Based on a popular children’s book written in the 1970s, Masquerade is a mixture of puzzles, fantasy and horrible truths. It begins with two stories running at once, the story of Bumbling Jack Hare and his mystical friends and that of Joe and his mother Tess. This production is part of the Come Out celebrations, so is targeted at children.
Joe is suffering from a terminal illness and Tess is trying to make him hang on to hope and strengthen her own. Jack is just stumbling from one confusing situation to another. He is given a task by the Moon who has made an amulet for the object of her affection, the Sun; and charged with delivering her message of love. He has immense difficulty with this as, not only can he not pronounce the word “love”, but has no idea how to get to the Sun. All this is in the book read aloud by Tess to divert Joe from thinking of his next treatment.
Whilst the overlaying of these stories is a strong device, it has some problems.
But there are no problems with the lead players. Jack, played by Nathan O’Keefe is a joy. He is immediately lovable and his antics and tricks make the character a favourite with the whole audience. As Tess, Helen Dallimore gains the sympathy of the audience and plays the character with dignity and total belief: but the stand out is Louie Fontaine as Joe, a mature performance for someone so young. Even though these characters were good there were times when their words were muffled and difficult to understand, product perhaps of the slightly uneven sound.
The music is an integral part of this performance, many of the characters sing or play instruments, or both, with varying success.
The Moon was suitably ethereal, played by Kate Cheel, who also played Tara Treetops (a fun character). Zindi Okenyo filled many of the minor roles, including Nurse, Penny Pockets and Dawn, and the Sun was Mikelangelo, who was also responsible for composing and musically directing the performance. The rest of the band, The Black Sea Gentlemen, played many of the other minor parts. Pip Branson was interesting as ‘the man who plays the music that makes the world go around.
When Tess and Joe decide to enter the story and find the amulet that Jack lost, the pace quickens. Full marks to directors Lee Lewis and Sam Strong: the production works well, and what flaws there are I suspect are in the script. The design by Anna Cordingley works well, including the visual design by Chris Petris and all is enhanced by Geoff Cobham’s lighting plot.
In all this was an enjoyable piece, but I am not sure it will have reached its target audience.
Reviewed by Fran Edwards
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Season: 22 May – 31 May 2015
Duration: 2hr with interval
Tickets: Adult $58, Conc. $49, Under 30 $31, Groups of 10+ (in one transaction) $49