The Maskers' Studio Theatre

29th January - 3rd February 2024

at 7:30pm.

This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Music Theatre International on behalf of Josef Weinberger Ltd. |

Recommended for ages 12+

'Love plays out under the night sky'


The Reviews


29 January 2024

There are some themes in life that are universal, transcending all creeds, cultures, genders, or ethnicities… themes such as love: seeking love, finding love, falling in love, losing love… It is this central topic of love which is at the heart of John Cariani’s short American play, Almost, Maine.
It’s a strange little play – quirky, abstract and surreal – as it’s constructed from nine small 10-minute vignettes within the overall play, a play about the loves and relationships of a small town’s citizens and visitors, against the backdrop of the ethereal Northern Lights. Set in the fictional ‘almost town’ of Almost, in Maine, USA, so far north that it’s almost in Canada, the characters only appear in their specific scene, although they may also be mentioned in others, reflecting the idea that “everyone knows everyone in a small town”, almost living in each other’s pockets.
Although written 20 years ago, this is the first time that I’ve come across Almost, Maine. Apparently its one of the most regularly performed plays in North American schools – and I can see why. With such short standalone plays within the overall narrative, there are ample opportunities for new or inexperienced actors to earn their acting chops and learn their craft. The same could be said for Am Dram companies – however, Maskers have used a combined force of experienced character actors who are longstanding members alongside the more recent additions to the Maskers Theatre Company.
Director David Jobson, in his directorial debut, has overseen a production with a good pace, where the actors are sound in their dialogue and characterisations (although some of the interactions seem more awkward than the script suggests they should be), the absurd situations are performed literally, and the simple set is used to good effect. However, it seemed strange to have a play set in an American town with American terminology, but with the only American accent heard from a member of the audience.
With actors taking on more than one role each, this is a united ensemble production of solid and engaging comical performances; it seems churlish to highlight one over another, and yet Rob Iliffe’s portrayal of Steve was the most compelling and authentic characterisation amongst some otherwise very eccentric personalities.
Simon White’s lighting design has created a visually beautiful and most effective aurora borealis against a starlit backdrop, placed behind a delightfully painted forest, and the costumes reinforce the idea of a cold northern exposure.

The magic of theatre and the Arts is that it’s subjective – the success and enjoyment of any production is as much due to the personal preferences of an audience as it is the skill and talent of the actors and production team. To be honest, this play isn’t my cup of tea, even though I appreciate the commitment and passion of the cast and crew and there were elements that I did enjoy, but if you like absurdist plays, then this may be right up your street, and it does suit the intimate venue of Maskers Studio.

- Anne Waggott

Audience Comments

"Came at the last minute and thought this was a fantastic play. I love the variety I see at Maskers." - L.C.

"Great acting all round, I particularly liked the bags of love." - J.J.

"I’ve never heard of this play but so glad I came along and thoroughly enjoyed the evening." - Anon

"Almost, Maine was so full of surprises with great acting and superb lighting effects." - S.E.C.

"We went last night and loved it - thank you all. So impressed." - M.F.

"The stories were so touching. I didn’t know what to expect – it was a brilliant evening in the little theatre." - Anon

"The plays were all so different and so well acted" - C.F.

"It’s the first time I have been here and will definitely come again." - J.P.

"The standard of the acting and the set is exceptional." - Anon

Love in the snow under the aurora borealis!

Welcome to Almost, Maine, a town that’s so far north, it’s almost not in the United States — it’s almost in Canada. And it almost doesn’t exist. Because its residents never got around to getting organized. So, it’s just … Almost.

On a freezing, clear night in the middle of winter, as the northern lights burst into life in the sky above, the residents of Almost find themselves falling in and out of love in the strangest ways. In 10-minute moments, each drama of love is played out in its many variations in a series of loosely intertwined scenes. Couples flirt, bicker and reunite. Knees are bruised. Hearts are broken.

Will they find love or be left lost and confounded in Almost?
All that can be certain is life for the people of Almost, Maine will never be the same.

