Masque Theatre's Exotic Summer Season

Arabian Nights
By Dominic Cooke

Production No. 390

Tamsyn Payne, director

Just a few weeks left of rehearsals and team Arabian Nights is pulling out all the stops. We have a creature workshop under-way to produce the various puppets and props for the show. Loads of local artists have given up their time to help out including Lisa Shepherd (associate artist at Royal & Derngate and expert in all things puppet!) Nick Freeman (a wire-work artist who is building our monster-bird the Rukh) and Una and Corinne who are furiously stitching together bodies for dismembering live-on stage, through the magic of velcro.

Chris Fordham (of local band Enki) has been working with a group of musicians who are new to Masque including Nick Ellison, the fiddle player for Moulton Morris Dancers. Chris is playing everything from Mandolin to iron bed-frame in an original score which also features a belly-dancing saxophonist!

The process of putting together this show has been one mammoth task of delegation. The cast are each bringing their diverse experience to rehearsals. We have a storyteller, poet, dancer, and a drama teacher as well as a wonderfully experienced group of performers: MYT members, including Chloe McKoy as our heroine Shahrazad (last seen as Peter Pan), newcomers and Masque stalwarts including Gemma Knight who plays everything from a demonic bride to a talking rock, Matt Fell as our emotionally-challenged Shahryar and Richard Jordan as a host of beggars, Caliphs and headsmen.

This is going to be a wonderful, rich, funny, show aimed at the child in all of us. We have all been working our socks off and I think we are all pleased with what we have to offer. And if that doesn't convince you then Richard stealing the show with a fart-gag hopefully will.


Liz Clarke

Having seen the production at Stratford (directed, I believe, by Dominic Cooke), and all of us (myself, husband and two children) having absolutely loved it, we went along to the Masque production with positive anticipation mixed in with some apprehension as to how successfully it would transfer to a small, outside stage with far fewer resources. We need not have worried.

The beautifully designed and colourful centre-piece at the back of the staging area, together with the belly-dancers (Sara Butcher & Caroline Bond) at the beginning, really set the scene for us and from there the actors took the audience on a thoroughly enjoyable journey. Much of the play's success relies on the versatility of the actors, most of whom have to portray many different characters within 6 different stories. This they all did with enthusiasm and conviction, bringing out the humour of their character or the story (and there is a lot of humour in it). Richard Jordan - always an assured actor - particularly seemed to enjoy bringing the audience into his performance, much to their delight. Matt Fell gave a strong performance as King Shehrayar, and Joe Humbled, Mark Farey, Adam Monk and Paul Thornhill all produced excellent characterisations. Chloe McKoy, as the story teller, had real stage presence, though her words did sometimes get a little lost (the difficulty of being outdoors!). Gemma Knight was strong in her portrayals, as was Robyn Cullingford-Agnew, and the remaining female cast members - Anne-Marie Sandos, Donna Scott, Rachel McGrath, Katie Corrie and Jo Molyneux - were all convincing in their different roles.

The costumes were very impressive - from simple to elaborate - and helped 'set', not only the characters, but also the scenes (e.g. cloaks brown one side, and used to indicate the mountain, spotted gold the other to indicate riches within the cave). The props were kept simple, which was all that was needed. The puppets were beautifully made (the large crow being particularly impressive), although it was a shame that the figures were not more visible, as they were operated close to the actors' bodies and, unless they were at the front of the stage, tended to get masked.

The musicians (Chris Fordham, Nick Ellison, Kirsty Wilkins and Sarah Bayliss) added a simple, yet effective, continuity to the production, further adding to the 'eastern' atmosphere.

All in all, I thought it was very imaginatively directed, well paced and with maximum use made of the space in and around the courtyard. As a bonus, the evening remained dry, and we all went hope extremely glad that we had gone, and appreciative of all that hard work. Well done to everyone concerned - a real ensemble piece.



