To return to the Nuffield Theatre as director with a second comedy in one year has been an unplanned surprise and my great pleasure, but this French farce, is completely different from Alan Ayckbourn's Ten Times Table which I directed last! This sparkling piece is by Eugine Labiche, who wrote many of the most popular and amusing light comedies of the 19th century. Labiche’s father manufactured glucose syrup, widely used for cooking and as a drink (diluted with fruit juice or water which the characters in An Italian Straw Hat drink so enthusiastically). As the play unfolds you can see that this manic play can be likened to Fawlty Towers - I hope you enjoy it as much as we have producing it.
Chris Baker is a long standing member of the company, having been involved with many productions both on and off stage. Her last appearance was as Helen Dixon in Ten Times Table. She is delighted to be part of the directing team for this production.
This is the fifth play Paul has directed at the Nuffield, having been acting and directing in the Southampton area for over 45 years. He has directed at the Minack Theatre (39 Steps) and most recently directed the sell-out comedy Di & Viv & Rose at the Maskers Studio Theatre. Paul hopes to bring elements of physical comedy to what promises to be a feel-good fun show!
The Cast (In order of appearance)
Virginia (Madame Beaujolais's maid) played by Bonnie Kaye
Bonnie is new to Maskers after recently rediscovering her passion for acting. She was extensively involved with the Nuffield Theatre many moons ago, performing in works such as The Great Gromboolian Plain, Skellig, and The Red Red Shoes. Bonnie studied Drama at GCSE and A-Level, and was involved in Kafka's Metamorphosis whilst at college. When Bonnie is not acting she enjoys singing, playing piano and drums, reading about 19th century history, and watching videos of cats.
Felix (Fadinard's valet) played by Paul Baker
Paul made his Maskers debut in The Three Musketeers at Mottisfont playing a variety the parts, one of whom was killed by Martin Humphrey who appears in this production as his boss Fadinard. He has been in every outdoor production for the company since his debut, with memorable roles including Weasel Norman in Wind in the Willows for which he received a Daily Echo Curtain Call award. This is his first production indoors for over a year so expects it to snow during show week.
Vezinet (Bride's uncle) played by John Souter
John is no stranger to the stage, having appeared with Maskers for more years than he can remember in shows at the Maskers Studio Theatre, in summer outdoor theatre at Mottisfont and Hamptworth, and at the Nuffield. His parts have ranged from Shakespeare to Ayckbourn both serious and comic. Last year his Nuffield appearance was as a silly deaf old woman; this year he is a silly deaf old man! He denies all claims that he is being typecast.
Fadinard (The bridegroom) played by Martin Humphrey
Martin is enjoying returning to Maskers after a break of a number of years, even if it does mean much manic rushing about on stage! Previous roles with Maskers include Sir Percy Blakeny in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Athos in The Three Musketeers, and Richard Stanley in The Man Who Came To Dinner. Martin has been involved in numerous other productions at the Chesil Theatre in Winchester.
Emile (Captain of the Suaves) played by David Jobson
David is pleased to be returning to the Nuffield after appearing last year in Ten Times Table, charging in with a great big hairy beard. This time he hopes to have a better-trimmed chin. Having played Porthos in The Three Musketeers and General McKenzie in And Then There Were None, he is not a stranger to playing the brash military character. He is also excited to be finally playing a character with a love interest.
Annette (Madame Beaujolais) played by Marie McDade
Marie has been a Masker for 5 years, and has appeared in a wide range of productions, from Shakespeare to Ayckbourn and back again. This is her second Nuffield Theatre appearance with the company, once again as a woman doomed to pursue unsuitable men - although this time with a lot more doors and lost hats!
Nonancourt (Bride's father) played by Eric Petterson
Eric Petterson started a late acting and singing career in A Christmas Charivari in 2012. He performed in the Christmas shows in 2013 and 2014 and again this year in Mistletoe Junction. His straight acting roles included the Guard in Forward to the Right and Jack in The Weir. He played Gaunt in a touring version of Richard II and enjoyed picking up young ladies in The Yalta Game.
Helene (The bride) played by Kate Grundy-Garcia
Kate has more recently played motherly roles such as Raksha in The Jungle Book and Mrs Webb in Our Town. Prior to that, she played younger, feisty roles such as Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the scary prison officer in Chair, and a tarty killer Pirate in Treasure Island. In An Italian Straw Hat, she has gone full circle and is playing an innocent young bride again. Kate lives with her husband and fellow Masker Rubén and three children Callum, Millie, and Isla.
