Unique project brings professional theatre to ReadingBy Caroline Cook
April 05, 2012
Four writers, four directors, four days and four plays. That’s the task being set by Reading’s new professional theatre company for its launch play later this month.
Beginning with a unique piece of theatre, Reading Between the Lines (RBL) will be bursting on to the cultural scene offering a new experience for Reading theatre-goers.
“Nothing like this has been done before,” says Toby Davies, who founded the company with his wife Dani. Both professional actors, who met at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Toby and Dani became frustrated with the lack of professional theatre in Reading.
“As we grew up here we realised there are so many youth theatres and amateur dramatics but there’s no professional theatre company, and there is so much space for it,” says Dani.
“I have acted in all the locals like Basingstoke and Guildford and they have all got good theatre companies that the towns are proud of.”
“We want to be able to have that in Reading,” adds Toby. “We want to be a big local company that people can work with.”
RBL is hoping to put Reading on the theatre map with three plays a year – a modern play, a Shakespearean classic and new writing.
The company is also hoping to nurture young talent and will be providing opportunities for four stage school pupils to shadow their first work, Off the Block, which premieres at South Street later this month.
“We want to involve young people. Each of the four plays and four casts is going to have an aspiring professional from one of the stage schools in the area,” says Toby.
“They will be watching and just enjoying the process on the day. It’s something we feel is really important.”
Toby and Dani have also created the RBL Foundations group for aspiring actors, which is working on a production called Gargantua with Mo’s Stage School in Woodley.
As well as showcasing young talent, the company will provide a platform for Reading’s professionals by seeking trained actors from the area who are keen to tread the boards at home, as well as under the glittering lights of London.
“Our actors are from Reading and, for Off The Block, one is with the Royal Shakespeare Company and one is involved with the Watermill Theatre at Newbury,” explains Toby.
“At the moment the Reading actors we know say there is nothing here. There is a lot of physical theatre, and comedy and music, but there are no professional players so we want to give them that opportunity.”
The first play will see 16 actors take part in a spontaneous piece which will be written, directed and rehearsed within four days.
With three professional writers lined up, RBL held a competition to find the fourth, and selected Chris Lambert, head of drama at Theale Green School.
“He’s written a few plays before and he had his own theatre company so he’s quite experienced,” says Dani.
RBL also hopes to explore untapped venues around the town to give audiences a fresh and exciting experience of high quality theatre on their doorstep.
Using home-grown talent to create high quality theatre, RBL has high hopes of putting Reading in the spotlight when it gets Off the Block later this month.
Off The Block will be performed at South Street on Thursday, April 26.