In the OPEN AIR, in the lovely grounds of
The Gregg School, SO18 3RR


18th - 22nd July 2023

Performances at 7:30pm.
Saturday matinée performance at 2:30pm

Grounds open from 6pm for picnics (1pm for matinée)

Through pain, sorrow and adversity, Jane’s courageous spirit shines through.


The Reviews


18 July 2023

“Jane Eyre, raised in poverty and neglect, but sharp-witted and thirsty for knowledge, fights to make a better life for herself. Love is unexpected.”

Theatre experiences (and reviews!) are always subjective to a degree; whether a production succeeds or fails can be as much down to audience taste as it is the performances and production elements themselves. As Jane Eyre is one of my favourite novels and I have seen many renditions of it, both on stage and screen – with a few that have, to be honest, made me despair – I was somewhat apprehensive to discover that Maskers Theatre Company’s current Open-Air Production had been specifically adapted by Director Meri Mackney.

I need not have had any misgivings, as Mackney and her team have created an enjoyable faithful and condensed version of Charlotte Brontë’s classic romantic and heroic tale; moreover, they have flown in the face of the old adage “Never work with animals and children” to charming effect! The young actors from Light Up Drama Company are a welcome addition to the cast, with beautiful Buf arguably stealing every scene she’s in as Mr Rochester’s dog, Pilot.

The eponymous heroine, Jane Eyre, is played by three talented actors. Harriet Clarke gives a spirited and confident performance as young orphan Jane: feisty resilience against the cruelty and neglect of her aunt, Mrs Reed; bravely standing up to the taunts and bullying of her cousins; and strength of character as she withstands the hardships of life at Lowood School. Rachel di Nucci is composed yet passionate as the adult Jane, reflecting how the character developed at Lowood into a young woman who wants to expand both her intellect and wings, becoming first a teacher at the school, then governess at Thornfield Hall. True to Brontë’s novel, Abby Brine (Narrator Jane) directly addresses the audience in the first person, providing considered insights into Jane’s life with serenity and compassion; make no mistake, being an engaging narrator is no mean feat, but Brine is just that – an enchanting storyteller.

Adam Taussik brings a mixture of scathing mistrust, moodiness, sarcasm and fiery desire as Rochester, mysterious master of Thornfield Hall and guardian of his young ward, Adèle Varens (a delightful Evelyn Fayle), the excitable illegitimate daughter of a French dancer. Maddy Cope is clearly relishing her role as the violently insane Bertha Mason with her physicality and maniacal laugh; while she could be even more aggressive, the element of restraint actually adds to the underlying threat which Bertha poses to both Mr Rochester and Jane.

In an ensemble production such as this where many of the actors are playing more than one role, it’s difficult to succinctly comment on each individual performance; however, there is strong support throughout the cast, particularly from Jo Iacovou as quick-tempered yet caring Bessie, Rob Iliffe (making his Maskers’ debut in the dual roles of harsh Mr Brocklehurst and troublesome Richard Mason), and Anna Hussey (as contemptuous Blanche Ingram, Jane’s adult cousin Georgina Reed, and kindly Diana Rivers).

With exquisite period costumes (depicting both rich and poor), a well-conceived set that lends itself easily to multiple locations and dates, soothing classical music, excellent special effects and a stunning location, this is an aesthetically pleasing play. Although Act 1 is “quite long for it to work dramatically”, the narrative flows readily at a smooth and genteel pace, almost mesmerising the audience, and the strength of the performances ensure a most enjoyable evening.

- Anne Waggott

In Common

18 July 2023

There is an old entertainment adage that says you should never work with children or animals. Well the Maskers Theatre company did both and it was a triumph!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is their 41st outdoor summer production and maintains their deserved reputation for dramatic excellence. It is the fourth one in the superb grounds of Townhill Park House having previously used locations such as Mottisfont and Hamptworth. If you arrive early you can look around the gardens that were designed by Gertrude Jekyll in the early 1900s and have been restored in recent years. You are also encouraged to bring your own picnic to make it the perfect relaxed summer’s evening.