Boby (Cousin of bride) played by Jonathan Marmont
This is Jonathan's fifth time performing for Maskers after being a member of other societies for a few years. His latest role with us was Gregor Samsa in Kafka's Metamorphosis which could not be more removed from this role! Swiftly after that it was a run at The Mayflower Theatre in An Inspector Calls. Jonathan enjoys playing characters spanning from one end of the spectrum to the other and has very much relished playing Boby.
Clara (The milliner) played by Kristina Wilde
She flirted through this year’s sell-out production of Di and Viv and Rose. She ran wild as Mowgli in The Jungle Book. Now, Kristina is delighted to play headstrong milliner Clara. After Shakespeare (Bolingbrook, Richard II), Ibsen (Masha, The Seagull) and black comedy (Paige, Dinner by Moira Buffini) with other companies, French farce is a new challenge. She thinks this’ll be a relaxing way to spend January 2017, before directing The Killing of Sister George for Maskers in May.
Tardiveau (Milliner's cashier) played by Ian Wilson
Ian has been performing and directing with Maskers for nine years. His parts have ranged from a lepidopterist, barman, strip club owner, and accountant to the King of England himself. This part is a bit less regal, but everyone needs a hat!
Comtesse de Champigny (Hostess) played by Jenni Watson
Since the age of three, Jenni has been bitten by the acting bug when she first performed in her local church nativity play! Over the years she has performed for Maskers as well as many local groups, in a variety of settings. Her favourite roles include Vladimir (Waiting for Godot), Lady Booby (Joseph Andrews), Ellie Dunn (Heartbreak House), Lady Capulet (Romeo and Juliet), Paulina (The Winter's Tale), the Red Queen (Alice), Nancy (Sitting Pretty) and Mrs Pearce (Pygmalion). Jenni is very much looking forward to playing a Comtesse!
Achille (Cousin of the Comtesse) played by Philip DeGrouchy
Philip de Grouchy has performed, on and off, with the Maskers and other local societies (some still flourishing, some long defunct) since the early seventies of the last century in a wide variety of roles, often eccentric or drunk or both. In this show, his role is definitely the former; a character which may ruin his reputation, such as it is, irreparably. But it's great fun to do.
A footman / guard played by Bruce Atkinson
Bruce has been a Masker for many years, appearing in too many shows to list. Lately he seems to have been specialising in playing butlers and was last seen in Maskers’ open-air production of Pygmalion as – the butler!
Duchesse de Chateau Gaillard played by Sue Dashper
This is Sue's second appearance at the Nuffield for Maskers; the first time she played Bridget in Sitting Pretty by Amy Rosenthal. Sue appeared as a maid in the outdoor production of Pygmalion and earlier last year she took on the role of Mrs Samsa in Kafka's Metamorphosis. This current production of An Italian Straw Hat allows her to explore her inner posh person!
Le Duc de Château Gaillard played by Alan Watson
Since joining Maskers 40 years ago, Alan’s favourite parts have been Private Mason (Journey's End), Kent (King Lear), and Lane (The Importance of Being Earnest). As you can see, Alan has a wide repertoire, but these days, only servants and toffs are considered!
Mlle. Ondine de Château Pompe played by Meri Mackney
Meri has been a Masker for many years as actor and director, most recently directing our open-air shows at Hamptworth: Pygmalion, The Jungle Book and Anne Boleyn. She is enjoying being on stage again and playing this silly cameo.
Clotilde (Maid of the Comtesse) played by Brenda Atkinson
Brenda has appeared in many previous shows, most recently as an opera-going lady in Pygmalion, and a wolf in The Jungle Book. She is enjoying running around and looking confused in this production as other characters behave bizarrely around her.
M. Beaujolais (Jealous husband of Annette) played by David Collis
David has been performing in amateur theatre since 1994 and particularly enjoys performing at the Nuffield Theatre. He was last here with Maskers playing Max in Sitting Pretty. Previous incarnations have been a diverse as Captain Zuniga (Carmen), Hysterium (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) and Duke of Burgundy (King Lear).
Corporal of the Guard / Guest played by Jez Minns
Jez is coming back to the Company after a seven-year absence, during which time he has been writing poetry and painting watercolours. He's thrilled to be playing a French policeman in this show, as it gives him an excuse to grow a comedy moustache. Believe it or not, Jez has actually played Hamlet, and the most embarrassing moment of his life was when he dried during the famous "To be or not to be" speech!
Guard played by John Hamon
The Horse played by Spangles
This is Spangles first role as a publicity model. He was too shy to actually eat the hat during the shoot, despite it being specially plaited for him out of his favourite hay, but he did dig in on returning to the stables! Although he won't actually be appearing on stage, he thoroughly enjoyed his outing on a bright but frosty day on Canada Common with some of the actors from this wonderful production. "He is looking forward to his next opportunity to star", said his owner Megan Karina-Stephenson.