‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at the Progress Theatre

Jesus Christ Superstar at the Progress Theatre. Photo (c) Richard Brown.

The Progress Theatre dazzled on 12 September with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar, directed by the inspirational Andy Camichel with wonderful musical direction by Jane Southern and fabulous Band, and choral coaching by the versatile Stuart McCubbin.

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Boobs and other scenes at the Progress Theatre

By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.

‘Scenes cut from other plays.’ Photo courtesy of the Progress Theatre.

The Progress Theatre scintillated with their Scenes Cut from Other Plays (superbly scripted by Emily Goode and the Cast and mercurially directed by Rik Eke) depicting madcap tableaux and musical mayhem.

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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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Maskerade at the Progress Theatre

By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.

Nanny Ogg (Liz Carroll) and Granny Weatherwax (Melanie Sherwood) in ‘Maskerade’. Photo (c) Aidan Moran

The Progress Theatre are staging the late-lamented Terry Pratchett‘s Maskerade this week, a Discworld play full of mystery, murder and musical mayhem. Chris Moran’s production fizzes with delicious lunacy – opera has never been such fun!

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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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Betrayal at the Progress Theatre

By Gillie Tunley and Brenda Sandilands.

The Progress Theatre’s latest production is Harold Pinter’s 1978 classic, Betrayal, which is famously based on Pinter’s real-life affair with BBC television presenter Joan Bakewell. In this play, he uses clever reverse chronology to explore the complex theme of betrayal.

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Murder, Margaret and Me at the Progress Theatre

The author Philip Meeks has had a lifelong obsession with Agatha Christie and was inspired by the idea of turning Agatha Christie sleuth to uncover Margaret Rutherford’s dark secret. His sensitive and witty script is laced with intrigue and delightful humour.

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Birds and swastikas at the Progress Theatre

The Progress Theatre’s Premieres comprises two one-act plays by local writers. The Writer Bird by Emily Goode is a comic, absurdist description of the creative process and The Swastika Party by Paul Levy is a more conventional story about how four young women deal with war and hatred.

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His Dark Materials (part two) at the Progress Theatre

By Brenda Sandilands.

We mentioned the considerable challenge posed by the Progress Theatre’s decision to stage this play in our review of His Dark Materials part one; the huge cast and the variety of technical skills required to create the versatile set, costumes, props and puppetry, to name a few. The Progress Theatre has met and conquered these challenges by creating a fast-moving and enchanting theatre experience that will stay with you long after we leave Lyra and Will in Oxford.

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His Dark Materials (part one) at the Progress Theatre

Staging this play presents an amazing challenge for the Progress Theatre. They have to create over 130 characters with 28 actors, create two major battles and many smaller skirmishes, represent 43 locations on a small stage, costume the 130 characters and create puppetry for the daemons (a physical embodiment of a human soul).

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