Originally published in 1847 the novel is a commentary on the prevalent social attitudes of the time as it explores themes such as child cruelty, poverty, disease, the class system and the role of women. It is a classic story that has stood the test of time and is an inspired choice.

Essentially Jane Eyre is Charlotte Bronte’s semi-autobiographical love story of two people who have had many difficulties to overcome in life yet managed to find each other.

The cast were all excellent and there were no noticeable opening night nerves. 

Harriet Clarke was a standout as the young Jane. Abby Brine superbly held the whole show together as the narrator. Rachel di Nucci was highly convincing as the older Jane. Adam Taussik conveyed the complex moods of Edward Rochester with real authority.

Watch out for some brilliant special effects in the second half.

Special mention to experienced director Meri Mackney who could not find an adaption of the classic book that would work in the open air so she wrote her own. And not to forget Buf who looked like she really enjoyed her first appearance on stage as Mr. Rochester’s dog!

Townhill Park House has been home to the Gregg School since 1994 and is under the flight path of Southampton International Airport. The cast superbly handled a number of noisy interruptions from low flying aircraft. 

As with any outdoor event it can get chilly after sunset so come prepared. The Maskers are an amateur company but you would think you are watching a fully professional one such are the high production values.  Make sure you catch this play.

- Martin Brisland

“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! - I have as much soul as you, - and full as much heart!”

Jane Eyre is the story of a woman’s search for equality, independence, and freedom. An orphan growing up subject to neglect, cruelty and small-mindedness, Jane longs to broaden her ideas and her horizon. With no fortune and no pretensions to beauty, plain Jane does not expect to find love. Like a trapped bird, she fights for her freedom but, as a penniless, friendless, 19th century woman, there are limited opportunities to expand her world. Gaining the position of governess at Thornfield Hall seems like a huge adventure but soon reveals itself to be another cage. When she finally meets her employer, the abrupt, sardonic Edward Rochester, she finds her intellectual match in this knowledgeable and well-travelled man, who treats Jane more like an equal than a member of his staff. Their mutual attraction leads Jane to hope, desolation and despair.

Will Jane win through to find her happiness?

Director & Cast
(in order of appearance)

The Director & adaptor of this production is Meri Mackney
Meri has been a Masker for very many years, as actor, director, bar manager and just about every backstage job there is. She has directed a number of shows in the Studio, at the Nuffield Theatre and outdoor, including Pygmalion, The Jungle Book, Anne Boleyn and Pride and Prejudice, which she also adapted for the outdoor stage. She was last seen playing a particularly gormless maid in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Meri wanted to direct Jane Eyre but was unable to find an existing script which both reflected her take on the novel and would work in the open air, so it was back to producing her own adaptation. She hopes it will meet with your approval and Charlotte Brontë’s forgiveness.

Narrator Jane is played by Abby Brine
Abby joined the cast of Jane Eyre fresh from playing the title character in The Girl on the Train for SUP. Originally cast in more minor roles, she stepped into playing the major role of Narrator Jane after rehearsals had started and has very much made the part her own.

Aunt Reed/Mrs Fairfax are 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), as well as Margaret in Maskers 2021 summer production of Much Ado about Nothing. More recently she appeared as Beatrice in After Life for SUP and in May 2023 as Yvonne in Hi-de-Hi for RAODS. Playing the evil Mrs Reed in Jane Eyre, will be an experience Jenni will relish!

Young Jane Eyre is played by Harriet Clarke
Harriet joined Light Up in 2022 but she has also acted with other groups. She played Mrs Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with Light Up and also played one of the main six orphans in a summer production of Annie. She is looking forward to playing Young Jane Eyre in an open-air production and has enjoyed gaining experience as part of an adult show. She can't wait to show the audience all the hard work Maskers have put in to make this a great performance!

John Reed is played by Dylan
Dylan joined Light Up in 2019. With Light Up Company, he’s been in A Christmas Carol playing the part of Scrooge, taken part in Campfire Creations at The Light up Festival and portrayed Edmund in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Recently he has gained a distinction at LAMDA solo acting grade 6 and is studying GCSE Drama. He looks forward to playing the part of Jane Eyre’s cousin in his first ever Maskers’ production.

