‘One Million Tiny Plays About Reading’ at the Progress Theatre

By Sue Beckett and Adam Harrington.

One Million Tiny Plays About Reading. Photo (c) Aidan Moran.

All human life in Reading is observed in One Million Tiny Plays About Reading at the Progress Theatre this week, a series of vignettes that includes pet funerals on Caversham bridge, chuggers competing for custom on Broad Street, a boy regretting his choice of barber, an awkward marriage proposal on the Oracle ‘beach’ and a touchingly sad picnic at Reading old Cemetery.

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‘A Doll’s House’ at the Progress Theatre

By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.

Nora (Tara O’Connor) and Torvald Helmer (Chris Pett)

Progress Theatre are staging Ibsen’s timeless classic, ‘A Doll’s House’, in a lovingly crafted production by Adrian Tang.  It is a play about domestic revolution and a woman’s place in society and these powerful themes resonate still today.

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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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‘Much Ado About Nothing’ with the Progress Theatre at Reading abbey ruins

By Brenda Sandilands.

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at Reading Abbey ruins. Photo courtesy of Richard Brown.

The Progress Theatre‘s delightful production of ‘Much Ado’ transports us to an English country house in May 1945, with most of the action taking place on the veranda and gardens. This clever choice allows the cast to make the most of the glorious outdoor setting – the magnificent Reading abbey ruins. It also means that a simple stage and few props are sufficient (a wireless and a patio table with chairs).

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‘Little Gem’ at the Progress Theatre

By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.

Alison Hill as ‘Kay’ in ‘Little Gem’ at the Progress Theatre. Photo (c) Richard Brown.

The Progress Theatre are performing Elaine Murphy’s tenderly crafted Little Gem next week. Steph Dewar’s warmly funny and moving production, intimately staged, employs seamlessly interwoven monologues that are delivered by three generations of working-class Irish women.

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‘Mother Courage and her Children’ at the Progress Theatre

Mother Courage and her Children. From L: Taylor Rupp (Katrin), Rebecca Moir (Mother Courage), Lawrence Bird (young man), Jack Hygate (Swiss Cheese). (Photo: Richard Brown)

The Progress Theatre is performing Bertolt Brecht’s epic anti-war fable Mother Courage and her Children this week. It is a tale of the endurance, weakness, heroism and cowardice of ordinary people in a time of war.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray, at the Progress Theatre

By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.

The Picture of Dorian Gray. Photo (c) Richard Brown

The Progress Youth Theatre staged a winning and witty production of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray at the Progress Theatre, Reading this week. It was skilfully adapted and slickly directed by Ali and Liz Carroll and engagingly performed by a mercurial cast of six, who slipped effortlessly between characters with the help of imaginative headwear and accessories, draped around the atmospheric set.

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Hamlet at the Progress Theatre – ‘unmanly grief’

Hamlet (Megan Turnell). Photo (c) Aidan Moran courtesy of the Progress Theatre

This is the play where Shakespeare put language into orbit, elevating words far above their station and onto a higher shelf of consciousness and depth. Any amateur production of Hamlet is ambitious; the lead actor has 1400 lines if played in full, and you need to be thespian mob-handed to cover so many other roles and speaking parts. Even the minor roles seem to have more layers than the earth’s crust. But the Progress is a theatre with ambition, courage and  enthusiastic actors who seem to pull off most theatrical challenges with brio and aplomb. Even so, I would hate to “go on alone” for such a challenge (West end actor-speak for sober) and for the audience, a large G&T would seem mandatory.

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