by Aphra Behn, adapted by David Chappell
by Aphra Behn, adapted by David Chappell
Photo by Joe Brown
Tue 12 - Sat 16 December 2017 at 7.30pm
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Sheep Street, Northampton NN1 3NL
CAST & CREW
Florinda Elizabeth Palmer
Hellena Julia Langley
Valeria Lynette Applegate
Callis Maggie Holland
Angelica Bianca Lisa Wright
Moretta Alex Rex
Lucetta Bernadette Wood
Philippa Katy Corrie
Stephano / Servant to Don Pedro / Page to Hellena / Boy Emma Burgess
Busty Wench Megan Lucas
Don Antonio Martin Williams
Don Pedro Matthew Fell
Belvile Ste Applegate
Willmore, the Rover Davin Eadie
Frederick Siôn Grace
Blunt Michael Street
Sancho Roger Toone
Biskey Rob Kendall
Sebastian Tony Janney
Masqueraders / Soldiers / additional characters members of the cast
Director David Chappell
Mentor Alex Rex
Stage Manager / Set Design and Build / Lighting and Sound Megan Lucas
Assistant Stage Manager Denise Swann
Lighting Assistant Ella Drake
Continuity Ingrid Heymann Set Build / Corset Making Elizabeth Palmer, Julia Langley, Katy Corrie, Alex Rex, Lisa Wright
Fight Director Rosemary Chapman
Wardrobe Clare Brittain
Costumes made by Pam Mann, Tamysen Payne, Megan Lucas
Additional Costumes The Works
Make-up / Programme / Costume Design Tamsyn Payne
Wigs Sidonie McDowell
Mask Maker Sherrilyn Renolds
Swords, arms etc Ste Applegate & Sir Arthur Haselrig's Regiment of Foote, Kevin Sharman
Main characters' masks supplied by Bohemian Finds
Box Office / Front of House Masque Theatre members
Having just returned that afternoon from a week in the Scottish Highlands, I was in two minds whether to visit Holy Sepulchre church on the evening of Saturday, 16 December.
It was a pretty cold night, but the deciding factor was, if I didn't go, it would have been the only Masque production I had missed since 2017.
The church's heating made a valiant effort to combat the low temperature but I couldn't help feeling for two members of the cast destined to spend much of the evening in their underwear, but more of that later.
A 17th Century text may not be that easily accessible to everyone but Masque Theatre's expertise, the comedic content, the real relevance to the present day of many aspects of the plot and some outstanding individual performances would have meant that anyone allowed that to deter them would have missed a real treat.
I can fully appreciate why first-time director David Chappell, ably mentored by Alex Rex, would wish to share this piece. He made an excellent job of helping the cast deliver performances which required teamwork as well as considerable individual skills.
David Eadie as the Rover set the tone throughout, with a delivery which kept up an impressive pace and was surrounded by other cast members who achieved both supporting and contrasting characterisations.
With a 19-strong company it isn't possible to mention everyone but it must be said that there were no 'second rank' performances, with some lovely cameo roles for some well-known cast members.
In the lead roles, Elizabeth Palmer, Lynette Applegate, Julia Langley, Maggie Holland, Lisa Wright, Alex Rex, Emma Burgess, Matthew Fell, Martin Williams, Mike Street, Set Applegate, Sion Grace and Roger Toone all excelled.
Although the other roles were relatively minor, they were nonetheless all very nicely crafted.
The success of many productions lies in the timing of entrances and exits and the avoidance of developing predictable 'rhythms' in delivering the lines. There was never any danger of that failing to impress here.
A degree of familiarity with Shakespearean language certainly helped, but the action combined so well with the text that non-one would have any trouble following the plot. Nor were there any scenes that failed to draw the audience in to a world where some sexist attitudes seem to have disturbingly survived for nearly four centuries.
Oh yes, the underwear. Mike Street delivered a great comic performance which involved being thrown into a sewer and spending most of the subsequent scenes in excrement-stained 17th Century vest and pants. The cause of his embarrassment? A really mean trick by Lucetta (Bernadette Wood), described as a 'jilting wench', whose costume and delivery would probably have left most of the men (and some of the women) falling for it too! The things we do for our art.
Nicely done technically, with imaginative lighting and good sound quality, mulled wine and mince pies were however a welcome diversion from the same piece of music perhaps just a bit over-used for pre-show, interval and post-show embellishment. But that really is nit-picking after a very entertaining evening.
Photos by Joe Brown
The Rover was written by Aphra Behn and premiered to great success in 1677. It is a jolly excellent example of Restoration comedy.
Behn herself had an interesting life: she was a playwright, poet, translator and fiction writer and is counted among the first English women to earn her living by her writing.
Rising from obscurity, Behn came to the notice of King Charles II, who employed her as a political spy in Antwerp. On her return to London she began writing for the stage, it has been said of her that she possessed, “...a lethal combination of obscurity, secrecy and staginess... she is not so much a woman to be unmasked as an unending combination of masks".
The Rover follows the adventures of a bunch of Brits having fun abroad, sorry. A band of banished English cavaliers enjoying themselves at carnival time in fair Naples, where we lay our scene... (wrong play!) Naples, at that time, was ruled by Spain, so there will be both Italian and Spanish influences in the play.
"Mistaken identities, cross dressing, drunkeness, gypsies, music, lust, sword fights...."
The Rover has multiple plotlines revolving around the central character of Willmore, an amorous, rakish and roguish captain, the Rover of the title. Willmore falls in love with Hellena, who’s determined to experience love before Pedro, her brother, sends her to a convent. However, problems arise when Angellica Bianca, the most desirable and famous of courtesans, becomes 'available' and, despite herself, falls in love with Willmore.
As it all begins to unravel, Florinda (Hellena's older sister) tries to avoid an unwanted and arranged marriage to her brother's best friend. Rather, she plans instead to marry her true love, Colonel Belville (another of the band of cavaliers!). In amongst all of this are mistaken identities, cross dressing, drunkeness, gypsies, music, lust, sword fights and the third major plot; which concerns Blunt, another of the band, he’s from Essex... he becomes convinced that Lucetta (who turns out to be a thief and a prostitute) loves him, he is totally humiliated by her and tries to rape Florinda, as revenge against all women for the pain and damage that Lucetta has caused him.
Of course, all’s well that ends we... oh, wrong play again!
Masque Theatre's production is directed by David Chappell.