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Boxford Masques: The Seven Stars

28th July to 1st August 2004.

Following the successful re staging of ‘The Well in the Wood’ in 2000, another of Charlotte Peake’s Edwardian masques has been adapted by the residents of Boxford working with the Watermill Theatre. The Seven Stars details the enchanting story of the goddess Sterope, and a poor shepherd whose world is riven by war. Sterope comes down to earth to be with her love and to try to mend his warlike ways. The play was probably Charlotte's reaction to the First World War. This summer it’s brought back to life and up to date and performed high in the unspoiled woodland amphitheatre on Hoar Hill above Boxford, overlooking the Lambourn valley.

Here's the Newbury Theatre review of The Seven Stars.

In the lovely wooded setting in the hills above Boxford, you could almost imagine that the clock had gone back 90 years to when Charlotte Peake wrote The Seven Stars. The play was adapted by Geraldine McCaughrean and performed by the people of Boxford and the communities around.

The story is a strange mixture of Greek mythology and First-World-War action, and is full of drama, often moving into melodrama, with the actors declaiming their lines in a stylised way that would seem odd in a theatre but fits well in the surreal open air setting.

It was clear from the start that this was no ordinary production. Director Ade Morris and designer Libby Watson have come up with something special, and what was most impressive was the way in which all the cast were integrated into the play, from the children (and some of them looked no more than three years old) to the oldies.

The children - several dozen of them - played shooting stars and soldiers, and they acted their socks off. No distractions, no surreptitious glances at the audience, they were totally involved all the time.

Among the adults, Katy Sigrist stood out as an anguished Sterope, coming to terms with her disillusionment when her mortal husband Oenamaus, strongly played by Gareth Warne, turns out to have feet of clay. Carl Calow was impressive in a variety of roles.

The second half didn't match the promise of the first half, and the play would have benefited from being shorter. But with the play itself, the singing, dancing and live music, we had a vibrant and exciting production, imaginatively directed and in a beautiful setting.


From the Newbury Weekly News.

A love story of star quality

Boxford Masques: The Seven Stars, from Wednesday, July 28 to Saturday, August 1

I have reviewed plays in many venues, including a public toilet in Edinburgh, but the stunning panoramic views on top of Hoar's Hill above Boxford provided the most idyllic venue for the Boxford Masques' adaptation of The Seven Stars, written by Charlotte Peake and adapted with immense skill by Geraldine McCaughrean and Ade Morris.

As you climbed the hill there was a wonderful atmosphere with folk picnicking on the grass and all the vibes that this was going to be a special performance - and it certainly was.

Designer Libby Watson's set was enchanting: under the spread of a beautiful beech tree different globes representing the planets were suspended, with a sweeping ramp from the tree to the floor with silver drums creating a perfect amphitheatre. I took my seat on a log; others were sitting on hay bales or had brought their own seats. The atmosphere was magical.

The play is essentially a love story. In a distant corner of the night sky, the Seven Stars spend their time dancing and telling each other stories and worshipping the cold-hearted Artemus (Lizzie Sigrist). The goddess; Sterope (Katy Sigrist) leaves her sisters to help troubled Earth and falls in love with Oenamaus, a poor shepherd (Gareth Warner). This enrages the remaining sisters who pursue Sterope seeking revenge.

Thrusting up the hill comes a military Land Rover and an army of soldiers and the consequences of life on earth are painfully revealed as Oenamaus now finds himself saddled with an ordinary wife and not a goddess. Carl Calow was particularly strong as the young subaltern.

Tough old Empusa, beautifully portrayed by Annabel Bailey, is cruelly slain by her son Erin (Jonathan Harding), Sterope has a child and there lies the hope for a new future.

This was a wonderful ensemble company; the youngest must have been five and there were just too many excellent performances to mention by name.

They all played their parts with total conviction and with a vibrancy, commitment and obvious total enjoyment. Musical director Pal Kissaun had created a magical score that was fully realised in Debbie Camp's choreography.

Director Ade Morris should be justly proud of this sparkling production. Well done the folk of Boxford, this was community theatre at its very best!