A smorgasbord of theatrical gems at the Progress Theatre

By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.

WriteFest 2019 at the Progress Theatre. Image (c) Richard Brown

The Progress Theatre are staging their fourteenth annual WriteFest this week, featuring seven scintillating new short plays of dramatically contrasting genres, written, directed and performed by its multi-talented members.

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A spellbinding ‘King Lear’ at Reading Abbey

By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.

King Lear at Reading Abbey (2019). Photo (c) Richard Brown.

The prodigiously talented Progress Theatre Company are staging Shakespeare’s King Lear in the atmospheric surrounds of Reading Abbey this month. This harrowing tale of human folly is directed with shimmering insight by Dan Clarke, assisted by Louisa Cowell and Matt Urwin and produced by the inspirational Carole Brown.

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First view of ‘The Last Abbot’ at Reading Abbey

‘The Last Abbot’ preview at the Reading Abbey, June 2019. Image (c) Reading between the Lines

The fabulous Reading Between the Lines (RBL) theatre company, led by Dani and Toby Davies, and fresh from their Cultural Award for Henry II, are embarking on another historical drama to further develop the cultural identity of Reading, in collaboration with second year history students. The Last Abbot, penned by prodigious playwright Beth Flintoff, examines the intriguing tale of Hugh Faringdon, the bloodily executed last abbot of our newly re-opened abbey… was he true or treacherous?

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Trinity Concert Band sizzling summer concert at Leighton Park

Trinity Concert Band. Image (c) TCB

Last Saturday, on a glorious summer’s evening, the fabulous Trinity Concert Band raised the roof of the Michael Malnick Centre at Leighton Park with an evening of dazzling musical entertainment. The concert, under the supremely skilled baton of Paul Speed, celebrated the best of British, honouring the Queen’s birthday, with memorable musical highlights from every decade of her reign.

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‘Harvey’ with the Shinfield Players

By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.

Gordon Bird as Elwood P Dowd in ‘Harvey’ at the Shinfield Players Theatre. Photo: Eilish Phillips

The Shinfield Players are staging the charming Harvey, written by Mary Coyle Chase and deftly directed by Maggie Smith. Members of the audience may remember the original version, a huge Broadway success, and the 1950 film version starring James Stewart as the amiable Elwood P Dowd.

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‘Jerusalem’ at the Progress Theatre

By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.

‘Jerusalem’ at the Progress Theatre. Photo courtesy of the Progress Theatre.

The inspired Progress Theatre Company are staging Jerusalem, the acclaimed and award-winning play by Jez Butterworth. Tautly directed by the insightful John Goodman, it is a savagely funny and anarchic masterpiece of life in our green and pleasant land whose themes of disaffection, poverty and homelessness resonate still now.

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‘Birdsong’ at the Progress Theatre

‘Birdsong’ at the Progress Theatre. Photo (c) Richard Brown

We will remember them…

The Progress Theatre are performing Sebastian Faulks’ poignant Birdsong this week. Cleverly condensed for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff, this story of love and loss alternates between the war torn horror of 1916 and the tranquil peacetime of Amiens and is directed with great emotional insight by Steph Dewar.

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Henry II at St Mary’s Minster, with Reading Between the Lines

By Gillie Tunley and Adam Harrington.

Mark Middleton as Henry II. Photo: Pieter Lawman Photography.

The theatre company Reading Between the Lines (RBL) present the final instalment of their Conquerors trilogy, Henry II, in the thrillingly atmospheric St Mary’s Minster, Reading, until Saturday October 27. It is the story of love and power; love between a husband and wife, a King and his former drinking buddy, and a Welsh monk and a beaver.

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