First night of Henry II at Reading Minster

The first night of Henry II, the pay what you want night, on 8 October was booked with much anticipation as soon as tickets came out in June. There are 17 more days and 24 more performances to come until Reading collapses exhausted with the last night of the last part of the Conquerors trilogy.

In the first part of the trilogy, Henry I, the theatre company Reading Between the Lines (RBL) gave us a taste for Reading-centric royal power struggles. In Matilda the Empress, they brought the local people of Reading into the action. The series is now complete with Henry II and a different perspective on life at the royal court.

Henry II and his entourage are in Reading for the consecration of the Abbey on 19 April 1164. In the programme, writer Beth Flintoff says:

For dramatic purposes I have shifted and conflated some events. My worst crime is in the condensing of Becket and Henry’s row into a single Easter weekend, when in fact it took place over several years. But I have tried to be true to the root of their conflict…

It is not difficult to abandon any memories you may have of Peter O’Toole (as Henry II) and Katharine Hepburn (as Eleanor of Aquitaine) in the Lion in Winter because RBL actors Mark Middleton and Annabelle Brown both give strong and dramatic performances in these roles. You will have to decide whether your preferred courtly entertainment is Roland the Flatulist or Bartholomew the Reading troubadour.

The venue is St Mary’s Minster and tickets are available from the RBL’s online box office or by phone (07917 673 370). Prices are £22 (£18 for concessions) except for Tuesday evening Reading Festival tickets which are £10. The 17 October performance includes a free post-show discussion and the 20 October matinée at 2.30pm is a relaxed performance.

Tip: The Whitley Pump recommends that you rent a cushion (£1) as the pews are awfully hard after a couple of hours.

  1. Reading Between the Lines Theatre Company
  2. Henry II
  3. Henry I of England at St James’ Church
  4. Matilda the Empress at St James’ Church
  5. Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Thomas Becket on Wikipedia

2 thoughts on “First night of Henry II at Reading Minster

  1. I’m sorry Evelyn, but this is a disappointing conclusion to what has been, so far, an enthralling and engaging trilogy. Whereas both Henry I and Mathilda, the Empress, contained strong dramatic story lines, too much of this production appears contrived with dramatic devices borrowed from Shakespeare in Love and incredibly Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. The three plot lines end being unsatisfying and the estrangement between Henry and Beckett unexplained.

    The bar was set high by the first two productions but really not matched in this. One was left to enjoy the excellent acting and engaging music but finally seeing that these great assets were underpinning something less than the whole.

    Beth Flintoff is an excellent writer but I doubt whether she will claim this as being up to the standard of her previous work.

    A sad misfire.


  2. Pingback: Henry II at St Mary’s Minster, with Reading Between the Lines | The Whitley Pump

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