
The role of Voice/ Mom sets an enjoyable challenge with an American accent and a wide range of emotions.

Creative Team

Production Manager
Robert Osborne
Stage Manager
Robert Osborne
Set Design
Paul Green & Clive Weeks
Set Painting
Robert Osborne, Paul Green, Sue Dashper
Set Construction
Clive Weeks & Peter Hill
Set Dressing
Angela Stansbridge
Lighting Designer
Thomas Smyth-Wright
Video Effects Designer
Chris Moses
Sound Designer
Jamie McCarthy
Lighting & Sound Operators
Wardrobe & Costumes
Nicky & Martin Caveney

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

click on a photo to enlarge it

Dress Rehearsal - Emma Bates Garcia
Dress Rehearsal - Suzanna Tompkins, Emma Bates Garcia
Dress Rehearsal - Emma Bates Garcia, Suzanna Tompkins
Dress Rehearsal - Neil Maddock, Emma Bates Garcia
Dress Rehearsal - Emma Bates Garcia, Suzanna Tompkins, Lee Taylor
Dress Rehearsal - Suzanna Tompkins, Lee Taylor
Dress Rehearsal - Emma Bates Garcia
Dress Rehearsal - Neil Maddock, Emma Bates Garcia
Dress Rehearsal - Lee Taylor, Emma Bates Garcia
Dress Rehearsal - Emma Bates Garcia
Dress Rehearsal - Emma Bates Garcia, Lee Taylor
Dress Rehearsal - Emma Bates Garcia, Hazel Burrows
Dress Rehearsal - Suzanna Tompkins, Emma Bates Garcia, Hazel Burrows

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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