Director & Cast

The Director of this production is David Jobson
David has been a part of the Maskers for the past decade, first lurking in Anne Boleyn, then appearing in plays such as Richard II, The Jungle Book, Ten Times Table, An Italian Straw Hat, Around the World in Eighty Days and most recently playing D’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers.
He has also performed for Titchfield Festival Players, where he has played several Shakespearean roles including Cassius in Julius Caesar, Claudio in Much Ado about Nothing, Malcolm in Macbeth, and recently Richard Plantagenet of York in an adaptation of the Henry VI trilogy.
He is also a proud trustee of Flute Theatre Company, headed by Kelly Hunter MBE, which uses Shakespeare's rhythmic language and physical gesture to release communicative blocks within children on the autism spectrum.

Ginette/Waitress/Gayle is played by Jenni Prior
Jenni joined Maskers in November. She has been involved in amateur drama since 2001, playing a mixture of comedy, drama, farce and pantomime. Jenni is enjoying being involved in her first production with Maskers.

Pete/Chad is played by Alec Sleigh
This is Alec's second show with Maskers, after previously playing Don John in the 2021 production of Much Ado About Nothing. His first role was as the lead in a production of Simon Stephens’ Birdland, which was taken to the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since then, he has had other roles in Miss Julie, At The Mountains of Madness, Hamlet, As You Like It, and the original play A Stranger In Our House. Last year, he returned to Much Ado with Titchfield Festival Theatre, this time as Benedick - shortly before heading back to the Edinburgh Fringe in a production of The Misunderstanding.

East/Man is played by Philip de Grouchy
Over the last fifty years, Philip has played a large number of varied characters with Maskers, usually extrovert in nature; Scrooge in 2022's Christmas with the Cratchits for example. As his contribution to this interesting play, he is looking forward to the challenge of tackling two more subtly introverted types.

Glory/Hope is played by Jill Desborough
Jill joined Maskers in 2014 and has been involved with many shows in a variety of roles, both on and off stage. Acting highlights have included: Mistress Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Liz, a cleaner in an art gallery, in Sharks in the Custard, a member of the Watch in our open-air production of Much Ado About Nothing and, more recently, the Ghost of Christmas Present in Christmas with the Cratchits and Leaf/Chorus in The Picture of Dorian Gray. She is looking forward to experiencing the magic of the northern lights in this production of Almost, Maine.

Jimmy/Dave is played by Simon Mewett
Simon's second appearance for Maskers was as Colonel Dent, Vicar and innkeeper for Jane Eyre last summer. Simon was also involved in Love & Power, scenes from Oscar Wilde, a BBV production, which was performed at Maskers Studio back in November.

Sandrine/Rhonda is played by Emily Smith
Emily joined Maskers in the spring of 2023 and has worked backstage on several shows; both as a board operator and a stage manager. She briefly studied acting at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco before changing to Motion Pictures and Television (Cinematography) and has produced several short films for her own studio. This is her first performance on stage in over ten years!

Marvalyn/Marci is played by Dawn Gatrell
Dawn previously performed in pantos at The Bent Brief pub and in The Shadow Factory, which premiered at the Nuffield City Theatre. This is her fourth appearance with Maskers. She was first seen getting to grips with Shakespeare, as the tavern owner in The Merry Wives of Windsor and then in Gormenghast, playing one of the twin aunts. She was delighted to be involved with Time and Tide... last September and is really looking forward to her dual roles in Almost, Maine.

Steve/Phil is played by Rob Iliffe
Rob's first appearance for Maskers was as Mr Brocklehurst in Jane Eyre last summer. Previous performing includes: Southampton Mummers Play, on the first Sunday of the new year at St Michael's Square, storytelling at festivals, Pirate Shakespeare and story walks. Rob has also directed several productions for both The Gantry & Salisbury Playhouse Youth Theatres.

