Maskers Theatre Company  Maskers Studio, Shirley, Southampton Hannah-Cait Harrison 

  24 April  2023

This torrential Monday evening saw me wending my merry way to the Maskers Studio in Shirley, to enjoy an evening of unexpected and exciting theatre that was well worth venturing into a storm for.

Gormenghast is a show I had never had the pleasure of encountering before this evening, and after tonight’s show, I shall definitely keep an eye out for future productions.

The clever stylings of director Anna Hussey, had me “ooo”ing and “ahh”ing at her expert use of the stage and what could only be described as a masterful use of lighting states to change between scenes and locations.

It can be so easy to oversimplify a show, and leave an audience feeling underwhelmed, but Anna managed to turn an otherwise blank canvas into a cornucopia of landscapes. From our villain scaling the outside of a castle, to the depths of a forest, and even transforming into a chapel, it was all done with such simplicity that I couldn’t help but smile at how clever the director had been throughout.

Sam Hussey as Mr Flay shone from his first line to his last, with a great range vocally, and a wonderfully stern physicality. Sam had me truly believing that he was strolling the length and breadth of a castle, as he really seemed to bring a blank stage to life through nothing but his physicality and movement techniques.

Thom Jones as Titus was a very welcome late addition to the cast, as he really committed to his role as the petulant teenager that was the 77th Earl of Groan.

The sword fight he had with his real life brother Ben Jones as Steerpike was brilliantly executed, and really had me on the edge of my seat, as both Jones’ really threw themselves into it.

My one note of the evening was that I really wanted to see the character arc of Steerpike build from commoner to aristocrat, but it seemed a little sudden and rushed. Ben Jones was, however, very masterful when it came to being a great manipulator, and I couldn’t help but find myself hating the character of Steerpike, which is a testament to the actor.

The double act of Abi Linnartz and Dawn Gatrell as sisters Cora and Clarice, had me in stitches one minute, and then feeling sick the next as they morphed from Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, into their final scene Death masks. I would suggest that their choral speaking could have been tighter, but they worked so well as a double act, that this was a very minor thing.

It was really difficult to pick a star of the show this evening as there were several standout performances, but I am giving it to both Adam Taussik as Swelter the cook and Daria Standall as the Thing/Outsider.

Adam was brilliant as the drunkard chef who was just so believable as the layabout, that when his role ended, I was truly saddened we would not see his character again.

Daria also did something that any professional actor knows can be difficult, and that was saying a lot without ever uttering a word. Her physicality and wild spirit said so much, that I again wanted more of her character as soon as she left the stage each time.

I truly enjoyed being introduced to the world of Gormenghast this evening, and wish the cast and crew all the best with the rest of their run.

Gormenghast runs from 24 – 29 April at the Maskers Studio in Shirley, Southampton.