Masque Theatre History

The 1980s

Productions Archive

204 1980 Riders to the Sea/The Tinkers Wedding by JM Synge

205 1980 The Caretaker by Harold Pinter

206 1980 A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

207 1980 All my Sons by Arthur Miller

208 1980 The Lady from the Sea by Henrik Ibsen

209 1981 The Sea by Edward Bond

210 1981 Close of Play by Simon Gray

211 1981 The Tempest by William Shakespeare

212 1981 Mrs Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw

213 1981 The Children’s Hour by Lillian Helhnan

214 1982 Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov

215 1982 The Homecoming by Harold Pinter

216 1982 The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

217 1982 A Lily in Little India by Donald Howarth

218 1983 The Coarse Acting Show by Michael Green

219 1983 The Hostage by Brendan Behan

220 1983 The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen

221 1983 Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

222 1983 The Happy Haven by John Arden

223 1983 Masque at Christmas (by various writers)

224 1984 And a Nightingale Sang by CP Taylor

225 1984 Born in the Gardens by Peter Nichols

226 1984 Richard III by William Shakespeare

227 1984 A Passage to India by Santha Rama Rau

228 1984 Educating Rita by Willy Russell

229 1985 The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais

230 1985 Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen

231 1985 Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare

232 1985 The Inhabitants by Olwyn Wymark

233 1985 A Voyage Round My Father by John Mortimer

234 1985 Habeas Corpus by Alan Bennett

235 1986 Kes by Barry Lines, dramatised by Alan Stronach

236 1986 And a Little Loves Besides by Alan Plater

237 1986 Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

238 1986 Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi by Pam Gems

239 1986 When We Are Married by JB Priestley

240 1987 Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

241 1987 Old Times by Harold Pinter

242 1987 Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

243 1987 The House of Bernada Alba by Frederico Garcia Lorca

244 1987 Absent Friends  by Alan Ayckbourn

245 1988 Right You Are if You Think So by Luigi Pirandello

246 1988 The Price by Arthur Miller

247 1988 A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

248 1988 The Misanthrope by Moliere, translated by Tony Harrison

249 1988 The Devil’s Disciple by George Bernard Shaw

250 1989 A Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill

251 1989 Once a Catholic by Mary O’Malley

252 1989 The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

253 1989 Alphabetical Order by Michael Frayn

254 1989 The Dresser by Ronald Harwood

During the 1980s, Masque Theatre continued to gain a reputation for its quality productions. Writing for the Chronicle & Echo in 1980, the paper’s theatre reviewer John Gilbert wrote: “The fortunes of amateur drama groups wax and wane and this production is further evidence, that the Masque are once again in the ascendant.”

The good reviews went through to the end of the decade when the Herald & Post’s review of Alphabetical Order by Michael Frayn said: “Masque Theatre showed last week why they are one of the best am dram companies in Northampton.”

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1980)A Midsummer Night's Dream in the open air at Abington Park in 1980

The 1980s: the decade of the miners’ strike, the Falklands War and the wedding of Charles and Di.

Computers, such as the BBC Micro and the ZX Spectrum, arrived in the home. In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

Popular music went from Blondie at the start of the decade to Kylie & Jason at the end, but it was Live Aid in 1985 that grabbed a worldwide audience of around 1.9 billion and raised an estimated £150m for famine relief.

And Northampton had a new performance venue. The Derngate Theatre was opened in 1983.

Whilst most of Masque Theatre’s productions were staged at Northampton College’s studio theatre off Booth Lane or at the Ling’s Theatre, the annual open-air productions continued in the courtyard of Abington Park Museum, interrupted only by the occasional summer shower and the screech of nearby peacocks.

Three Sisters (1982)Three Sisters by Chekhov (1982) at Northampton College's studio theatre

During the decade, the open air plays were always by Shakespeare and were usually comedies. But directors liked to experiment. Alison Dunmore recalls one particular summer show: “In the 1981 production of The Tempest, Prospero’s island was inhabited by performers costumed as from a Japanese Noh play complete with mask-like oriental make-up.”

A newspaper cuttingMasque's 50th anniversary production in 1983, The Coarse Acting Show, attracted attention in the local press

A few years after the event, Greta and (the late) John Hendy recalled another open-air production which raised a few eyebrows at the time but a lot of smiles later on: “Two extras in Richard III (1984), equipped with authentic medieval weapons, went berserk and put not only themselves and the rest of the cast but also the front row of the audience in grave peril. How calamity was avoided we will never know.”

Another memorable production - perhaps for all the wrong reasons - was The Marriage of Figaro (1985). The Hendys take up the story: “An actor cut out an essential scene causing total panic among the actors and crew and puzzling the audience (those that actually noticed something was wrong!) ‘How did Cherabino get out of that locked room?’”

Do these anecdotes sound like coarse acting? It was apt, therefore, that in 1983 when Masque celebrated its 50th birthday, Michael Green’s The Coarse Acting Show was the chosen production.

A Winter's Tale (1989)A Winter's Tale (1989) in the open air
at Abington Park

One notable landmark achievement was in 1985 when Jean McNamara’s production of The Inhabitants by Olwyn Wymark reached the All-England final of the British Drama League’s One Act Play Festival.

In 1986, Mark Stephens did two productions with Masque: Kes and Two Gentlemen of Verona. Today he is better known as Marc Warren (Danny Blue in Hustle, Dougie Raymond in The Vice, Dominic Foy in State of Play and Rick in Mad Dogs). He thanks Masque Theatre for helping he get his first professional break: “Somebody saw Kes and gave me my break at the Northampton Royal Theatre, which was my professional debut. So thank you very much for that.”


More from the Masque Theatre Archives

1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s

This information is adapted from the history researched and written by John and Greta Hendy with Alison Dunmore; edited and conceived by Rob Kendall and published in 2000. New material has been compiled and written by Martin Borley-Cox.

Page last updated: 26/03/2014 Masque Theatre © 2014




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