Gallery: Masque Players celebrate 70 years

Rehearsals for The Cemetery Club, 2013.

Rehearsals for The Cemetery Club, 2013. - Credit: Archant

ONE of the oldest amateur dramatics groups in the town is celebrating seven decades of performances this year. Victoria Kalbraier found out more about the group’s history and upcoming productions.

For 70 years, a group of amateur players has been entertaining audiences with comedy, drama and musical shows.

Members of the Kesgrave Masque Players are celebrating the group’s 70th anniversary this year with two shows.

The group, originally known as the Nacton Road Players, was first formed to present Shakespeare plays to schools.

Over the years, the group has evolved and members now put on a wide variety of productions from musical shows to dramas.

The players moved to Kesgrave around 40 years ago, based first at Kesgrave Social Club and then later moving to their current home in Kesgrave Community Centre.

The group typically produces two shows a year, one near Easter and the other towards the end of November, with rehearsals on Monday and Thursday evenings.

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This year, the Easter show will be The Cemetery Club, written by Ivan Menchall.

The play, which will be directed by player Neil Jackson, centres around three Jewish, New York widows, exploring the highs and lows of their relationships.

Performances will be held at the community centre in Twelve Acre Approach from Wednesday, March 20 to Saturday, March 23.

In celebration of the group’s 70th anniversary, all ticket prices have been set at £7 – adult tickets usually cost £9.

Chairman Gary Sharman, 50, joined the group after moving to the Grange Farm area of Kesgrave 20 years ago, having previously been involved with other drama groups in Ipswich.

Gary has been helping to building the set for the Easter production and will be directing the group’s November show, which has yet to be confirmed.

He said: “We do two shows a year and the bigger production is always in November.

“Last year was a musical revue show with a cast of 25-30 on stage.

“It won’t be a musical show we’re doing this year, but it will be a big production with a large cast.

“The idea is to make it inclusive with all the members of the group, so if there are any old members that would like a walk-on part, that would be possible.”

The players build their own sets and make a lot of their own costumes, with a store of scenery and costumes at the community centre.

The group also shares and swaps costumes with other amateur dramatics groups in the town.

This year, the players’ charity of choice is St Elizabeth Hospice and they will be fundraising for the hospice throughout the year.

As well as the two productions, members will also come together for the annual Margo Carter Dinner in the summer – named after one of the founding members.

The Masque Players currently has 45-50 members but more people are welcome to get involved, both on stage and behind the scenes.

“We’re a very friendly group and we’re always open to new members in any capacity,” Neil added.

Anyone interested in joining the group should visit or follow the group on Twitter.

To book tickets for the Cemetery Club visit the website or email