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in Northampton since 1932

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Fur Coat and No Knickers
by Mike Harding

Cast & Crew

Edith Ollernshawe Patricia Coleman
Kevin Ollerneshawe
Elliott Brennan
Deirdre Ollernenshawe
Hannah Calvert
Bryan Hall
Harry Ollerenshawe Richard Jordan
Peter Ollerenshawe
Alexander Carr
Mark Greenhaigh
Louis Tappenden
Father Finbar Molloy
Peter Lewis
Ste Applegate
Muriel Greenhaigh
Kate Billingham
Ronald Greenhaigh
Martin Williams

Director Ian Spiby
Assistant Director
Kristofer Fortella
Stage Manager
Tim Bell
Assistant Stage Manager
Tracey Hanson
Clare Brittain
Assisted by
Tracey Hanson
Set Design
Ian Spiby
Set Construction
Michael Adams
Lighting Design
Elliott Brennan
Lighting operated by
Tom Allcroft
Jess Stanley
Sophie Hamill
Front of House
Masque Theatre members
Publicity & Photographs
Ian Clarke
Programme Design
Martin Borley-Cox

The cast of Fur Coat and No Knickers Photo by Ian Clarke

Production No. 377

More images from Fur Coat and No Knickers


Ian Spiby, director

Fur Coat and No Knickers marks a slight shift away from the kind of play the Masque usually puts on. Written by stand-up comedian, Mike Harding, its sole purpose is to arouse laughter in the audience and this it promises to do in full measure.

The plot concerns two Northern families whose parents have grown up in the same district. One set has got on in the world with the father, a town councillor and the mother, a lady who lunches, while the other set are still in the same street they started out in.

Trouble begins when the daughter of one family and the son of the other decide to marry. The play covers the night before the wedding followed by the wedding day itself.

Add to this explosive situation a stag party involving high jinks with a stripper and a blow-up doll, a drunken Irish priest and a father who thinks that Mussolini’s political philosophy is the answer to the country’s problems.

Put in a revolutionary layabout, pot-smoking younger brother and grandad who can drink everyone under the table.

Mix in the mothers of the bride and groom meeting to do battle with handbags at high noon and you have the perfect recipe for a hilarious, fast-paced comedy.

22 - 26 February 2011 at 7.30pm
Northampton College Studio Theatre, Booth Lane, Northampton

Page last updated: 01/03/2012 Masque Theatre © 2012

by Bernadette Wood

Having read the script for Fur Coat and No Knickers, I already thought that it was a very funny play. And I was looking forward to experiencing Masque’s production.

Ostensibly a comedy about Northern life in the 1970s, the play has its performance roots in the stand-up comedy for which its author is so well-known.

I felt this was reflected from the outset; having the backstage crew visible and witnessing some of the actors changing costume, emphasised that we were watching a ‘performance’. The minimalist nature of the studio at Booth Lane lends itself perfectly to this style of production. 

I have to say that I soon forgot the crew were there, which is a compliment not only to their ability to blend into the background but also to the actors’ ability and the action going on on-stage. Until, that is, the creative and delightful scene change from the Ollerenshaw house to the church. Kristofer, Tim and Tracey did a great job of engaging the audience as they literally clapped and danced their way through the set change. To quote another, recent Masque Production – ‘What larks!’

The second scene change was handled just as creatively; the actors changing the set almost unnoticed, as the audience was entertained with a series of hilarious tableaux from the bride and groom.

These creative scene changes once again involved the audience in the action, a process which had started when the characters stepped out of the action to give us their backstories. Not only does this provide a very immediate and clever method of exposition, but this ‘non naturalistic’ approach, along with some of the characters’ knowing asides and glances to the audience, once again reminds the audience that we are experiencing a piece of theatre.

By its very nature, this style of production does not usually encourage the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief. And whilst I appreciate that this approach is deliberate and almost Brechtian, that most of the props and costumes were on view, together with the stage crew and the actors when they were not on stage, I thought initially might have been a bit off-putting.

However, despite the constant reminders that this was a piece of theatre, I soon found myself lost in the story and the characters.

This was undoubtedly down to expert direction and the skill of the actors. The clear experience and talent of the ‘Masque stalwarts’ shone through and was closely matched by the energy and enthusiasm of the younger cast members.  

Starting with Patricia Coleman’s long-suffering Edith, who set the scene from the outset and persisted with her hilarious delivery of that day’s events at the factory.

Elliott Brennan as the eldest Ollerenshaw son, Kevin, was an impressive presence managing to exasperate every member of his family.  

Hannah Calvert perfectly conveyed the snooty aspirations of Deirdre, looking down her nose at her working-class family.

Richard Jordan’s physical and vocal chameleon-like skills made him almost unrecognisable, but hysterically funny as the ‘fascist father’, Harry Ollerenshaw.  

Bryan Hall’s hilarious, pitch perfect, portrayal of the hard-drinking, curmudgeonly Nip had us in stitches.

As the youngest Ollerenshaw son, Peter, Alexander Carr did an impressive job of persuading us of his ‘commie’ tendencies and his desire to expose Ronal Greenhalgh’s dirty dealings.

Louis Tappenden and Ste Applegate  provided great comical turns as the out of place, idiotic groom and best man ‘Hooray Henrys’ on the ill-fated stag night.  

It’s difficult to deliver non-sensical gibberish and still make it funny but that is exactly what Peter Lewis managed to do as the drunken Irish priest, Father Molloy.

Not only were Kate Billingham and Martin Williams fantastic in their myriad of quick-change parts during the first half, they were entirely convincing as Deirdre’s stuck up, future parents-in-law.

Fur Coat and No Knickers was highly successful at merging of two apparently contrary styles of theatre. I also laughed my head off.

It has been said a number of times that this was not a ‘typical’ Masque production. Based on the audience reactions that I experienced directly, what I’ve heard about those that I didn’t, the fact that every night was a sell out and the resulting undoubted success, I look forward eagerly to the next ‘atypical’ Masque production.

A scene from Fur Coat and No Knickers