Masque Youth Theatre
Distinctive amateur drama
in Northampton since 1932
Registered Charity No. 294848
by various writers
A scene from Ringtime
Production No. 358
Ursula Wright, director
Over the past 10 years, Masque Youth Theatre productions seem to have followed two recipes: either the classic house speciality, done on a large scale, such as The Birds, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Children’s Crusade and Gulliver – or the tapas-style selection of bite-size themed pieces, such as To Buy A Fat Pig, Any Dream Will Do, or Shoeshine.
This year it is the turn of the latter (except that the portions are somewhat larger!)
Ringtime, an entertainment to welcome the spring (we hope!) takes as its theme lovers and their lasses, rings and things, and new beginnings.
Five groups are working, each with its own director, to bring to the Crusader Round a mixed and intriguing selection - four short original pieces and four unusual proposal scenes from Shakespeare.
Add a sprinkling of songs, a dash of stylish dressing and a couple of surprise ingredients, all served up by an enthusiastic and talented company of 50 young people.
To begin this review I’ll take my cue from the Chronicle & Echo: ‘Young thespians were brilliant’ the banner title to a letter to the Chron from Frances and Owen Warr.
Ringtime, an entertainment to welcome the spring, was truly that – a warm colourful explosion of youthful treats in all its form from the opening full company song ‘It was a lover and his lass’ to its end. The recent spring showers were all but forgotten, even if we did have as a finale Nanna Noah’s ‘flood’, over the two hours of performance.
For those of you who didn’t manage to catch a performance the programme was a varied mixture of song, sketches, dance, and scenes from Shakespeare and specially devised pieces from the company that illustrated the overall theme.
It would be invidious to pick out individual performances given that Ringtime began its life as very much a work in progress with all members of the ensemble bringing it to fruition and particularly as the audience enjoyed it all. I am sure also that those members of the audience who have seen MYT’s work over the last 11 years would recognise the growing confidence and delivery of the young people, including new members, that has been built up by Ursula Wright and her team.
The devised pieces such as Upton Park, The Planets, Nanna Noah respectively directed by Tim Page, Catherine Coleman and Brian Wright, show just how much can be achieved by cast, director (and writer) when working as an ensemble.
Upton Park in its Silent Film pastiche certainly worked up to its programme description as ‘definitely two stops short of Barking’ for Tom and Gary, but then, of course, when love is in the air the unexpected can happen! The flickering frames of the silent movie were held together by action and the cast creating their own sound effects while the overall rhythm was sustained by musical director, Kay Warcaba’s, score.
Catherine Coleman’s Planets, which opened the second half, was also a complete contrast as a piece of movement and physical theatre together with music from Holst, Prokofiev and Debussy and where masks created the abstraction of the characters.
Nanna Noah, written by Brian Wright, may at first glance seem an odd inclusion in an ‘entertainment to welcome the spring’ but spring is about renewal and growth and what could be more about renewal than life after the ‘flood’? We had a second chance again, the programme note says ‘we blew it’, if the obvious enthusiasm of the performers was anything to go by across the board I am not so sure!
I also thought that the placing piece written and directed by Edward Toone entitled It’s Complicated (a conversation about love) after the initial company song was both inventive and stimulating to the audience by being swiftly introduced to a wide range of authors, Shakespeare, Keats, Laing (who always got me in a knot) and Osborne plus Sylvia Plath all of whom had varied ideas on the aspects on love. It is also to be applauded that the youth theatre engenders ‘new’ writing from within their ranks.
Not least I should mention the unifying factor of the Shakespeare extracts, directed by Ursula Wright that illustrated the theme of love and marriage – given the ‘ring’ to Ringtime. Certainly some ‘ring’ was thrown at Viola, in Twelfth Night, by Malvolio ; the Richard III scene had Lady Anne startled by the demonstrative king, while the Taming of the Shrew reminded us of the unconventional wooing of Petruchio for Kate. All of which is tame stuff compared to the bemused fortunes of the ‘lovers’, Demetrius, Lysander, Helena and Hermia, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I think it’s always difficult to pull off Shakespeare extracts, but the programme notes set each scene in context, and the actors were focused on character and clear in their diction.
This ‘review’ is not in any particular chronological order of performance rather than looking at how it was themed together and how much was achieved by the group. The evening ended with a MYT company number, an impassioned rendering of the song ‘The Rhythm of Life’ that filled the Crusader Round and reminded the audience just how much hard work and dedication from all of those involved had gone into Ringtime and allowed hem to leave with a spring in their step.
27 - 29 March 2008 at 7.30pm
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Sheep Street, Northampton
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