Lendall/Randy is played by Neil Forster
This is Neil's third show with Maskers, after playing Basil Hallward in The Picture of Dorian Gray last year, and Stan in Four Weddings and an Elvis in 2022. A native Geordie(ish), Neil grew up in South Shields and studied at York University, where he appeared in various shows including Cider with Rosie, Arcadia, and Journey’s End. He moved to London after University, where he performed in many other productions including A Clockwork Orange, Oh What a Lovely War!, and Hand to God.

Creative Team

Mentor to the Director
William Baggs
Production Manager
Christine Baker
Stage Manager
Kathryn Salmon
Assistant Stage Manager
Tom Foyle
Set Design
Clive Weeks
Set Construction
Clive Weeks & team
Set Painting
Viktoriia Prymak, Nataliia Prymak & Meri  Mackney
Lighting Design
Simon White
Lighting Consultant
Tom Foyle
Sound Design
David Jobson & Jamie McCarthy
Lighting & Sound Operators
Silas Champagne & Ashley Martin
Wardrobe & Costumes
Anna Hussey
Chris Baker
Rehearsal Prompt
Chris Baker
Poster Design
Kyla Little & Clive Weeks

Ticket Information

Tickets £14

No concessions

Customers are requested to arrive promptly as late comers cannot be admitted.

On arrival at the Masker’s Studio

  • Please give your name (or the name the tickets were booked under) to our Box Office receptionist, and they will confirm your booking.
  • If you have pre-ordered a programme you will be given it on arrival. Programmes will also be available for purchase from a FOH member.
  • For the safety of all our audience members and staff are still operating some Covid risk reduction actions.  Please use the hand sanitising stations on arrival.  We will also be increasing the fresh air circulating throughout the venue.
  • Wearing of face coverings is optional.
  • Our bar will be open for purchases of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.  We would encourage you to pre-order your interval drinks, to assist our bar staff and reduce crowding at the bar.
  • We are now able to take, and prefer, card payments but can also take cash.

During your visit

  • A stairlift and disabled toilet facilities are available.
  • Hand sanitiser will be available for your use at various points around the theatre building.
  • We have installed an extra extractor fan to vent studio air to the outside pulling fresh air in from the other side of the building.
  • Where possible windows will also remain open.  This may make the venue cooler than you are used to, so please be prepared.
  • Enhanced cleaning will take place throughout the venue before, and after the performance.
  • The taking of photographs or videos whilst the show is on is not permitted.

Exiting the building/event at the end of the performance

  • When leaving, please do not crowd the stairwell and allow everyone to leave easily and quickly.
  • As you go down the alleyway, please take extra care and keep to the marked footpath as the road is very uneven.
  • Please take any rubbish with you or leave it in the bins provided.

What if I have specific access needs?

  • The stair chair lift is available and our FOH staff will assist you should you need to use it.
  • Any other requirements may be discussed with our Box Office manager in advance of your arrival.

What happens if a show is cancelled?

  • If we are required to cancel a performance, we will offer you tickets for an alternative performance.

Poster, Flyer & Programme

For the Maskers

Technical Manager:- Jamie McCarthy;   Lighting Consultant:- Clive Weeks;   Sound Consultant:- Jamie McCarthy;   Marketing Team:- Angela Stansbridge, Clive Weeks, Robert Osborne, Meri Mackney, Paul Baker;   Front of House & Box Office Manager:- Chris Baker;   Photographer:- Clive Weeks;   Bar Manager:- Meri Mackney
Image Gallery
Click on an image to view it.

click on a photo to enlarge it

Her Heart
Her Heart
Sad and Glad
Sad and Glad
This Hurts
This Hurts
Getting it Back
Getting it Back
They Fell
They Fell
Where It Went
Where It Went
Story of Hope
Story of Hope
Seeing the Thing
Seeing the Thing

Thank You

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Shirley's own LOCAL theatre!

Maskers Theatre Company
Off Emsworth Road
SO15 3LX

Registered Charity 900067

Established 1968

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