InNewbury Magazine (Spring/Summer 2017) - page 9

whimsical fairy magic, staged by the Boxford Masques in
2000. Geraldine says, ‘Carli was a professional author in her
own right; her masques had a quality to them and certainly
for the first two masques I treated the original scripts –
Well in theWood
The Seven Stars
– with much reverence.’
It was never the intention to hold the modern
masques every year, giving everyone involved a chance
to recover and gear up for the next production. The third
masque in 2006 –
The Crowning of the Year
: an ecological
storyline of ancient trees under the threat of felling – saw
a change of direction and was adapted more freely using
rock music and lyrics which one startled audience member
remarked were ‘quite avant garde for the time’! The fourth
production was
Knight and Day
; based on Carli's
Day and
, it departed even further from the original and
featured cars driven on stage, as well as a small horse, and
by now a cast of 60 performers.
All the productions received spectacular reviews,
but by the time
Knight and Day
was performed the Boxford
Masques had really outgrown the amphitheatre. Originally
created for 50 people, it had become impossible to seat the
250+ turning up for these 21st-century performances. ‘And,’
says Ade Morris, ‘the final show that year was the only time
– so far! – that it has ever rained on one of our masques.
We had to cancel that particular performance, but the cast
stood under the trees and sang for the hardy members of
the audience who had turned up anyway.’
In any event, the land was shortly to be under new
ownership and the Boxford Masques, were seeking a new
home. So it was that in 2012 the generosity of James and
Deborah Puxley saw the masques shift to their ancestral
home at Welford Park, its grounds famed for the wonderful
annual snowdrop display and where much-loved TV show
The Great British Bake Off
was filmed from 2014.
The move toWelford Park also marked further
developments: this was the first production for the
Masques as an independent arts charity, with Ade now
working as a freelance director; and Geraldine had
exhausted the plots of the original masques that were
easily adaptable for modern audiences.
The 2017 production, ‘All
At Sea!’, moves into the
Roaring Twenties with a
fantastic comedy romp.
Top left:
The Green
Dancers from one
of the early 20th-
century masques.
Bottom left:
Dylan and Louie
Morris in a cannon
in ‘Joe Soap's
The first production here was
A Little Drama At The
Big House,
a play based on the character of Carli Peake and
how her husband encouraged her to write her first masque.
Geraldine says, ‘Although it was a fictional story, it had its
roots in facts that I had gleaned about this remarkable
woman. And the audience loved being “guests” of
the Peakes!’
A Little Drama At The Big House
was set in Edwardian
times and the 2014 production, influenced by the First
WorldWar, followed on the historic timeline. The audience
once again found themselves guests of the Peakes, this time
to celebrate the end of the war – with the circus-themed
Joe Soap's Masquerade.
Somewhat poignantly, Welford
itself, like many country houses during the war, became
a convalescent home for distressed soldiers. In fact Carli
Peake – a staunch pacifist who mourned the war-loss of
many of the men who had performed in her masques – had
herself been a trained nurse in real life. ‘It was interesting
to note,’ reflects Geraldine, ‘how each of her masques had
become a little darker, more anxious each year. I can't help
but wonder if she had sensed the coming of war, which
influenced the mood of her work.’
The wonderful
Joe Soap's Masquerade
saw the
Boxford Masques awarded the 2014West Berkshire
Business Award for Entertainment and Tourism– certainly
a cause for celebration.
The 2017 production moves into the Roaring
Twenties with a fantastic comedy romp. As the name
All at Sea!
is set on board ship, with the front of
the big house featuring as the ship's prow.
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