Young Georgiana Reed/US Adèle is played by Sophia Burke
Sophia loves playing a mean character as she hasn’t had a role like her before. Sophia thanks Meri for inviting the children to audition and growing her confidence. It’s been an amazing opportunity working with Maskers. Previous roles; Maid and Rabbit Statue in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Snow White in Snow Almost White and Narrator in Seussified Christmas Tale, all with Light Up. Sophia has also been understudy for Adèle.

Young Eliza Reed/Helen Burns are played by Channah Sutton
Channah joins us for this production following appearing with a number of Maskers in the recent co-production with Light Up Drama Company of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. She is relishing the contrast in the two roles.

Bessie is played by Jo Iacovou
Joanna has been a member of Maskers since 2003. The roles she has played have been many and varied, ranging from the Sarcastic Bystander in Pygmalion, Ruby Birtle in When we are Married, Greta in Metamorphosis, Childie in The Killing of Sister George, Sophie in 100, Rita in Educating Rita, Verges in Much Ado about Nothing 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.

Mr. Brocklehurst/Richard Mason are played by Rob Iliffe
This is Rob's debut for Maskers. When not being horrible to children on stage, he helps to run a toy library service... Previous performing includes; Southampton Mummers Play, on the first Sunday of the new year at St Michael's Square, storytelling at festivals, Pirate Shakespeare and story walks. Rob has also directed several productions for both The Gantry & Salisbury Playhouse Youth Theatres.

Miss Temple is played by Sue Blackwood
Sue joined Maskers in 2023. She is looking forward to her first role with the Company.

Jane Eyre is played by Rachel di Nucci
Rachel joined Maskers a couple of years ago and has been in Four Weddings and an Elvis as Fiona, The Three Musketeers as Milady de Winter and Porthos, and most recently Gormenghast as Lady Fuchsia Groan. Rachel is excited to be part of Jane Eyre. It was one of her favourite books when she was a teenager. She hopes that her enthusiasm for the role and the book can help her bring Jane to life and for the audience to enjoy it as much as she did when first reading the novel.

Adèle Varens is played by Evelyn Fayle
This is Evelyn's first production with Maskers Theatre Company and she is super excited to be playing with the 'big kids.' Although she is not new to the stage, having been a member of Light UP since she was 4 years old, she is new to speaking another language. Evelyn's credits include, The Fairy Tale Courtroom, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Annie Kids, Snow Almost White and A Seussified Christmas Carol to name a few. She wishes to thank Meri and the Maskers for this wonderful opportunity and hopes you enjoy the show!

Sophie/Hannah are played by Sue Dashper
During Sue’s time in Maskers, she has been involved in a variety productions including: Out of Focus, Contractions and Metamorphosis in the Studio and Sitting Pretty and An Italian Straw Hat at the Nuffield Theatre. Sue has appeared in many open-air productions and was part of The Watch in Much Ado About Nothing in 2021. Previous outdoor performances were in Don Quixote, Around the World in Eighty Days, The Jungle Book, Anne Boleyn, Treasure Island and Twelfth Night. She was last seen as a deliciously dizzy Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Bertha is played by Maddy Cope
Maddy has recently joined Maskers this year. She has been in a multitude of shows and has experience working behind the scenes. She has helped with tech for The Producers, performed at the Theatre Royal, Winchester, last November. Maddy is happy to return to the stage with this production. She looks forward to playing the wonderful and violently insane Bertha. Even though she has no speaking part, she is grateful to showcase her method acting by portraying Bertha’s violent bestial behaviour, demoniacal laughter, and snarling at her other cast members.

Grace Poole/Mary Ferndean are played by Ruth Smith
Ruth is a new Masker, having previously appeared in a couple of pantomimes a few years ago. She joined Maskers with her husband to support him and assist backstage with the Christmas show, but enjoyed the presentation of Jane Eyre so much, she decided to be part of the cast. Ruth is enjoying being Grace Poole and is excited to be part of what is going to be an amazing performance.

