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Review of Becket performed by The Masque Theatre at the Guildhall (Great Hall), Northampton

Becket was the fourth play by the Masque Theatre that I have seen and sadly it left me the most disappointed. However not because of anything that the excellent company and organisers did. All the disappointment came from the venue.

The Great Hall in Northampton Guildhall is a most glorious room, stunning height, wonderful decoration. An absolute delight. Well until you sit down and watch a play in it that is. The absolute worst acoustics that I have yet witnessed with so much of the dialogue unheard. And that is with just standard level speech, you can absolute forget it when the characters raise their voices, as that first word reverberates seemingly forever.

I write all of the above with great sadness as what I did follow from this play was excellent and the two leads are both excellent. Tristan Smith especially as King Henry II brings an alarmingly playful approach to the monarch, a twinkle in the eye. Knowing nothing of the play other than the history it portrays (a lot of it very important to Northampton), I was very surprised by how much comedy there was in it. Ste Applegate also gives a lovely performance as Thomas a Becket. The eventually doomed friend of Henry and later Archbishop of Canterbury. Quiet and dignified right until the bitter end.

The rest of the cast (now getting familiar from the other productions) are generally excellent. The scenes in France do admittedly get a little Allo Allo at times and the added effect of an accent on already troubled hearing can be a further problem. However as most of these scenes are played for laughs, the occasionally odd accents have little effect. Other than the two leads it is difficult to single out any further actors, especially from such a vast cast of, I think 28. However as Gwendolyn in just one scene, Ruth Sherry is an absolute delight for her gentle protrayal and singing voice and must surely and hopefully be in Masque's next production Into The Woods.

The production is well directed by Rob Kendall using well the space on offer with actors entering from four different doors with many entering from behind the audience and walking between the crowd.

Overall this is a great play performed by a collection of very fine amateur actors, but suffering from a substandard location, and a play which I want to recommend but also recommend early arrival so that you may get them precious front row seats in the hope of hearing the whole play and not them unforgiving reverberations.

Becket is performed by the Masque Theatre and runs until Saturday, 11th Octorber, 2014 at the Guildhall, Northampton.

For further details visit their website at http://www.masquetheatre.co.uk/


Performance reviewed: Thursday 10th October, 2014 at the Guildhall, Northampton.

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