Distinctive amateur drama
in Northampton since 1932

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by Patrick Marber

Cast & Crew

Alice Bernie Wood
John Eldridge
Richard Jordan
Kate Billingham
‘The rest of the world’ Stage Manager and Crew

Director Maggie Holland
Stage Manager
June Schofield
Stage Crew
Martin Williams, Brian Harrap, Phil Purkis, Weekes Baptiste
Jane Lanchbury, Mindy Robinson
Computer Animation Victoria Holland
Robert and Chris Vaughan
Assistance with the set
Mark Mortimer
Front of House
Masque Theatre members
Poster Design
Tamsyn Payne
Programme Design
Martin Borley-Cox

John Eldridge as Dan and Kate Billingham as Anna Photo by Robert Vaughan

Production No. 368

More images from Closer


Maggie Holland, director

“Love and sex are like politics:
it’s not what you say
that matters, still less
what you mean,
but what you do”
(Sunday Times)

Closer, written by Patrick Marber, is considered by some to be one of the best plays of sexual politics in the English language. In 1997, Closer won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play (and several other awards on both sides of the Atlantic).

In the play, which snapshots the intertwining of four strangers’ lives over a period of five years, the author gets right down to what Yeats described as “the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart”.

      ”The writing seems to have
been ripped straight
from the gut.”
(Daily Telegraph)

On the surface, Closer is brisk, witty, obscene and modern. Beneath the skin it is deeply felt, painful, sad and wise. It is about sexual jealousy and desire and portrays human isolation, even within intense relationships.

And so begins a new season of plays for the Masque, with yet another challenging piece for both those involved in the production and the audience. As director, I am aware that some members of Masque may have reservations about this play because of the amount of strong and very explicit language involved. I would assure you that most of the “adult” language is used in context and not as gratuitous expletives.

Those members of the audience that have seen the film version, with Jude Law et al, may be in for a surprise at the end.

Although I have directed for Moulton Players, this is the first time I have directed for Masque and I feel quite honoured to be trusted with such an emotive and, in my view, excellent script.

The four main characters are being played by Kate Billingham, John Eldridge, Richard Jordan and Bernadette Wood. All four have been working very hard at line learning over the summer and I have been delighted by the almost immediate absence of scripts from the rehearsal floor. (Although at times a few of those previously referred to “gratuitous expletives” do creep in, don’t they Richard?!)

As we get closer to the performance week they will be joined by several other Masque members who will be making cameo appearances throughout the play as well as moving scenery in between the scenes.

There are 12 scenes in the play, all with different settings, usually with several months elapsing between each scene, so one of my tasks as director will be to ensure the performance flows and maintains pace. As I estimate that my “stage crew” have around 100 years of experience between them, this should help!

Although I think we have most of the technical preparation organised, if anyone wants to volunteer to give Bernie pole-dancing lessons, please get in touch!

Tue 27 - Sat 31 October 2009 at 7.45pm
Northampton College Studio Theatre, Booth Lane, Northampton

Page last updated: 19/04/2012 Masque Theatre © 2012

by Martin Borley-Cox

Closer is a Marmite play: people either love it or hate it.

When it was first performed in the late ‘90s, the critics adored it, lavishing it with the Evening Standard Best Comedy Award, the Critics‘ Circle Award and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Play.  The Broadway production won the New York Critics‘ Circle Award for Best Foreign Play.

Detractors cite the gratuitous language, the obnoxious, spoilt characters and the coldness of the story, which is surprising since the word ‘love‘ is mentioned on numerous occasions.

The play follows the intertwined lives of two men and two women.  Dan (played by John Eldridge) is an obituary journalist.  Alice (Bernie Wood in a first-time acting role for Masque) is a stripper in London clubs.  Larry (Richard Jordan) is a dermatologist.  And Anna (Kate Billingham, last seen on the Masque stage in 1995) is a photographer.

The action takes place over a period of five years and during that time, Dan sleeps with Alice, Alice sleeps with Larry, Larry sleeps with Anna and Anna sleeps with Dan.

They’re all needy people.  They want love but seem to want sex more. It’s about lust and their primitive instincts. It is also about truth and manipulation.

This was Maggie Holland’s directorial debut for Masque. She brought the action right to the front of the stage at Northampton College’s studio theatre, enabling us to get closer to what was going on.  Movement was minimal, with characters remaining stationary for entire scenes.  This concentrated the mind on the dialogue and subtle changes in the actors’ expressions.

Perhaps unwittingly, the tatty set and jumble sale-style furniture added to the seedy nature of the couples’ lives.

The play deals with the extremities of emotions and, at times, I really felt that Kate Billingham as Anna was living the tragedy of her complex life.  But it was Richard Jordan as Larry who ripped open his heart and showed us the rawness of his emotions.

Although the play will not appeal to everyone and some may be offended by the sexual language, I am pleased that Masque has produced it. Risk taking is rare amongst local amdram groups  but is one of the best things about Masque.

A scene from Closer