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The Boxford Masques - All at Sea!

26th to 30th July 2017.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

On the crest of a wave

Cast and crew sail through a great masque, despite the rain

The Boxford Masques: All at Sea!, at Welford Park, from Wednesday, July 26 to Sunday, July 30

It should have been a spectacular event in the open in front of a fine Queen Anne house with a stage full of fittings and furniture, including two lifeboats.

British weather dictated otherwise as we walked along, very wet and bedraggled, to Welford church, where the 'contingency plan' was in full operation and the production was set to start in an hour, in front of the pulpit with the band at the back of the building. First though, we settled into a long pew in the church to have our picnic, safe from the pouring rain but regretting that we couldn't enjoy open fields and warm sunshine.

It can't have been easy after performing on the stage to move into the church and adapt the production and all of its many actors to a different, confined space. They lost their lifeboats and stage scenery was confined to a rail, a ship's wheel and a moveable door. It was impressive how quickly they adapted and a remarkably free-flowing, confident performance was given.

The good ship SS Welford sets sail for America with a sterling cargo of actor/singers, including a number of well-drilled, movement-perfect little performers – some as young as five. This was demonstrably a community play with a cast of 55, a band and a dedicated crew of backstage workers.

Geraldine McCaughrean's script – setting the action in the 1920s – included plenty of humour, with references to local areas like Lambourn and Shefford. At one point Lady Ramsbury (Annabel Bailey) delivers the word 'Harlesden' in a voice similar to Lady Bracknell's "handbag", and another character resorts to Ernie Wise-speak, with the words "when you've got love, like what we have got".

Dave Stephens did well as Reg, considering that he was also the music composer, MD and played the ukulele. The acting and singing was very good all round and top marks must go to Ade Morris for his skilled direction, choreographer Deborah Camp, Debbie McGregor for the striking costumes and Emma Bradbury, the children's company director.

Real life characters Osbert Crawford and Charlotte Peake were played by Peter Estdale and Judith Bunting respectively.

It should be noted that the play was a little lengthy to maintain full concentration over two-and-a-half hours, although performances in the open – as intended – might have worked better with more freedom of movement. For the audience that is…