Full cast revealed for new version of Masquerade coming to Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre

A powerful and poignant tale of love, loss, freedom and friendship among Liverpool’s LGBT+ community comes to the city’s Epstein Theatre next month.

The electrifying new and reimagined production of Masquerade, written by Laura Lees with additional material by Tom Lloyd and James Baker is set in Liverpool’s iconic gay club in the 1980s and features a heavenly disco soundtrack. The play runs at the Hanover Street theatre from Tuesday 22 to Saturday 26 November and the full cast has now been announced.

Mike loves Tony (but not like that). He’s his best mate. To be confident, outgoing, and open is a big deal in a city like Liverpool in 1986, especially during the Aids crisis. When they discover The Masquerade Club, Mike gets a taste of the life he could and should be living.

He is welcomed with open arms, soon becoming the resident DJ in a club that becomes the centre of his universe. Outside of the club walls, he needs to find the courage to tell his parents that he is not the son they want him to be. Will he find the strength to stand up for himself especially when tragedy strikes?

Jamie Peacock returns to the role of Mike after playing him in the original production of the play which was staged at the Royal Court Studio in 2019, while Joe Owens plays Tony.

The cast is completed by Neil MacDonald as club owner Frank, Catherine Rice as barmaid Norma, Michael Bailey who plays the role of Stuart and his alter ego resident drag queen Judy, and Leah Gould as Leanne and ensemble female roles.

Jamie Peacock was born and bred in Liverpool and studied at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), graduating this summer. His roles while studying included Doctor Joseph Cardin in The Children’s Hour by Lilian Hellmann. Jamie played Mike in the original production of Masquerade at the Royal Court Studio, and recently also appeared at the theatre as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night.

Joe Owens is a Liverpool-based actor born and raised on Merseyside. His training includes the BA Acting course and Foundation Certificate at LIPA, as well as numerous years spent with the Young Everyman and Playhouse (YEP) company. His list of credits includes T in DOGS directed by Nathan Powell, Longaville in Love’s Labour’s Lost directed by Conor Wray and George Balfour in Posh, directed by Francesca Goodridge.

Neil MacDonald returned to acting following a successful career as a singer/frontman in several bands in Liverpool. His stage credits include playing Cilla’s dad in the nationwide tour of Cilla The Musical, Scott Murphy’s Closing Time in Liverpool, on tour and at the Edinburgh Fringe, Second Chance Saloon, Good Education, Millionaire’s Anonymous, Shake It Up Baby and Ashes to Ashes.

Catherine Rice is a Liverpool-based actress, comedian and writer. She has performed in many theatres tours up and down the country, and at the Liverpool Theatre Festival, Playhouse and the Royal Court. She has also appeared in numerous TV and film projects. Her recent stage credits include Making It, a spin off from her award-winning one-woman show and web series Our Bev, and which is now in early development for a TV comedy series, Irish Annie’s, Smigger’s Wrecked Head, Lost Soul 2 and Broken Biscuits. She also performs in improv and comedy stand up nights including creating Ya Nan’s Big Quiz.

Michael Bailey trained at Liverpool Theatre School. Since graduating in 2011 he has worked extensively on stage, film and theatre in education. Career highlights include dancing in the first ever Dance Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, appearing as part of the original cast of new musical Liver Birdsong, and co-writing and starring in his own musical Twice Nightly at Liverpool Theatre Festival. He has been the resident comic at the Gladstone Theatre since 2017, appearing in several pantomimes, and this month he plays the Lion in The Wizard of Oz at the Epstein Theatre.

Leah Gould is a Liverpool-born actress whose love of performing was sparked at an early age. She is a former member of the Young Everyman Playhouse (YEP) company and was also a member of the Everyman Rep company in 2018 where she played the role of Bianca in Othello. She went on to study at LIPA, graduating in 2021.

Masquerade is produced by Bill Elms (Something About George/Simon, Swan Song, The Ruby Slippers), and directed by James Baker (Cherry Jezebel, Yank, Parade). Most recently, Bill and James worked together on productions Jerry Springer The Opera and 2Gorgeous4U.

The new production includes additional material by dramaturg Tom Lloyd and additional script development and dialogue by James Baker, while Joey Colasante is assistant director and movement.

The production is designed by Ellie Light, with sound design by Daniel Mawson, and lighting design from Doug Kurht.

The play tells a fictional story based around the now demolished iconic Cases Street venue, affectionately known as The Mazzie, which was frequented at the time by famous faces including Holly Johnson, Paul O’Grady, Paul Rutherford, and Margi Clarke. The Mazzie became a safe haven in a political and cultural period where being gay was demonised. It offered many gay people an alternative family who provided them with the love and care that was ripped away from their relatives.

Director James Baker says, “Building the right team for this production has been crucial; it’s important that it represents Liverpool and those this story is about. We’ve found an exceptional cast who are going to champion this story with real heart. I’m proud that I get to steer this masquerade of talent.”

Producer Bill Elms of Bill Elms Productions Ltd and Artistic Director of Epstein Theatre continues, “I’m really pleased to be able to reveal such a fantastic cast for this brand-new version of Masquerade, which was a huge hit and struck a real chord when it was first staged at the Royal Court Studio three years ago. After months of development and planning by a fantastic creative team I can’t wait to present the new full-scale production and I’m delighted that Jamie Peacock is able to return to reprise the role of Mike along with a hugely talented cast.

“I know Masquerade will be one of the highlights of the autumn when it’s performed on the Epstein Theatre stage in November.”

The Epstein Theatre is Grade II Listed and located in the heart of Liverpool city centre, it was named after the legendary gay Beatles’ manager and ‘Fifth Beatle’ Brian Epstein.

In October 2021, a new team took the helm at the historic venue. Epstein Entertainments Ltd is a joint venture between Liverpool producers Bill Elms, Artistic and Communications Director; Chantelle Nolan, Artistic and Operations Director; and Regal Entertainments Ltd Company Director Jane Joseph.

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