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New Era - Maskerade

11th to 20th September 2003.

Here is the NWN review.

Players pull off challenge

New Era Players: Terry Pratchett's Maskerade, adapted for the stage by Stephen Briggs, at the New Era Theatre, Wash Common from September 11 to 20

Terry Pratchett's Discworld books have gained a popular cult following and Stephen Briggs' fine adaptation of Maskerade captures the essence of the novel perfectly.

It's a hilarious spoof, lampooning both Gaston Leroux's original Phantom of the Opera, Shakespeare's witches from Macbeth and heavily parodies Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, including the precarious swinging chandelier. As one member of the cast says: "that's an accident waiting to happen".

Quite a challenge for any company to successfully pull off but under the skilful direction of Dawn Sellick, we were treated to a sprightly, high-spirited performance from a talented cast.

Lisa Harrington gave a pearl of a performance as the scheming Granny Weatherax ably assisted by her partner in crime Nanny Ogg (Rachel Lashford). These witches' quest is to ensure that Agnes, alias Perdita (Maria Apicella), joins up to complete the three witches for their role in Macbeth but in the meantime they are forced to help this ambitious chorus girl to become the prima donna in the opera.

The Phantom has been sending notes to the company, threatening doom unless Perdita is given the starring role, replacing the innocent Christine (Tessa Ryan).

But who is the Phantom? All fingers point to the gormless Walter Plinge (Neil Dewdney). But in the end it turns out to be Salzella, musical director, robustly played by Mike Moors who has been fiddling the opera house's accounts and building up a stash of money in the vast cellars below the stage.

Andy Gutteridge was the streetwise owner of the opera company, Seldom Bucket (or was it Bouquet?), with all the humorous references to the television series Keeping up Appearances, desperate to make some profit.

This was a company performance filled with many splendid characters, notably Susanna Mayer's coachman and as the 'other Agnes', Tessa Ryan as Christine, Pamela Webster's Mrs Plinge and David Tute as the chorus master and a convincing cat and many more.

The newly-refurbished auditorium, as part of New Era's silver anniversary project for improving the theatre, with much more comfortable seats, made thee whole evening even more enjoyable. Bravo!