Edward Rochester is played by Adam Taussik
Since joining Maskers 19 years ago, Adam has played characters of many ranks, from peasants to kings (with a smattering of vicars, chefs, soldiers and bears), but rarely does he 'get the girl'... For this show, Adam will also be keeping up the gothic tone of Gormenghast, with mysterious buildings, fires and a cast of eccentric characters.

Blanche Ingrams/Diana Rivers/Georgiana Reed are played by Anna Hussey
Anna joined Maskers in 2018 and has been involved both on and off stage. Debuting with Maskers in Wyrd Sisters as part of the ensemble, Anna has since played Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and originated the role of Vicki in Yards Apart. Recently, Anna has had a successful debut as a director for Maskers with Gormenghast, and is looking forward to performing again in Jane Eyre. Anna is particularly excited to bring Georgiana and Blanche to life, serving sass and side eye with aplomb.

Mrs Ingrams are played by Marie McDade
This will be Marie’s 7th outing on the Maskers’ outdoor stage – from Shakespearian Midsummer fairy to Kipling’s jungle panther Bagheera, assorted characters travelling Around the World in 80 Days, Pygmalion, Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing and, last summer, The Three Musketeers. Indoor shows have included Richard II, Granny Weatherwax in Wyrd Sisters, A Bunch of Amateurs, Out of Focus and, most recently, Gormenghast.

Mary Ingrams/Eliza Reed/Mary Rivers are played by Chrissy Way
Chrissy joined Maskers in 2022 and is now involved performing in her first play, 17 years since last being on stage. She has found the experience to be a fun and exciting new challenge and chapter in her life and is very much enjoying being back on stage playing some wonderful characters for Jane Eyre.

Col. Dent/Rev. Wood/Innkeeper are played by Simon Mewett
Simon joined Maskers in 2021 and performed at The Gregg School in our 2022 Summer play, The Three Musketeers, when he played two characters. Clearly two wasn't challenging enough, so this year Simon has been asked to perform three: Colonel Dent, a Landlord and the Vicar.
This has brought back memories of school, where he turned his blazer back to front in drama class and played his first role - as a man of the cloth.

St John Rivers is played by Shaun Smith
Shaun is new to Maskers. As St John, he looks forward to delivering mildly sanctimonious judgements on Mr Rochester, while wishing that the two characters could actually meet. Maybe they might get along? Unlikely... more probably, sparks would fly!

Schoolgirls/Villagers are played by The Company

Creative Team

Production Managers
Jill Desborough/Chris Baker
Stage Manager
Kathryn Salmon
Set Design
Meri Mackney
Set Construction
Brian Stansbridge, The Company
Lighting Design
Clive Weeks
Lighting Assistants
Sam Hussey, James Lawson, Tom Foyle, Emily Smith, Robert Osborne, Brian Stansbridge, Simon White
Sound Design
Jamie McCarthy
Special Effects
Tony Lawther
Stage Crew
Simon White
Lighting & Sound Operators
Emily Smith
Wardrobe & Costumes
Sue Grove; Susan Wilson, Allegra Carlton, Meri Mackney, Hazel Burrows, Marie McDade
Adam Taussik
Front of House Manager
James Lawson
Chris Baker & Bandy Smith

Ticket Information

EARLY BIRD OFFER - buy before 12th June and get £2 off Adult fixed night ticket!

Fixed night: £14* until June 10th, then £16;
Flexible night in advance: £18;
On the gate: £18

under 16yrs: £13 (all options)

Due to a couple of slightly scary scenes and the use of old fashioned language throughout it may be difficult for under 10's to comprehend, but this is at parent's discretion.

(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 6pm (1pm for the matinée on Saturday).

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 assistance dogs).

Poster, Flyer & Programme

For the Maskers

Technical Manager:- Jamie McCarthy;   Lighting Consultant:- Clive Weeks;   Sound Consultant:- Jamie McCarthy;   Marketing Team:- Angela Stansbridge, 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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