Theatre review: Welcome to the Masque by Riverside Theatres Digital

In this scary era of the rampant COVID-19, a live theatre performance like Welcome to the Masque was a rare treat.

Livestreamed from Riverside Theatres Parramatta, Welcome to the Masque was performed for a live audience (with social distancing) for this special one-off show.

Australian theatre and music legends Genevieve Lemon (Billy Elliott, The Dressmaker, STC’s Miracle City) and Max Lambert (Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony, Darlinghurst Nights, The Boy from Oz, Miracle City, Sydney Dance Company) slipped easily into the relaxed cabaret style feel of the show. 

The title of the show comes from a form of amateur dramatic entertainment, ‘masque’ – which was popular among the nobility in 16th- and 17th-century England. A masque typically featured dancing and acting performed by masked players.

In this performance there is also the play on the word ‘mask’ because of COVID-19. Lemon has multiple changes of masks (not forgetting wigs, and funny animal hats) throughout the performance courtesy of hair and make up artist Lauren Proietti, and Masque/Mask wizard Darren Yap. During the lockdown, Lemon has had lots of time for self-analysis, and the show blends various topics ranging from cooking to missing loved ones.   

The rapport between Lemon and Lambert was one of old friends, teasing and bantering yet also at times more melancholy and reflective depending on the song. They both wore casual theatrical black. Lemon wore long, dangling slice of lemon earrings and made a rather striking entrance laden with bags while wearing several masks.

Max Lambert and Genevieve Lemon in Welcome to the Masque Livestreamed from Riverside Theatres. Photo via Riverside Theatres Facebook page.

During the show Lemon transfers between the piano, and a stool and music stand. Positioned on the other side of the stage is a cluttered theatrical dressing table. At times there were impressive close up shots of reflections from the piano and Lambert’s hands. 

Also ‘on stage’ were a select number of Lemon’s friends and supporters that she interacted with, which certainly helped with the ‘live cabaret’ atmosphere but also was perhaps a trifle distancing for the online viewers.

The songs ranged in style from Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Dolly Parton, Bette Midler, Sia and others. Lemon gave a very powerful and moving performance. She had a very warm and charismatic presence throughout and was in fine, flexible voice which has a huge range, handling the sometimes challenging songs with great panache.

I would be curious to see how this special one-off performance could be reworked and developed for a larger audience.

3 ½ stars out of 5 ★★★☆

Welcome to the Masque
Riverside Theatres Digital 
Genevieve Lemon and Max Lambert
The performance streamed 23 August 2020
Lynne Lancaster
About the Author
Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.