Was it really September when I last posted? Oops.
As the Masque Theatre
is rapidly heading towards its 80th anniversary (it’s actually in 2012, but they’ve started preparing nice and early), Mother asked me to dig out all of the Masque negatives I could find. I don’t think anyone (least of all me) was quite expecting somewhere in the region of 400 films that I delivered a couple of weeks ago!
Fortunately, now that I’ve handed over all of the Masque negs, they become an SEP (Someone Else’s Problem – Douglas Adams) and I can concentrate on the rest of the archive.
Anyway, I was trying to work out where I’d got up to on the blog, and found some older pics that I passed over previously.
Dancing at a couple of Masque parties in 1964.
There’s nothing particularly startling about this photo, apart from the fact that it’s my mother looking very stern and HOLDING A GUN!
It’s apparently a rehearsal for a play called The Chinese Bungalow.
The Masque Theatre
in Northampton put on an open-air show every summer, usually Shakespeare. Traditionally it was always held in the courtyard of the museum in Abington Park, but this was closed for a number of years over the last decade or so. However, they’re back there now, which means that the actors once again have to battle to be heard over the peacocks from the small aviary just behind. Assuming there are still any there – I haven’t lived in Northampton since 1992, so I’ve no idea whether there are or not!
As this is 1961, it must be Much Ado About Nothing. If I recall correctly, the little ticket booth is green, and always saw additional service in the Borough Show in Abington Park a week or two later. I spent many summer evenings around there, often selling programmes, as my father was generally in the play and my mother helped out, sometimes prompting, sometimes in the ticket office. Quite possibly sometimes both.
These days, I don’t do Shakespeare – I suspect those summer evenings in the 1970s are a major reason why.
And just sometimes, it doesn’t rain.
I can’t overstate how important these photos are.
Having moved to Northampton for his job, my father carried on with the amateur dramatics thing, joining the Masque Theatre
in 1960 (we actually have the letter confirming his membership). He remained a member for the rest of his life, sometimes acting, sometimes helping backstage, and taking photos of many, many productions – I totted up and something like 300 of the 850 b&w films are of Masque productions. I don’t propose to scan many of these, but will probably hand them over to the Masque archive.
Anyway, the young lady in these pictures, Greta, was stage managing this production (The Entertainer in 1961), and I think he took a bit of a liking to her – rather a lot of a liking in fact. A sort of married for 45 years with two children liking…
Yep, say hello to my mother.
You know the membership letter I mentioned above? She signed it.
The chap in the last photo (John Cartwright) remains a family friend to this day.
Similarly to the production that the Imperial College Drama Society put on in Cheltenham in 1954, they did the same in Maidstone in 1955.
Mr & Mrs Fletcher
Les and Ursula on stage
I think that the first shot is of the landlord & landlady in the pub that they adopted during their stay – there are several photos that appear to be in the pub.
I suspect that my father wasn’t acting in this particular play, as this was taken from above the stage. I don’t know what play they were doing – surprisingly enough his records don’t say.
I suspect the reason I never really became interested in the theatre (drawing a discrete veil over my appearance as a Munchkin) is that I was subjected to too much Shakespeare as a small child. My parents were (and my mother still is) long-standing active members of the Masque Theatre amateur group in Northampton, and they were always involved in the annual open-air productions. Being too young to be left at home, my brother and I spent many interminable summer evenings hanging around Abington Park trying to think of something interesting to do. We must have been too well brought up, as otherwise we’d have been off nicking hubcaps or something like that – although Abington is too nice a part of Northampton for that sort of behaviour thank you very much.