Skip to main content

Review of Shaxpeare's Box performed by The Masque Theatre at St Peter and St Paul Church, Northampton

Seemingly ever since I have found theatre, Mr William Shakespeare has had some sort of anniversary and 2016 is no different, this time the anniversary is his death. Now while I admire the significant impact that the bard has had on theatre, I concur with a line that the character of Sue Delve says in Shaxpeare's Box, in that I pretty much forgot about him after GSCE.

Well that was until I found myself in the last couple of years at many of his plays, through supporting the performing groups rather than my need to see the plays in question. This is therefore probably why Shaxpeare's Box will possibly be my favourite Shakespeare influenced play this year (and may remain for some time), as its not one of his plays. There is also a love through Brian Wright's magnificent script that went some way to give to me a greater understanding of his work than some pompous academic might relay.

Set in modern day Northampton it tells the tale of a discovery of a mysterious box in the roof of the Abington Manor (now the park museum) which just so happens to have on it the family crest of a certain Shakespeare family. This of course is not some dramatic flight of fancy as the bards granddaughter lived and died at the manor, so this whole premise is very acceptable. Also highly believable are the coven of council officers who swiftly swoop upon the box and start counting the pounds from the sale before the box has lost its three hundred years of dust. This coven while "purely fictitious" smack of everything you could expert of council office and two in particular, while masquerading as working for the people of Northampton are in fact doing anything but and in it for a fast buck.

Playing these four council staff and for me all giving the best performances I have seen from them are Fraser Haines (Derrick Bane), Rosie Chapman (Win Capper), April Pardoe (Jessie Reed) and Owen Warr (Frank Todd). Fraser is particularly impressive as the cold manipulative Bane. Playing a character who may feel very familiar to those residents of Northampton who have kept up with their politics, although of course he is I repeat "purely fictitious". It was also a personal pleasure to see Owen again, strong and solid and playing his well meaning councillor with aplomb.

As the ultimate villain of the piece, Ian Spiby excelled as antiques dealer Vernon Slynn. As much as Bane was a piece of work, Ian made Vernon a very much bigger piece of work, not only dastardly, but also quite a creepy character. It was however totally in keeping with the outrageous comedic nature of the piece. I also absolutely loved Masque newcomer Holly Lowe as Sue Delve, the innocent and keen to please development officer. Desperate to keep the job, which wrongfully was at odds with doing the right thing. It was a playful performance and worked excellently with her partner in crime Harry Grace (played with earnestness by Mark Farey). However once again for the Masque shows, this was a solid cast performance across the board.

Brian Wright's script was constantly entertaining and very knowledgeable of the town and coupled with his very clever direction in the church area made it a high point for the Masque shows I have seen. A particular scene high point was that superb public meeting, where the cast effortlessly merged into the audience and heckled and jostled. I have been to a couple of meetings like that myself and indeed had characters like Mr Spiby's (who I happily nurged up to allow room for) sitting next to me.

The play itself spectacularly ends in a farce situation, but also leaves you thinking not only a tad more about Shakespeare, but also about all those official council people who never tire of telling you they truly are doing the best thing for the public.

Tech wise this was also the most complicated I have seen, not least dealing with the pre-recorded work of Lesley Joseph as the voice of Lady Elizabeth. Getting that all timed perfectly with sound and lighting must certainly have been a challenge, so that hidden crew gets equal applause to the one that the audience sees.

So all in all the is comic chaos of the highest order with a historical edge and devilish political maneuverings and I therefore suggest that you to that church on time to see it. Otherwise it will all very much be alas, alack.


Performance reviewed: 9th January, 2016 at St Peter and St Paul Church, Northampton.

Shaxpeare's Box is performed by the Masque Theatre until Saturday 16th,2016. Details of the Masque Theatre can be found at http://www.masquetheatre.co.uk/

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of The Railway Children at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

This touring production of the very classic E. Nesbit tale The Railway Children adapted by Dave Simpson and directed by Paul Jepson delivers perhaps everything that someone familiar with the original tale would desire.

Yes, in this modern age we are treated to the more flashy projection images which while a little unexciting at times (and occasionally diluted in clarity by the other stage lights) provide a pleasing background nonetheless.

This production of The Railway Children though is still very much of its time, nothing exciting really happens, other than some petticots being removed infront of a train, that we of course know is going to stop, even if we don't know the story. It's all very safe, and perhaps that is why it appears the modern audience has less interest in it judging by the shockingly small audience on opening night.

However, those not there are missing out on just a really lovely piece of gentle theatre, that while not without its faults, holds the interest…

Review of Rules For Living at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

It is possibly a rule in life for a few in the audience for the opening night of Sam Holcroft's domestic comedy Rules For Living not to mention Christmas until December. Therefore anyone of such a persuasion might have been a little perturbed to be presented on the 13th September with, an undeniably brilliantly dressed, homely Christmas scene.

Opening up in glorious dollhouse style and on a gorgeous little hinge, this little home of living room and kitchen sets the scene for a typical family Christmas. Mother Edith (Jane Booker) welcomes her sons, Matthew (Jolyon Coy) and Adam (Ed Hughes) and their respective partners, Carrie (Carlyss Peer) and Nicole (Laura Rogers) And with a final dramatic arrival of father Francis (Paul Shelley), the scene is very much set for comic antics of the highest calibre.

The first thing you get from Rules For Living in the first few minutes is the arrival of one of the most brilliant, yet simple concepts I have seen for a while in the play. These are …

Review of Make Way For Lucia by John Van Druten at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

There have been a couple of television versions of the Mapp & Lucia novels by E. F. Benson over the years and irrespective of which generation version you might have seen, the roles of Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas were filled with some heavyweight performers. So taking on these roles could, in theory, be a challenge too much to live up to. However, that would be if the characters themselves were less the sum of the performer. These are great characters on paper as well as on stage and therefore Gena McCrystal (Miss Mapp) and Juliet O'Connor (Lucia) make them very much their own in the stage adaption by John Van Druten.

Lucia has arrived and breezed both into the town of Tilling and the musical chair roundabout of house rental that is want to occur here. Her rented property is Miss Mapp's and for some reason, Mapp fails to follow the routine of keeping away, constantly "popping in", so the battle lines are drawn.
Make Way for Lucia is the typical battle of supremacy i…