Distinctive amateur drama
in Northampton since 1932

Registered Charity No. 294848


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Page last updated: 05/08/2012 Masque Theatre © 2012

LogoRSCOpenStages1This production is part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Open Spaces project which aims to embrace, develop and celebrate amateur theatre, re-forging the bond with the world of professional theatre.

Three scenes from Arabian Nights

Mon 30 July - Sat 4 August 2012 at 7.30pm
In the open air at The Courtyard, Abington Park Museum, Northampton

Cast & Crew

Shahrazad Chloe McKoy
Dinarzad Robyn Cullingford-Agnew
Shahrayar Matt Fell
Vizier Joe B. Humbled
Queen Kim Thornhill
Masuud Paul Thornhill
Jester Adam Monk
Headsman Richard Jordan

Ali Baba Richard Jordan
Ali's Wife Anne-Marie Sandos
Ali's Son Adam Monk
Kasim Paul Thornhill
Kasim's Wife Gemma Knight
Marjanah Kim Thornhill
Baba Mustapha Joe B. Humbled
Captain of the 40 Theves Mark Farey
The 40 Thieves Donna Scott, Rachel McGrath, Katie Corrie, Jo Molyneux
Druggist Donna Scott

The Little Beggar Adam Monk
Tailor Paul Thornhill
Tailor's Wife Rachel McGrath
Doctor Gemma Knight
Doctor's Wife Anne-Marie Sandos
Maid Kim Thornhill
Steward Donna Scott
Drunken Merchant Richard Jordan
Chief of Police Joe B. Humbled
Watchman Katie Corrie
Hangman Chris Fordham
The Laughing King Mark Farey

Mark Farey
Porter Adam Monk
Page Donna Scott
The Merchants Anne-Marie Sandos, Gemma Knight, Rachel McGrath

Abu Hassan
Richard Jordan
Marriage Broker / King Gemma Knight
The Bride Rachel McGrath
Uncle Mark Farey
Aunt Anne-Marie Sandos
Preacher Paul Thornhill
Fakir Joe B. Humbled
Friend Katie Corrie
Foe Adam Monk
Mother Donna Scott
Girl Kim Thornhill

Gemma Knight
Sidi Nu'uman Paul Thornhill, Adam Monk
Haroun Al-Rashid Richard Jordan
Ghoul Katie Corrie
Baker Mark Farey
Bad Customer Anne-Marie Sandos
Mysterious Customer Rachel McGrath
Sorceress Kim Thornhill

The Envious Sisters
Anne-Marie Sandos, Gemma Knight
The Young Queen / The Talking Bird Donna Scott
King Matt Fell
Vizier Joe B. Humbled
Bahman Paul Thornhill
Perviz Adam Monk
Parizade Robyn Cullingford-Agnew
The Steward Mark Farey
His Wife Rachel McGrath
Old Religious Woman Kim Thornhill
Dervish Richard Jordan
Head Cook Katie Corrie

Dancers of the Court Sara Butcher, Caroline Bond
Musicians Chris Fordham, Nick Ellison, Kirsty Wilkins, Sarah Bayliss

Director / Designer Tamsyn Payne
Associate Directors Matt Fell, Gemma Knight
Movement Director Katie Corrie
Musical Director Chris Fordham
Puppetry Consultant Lisa Shepherd
Story-Telling Consultant Anne-Marie Sandos
Choreography Marjanah's Dance Kim Thornhill
Puppet & Prop Makers Nick Freeman, Una Lennon, Corinne Stratton, Emma Banks, Nici Jones, Joe B. Humbled, Tamsyn Payne
Stage Management Team Jo Molyneux, Bernadette Wood, Denise Swann
Lighting Design Richard Walker
Lighting Consultant Kate Shaw
Set Build Caroline Holmes, Derek Banyard
Costumes Nici Jones, Tamsyn Payne, The Works
Make-up & Hair Rosanna Lowe
Front of House Claire Tong, Anna Thorpe, Emma Banks, Masque Theatre members

Scenes from Arabian Nights