Friday, 11 May 2012

Off the Block, South Street Arts Centre,Reading, 26th April 2012

"Reading Between The Lines" is Reading's new professional theatre company whose ambition is to bring "accessible, exciting theatre to the people of Reading" and to launch the company they came up with this audacious and courageous concept "Off the Block" by commissioning four new works by four different writers. Each writer had only 24 hours to create his or her piece inspired by the ending of the last. The actors were to receive their scripts for the first time only hours before opening.

The strict timetable saw the first writer Bea Roberts accepting her 'starting block' i.e. her 'inspiration' at 7am on the Sunday. The following morning she passed her 'ending point' on to the next writer and in turn, this was 'relayed', with the final writer meeting the deadline of 7am on the Thursday. On that day, the directors received scripts at 7.05am; the actors arrived for rehearsals at 9am and finally, the audience took their seats at 7pm.

It all seems such a daunting task for a new company if you factor in the four writers, the four Directors, the 16 actors and the four Assistant Stage Managers. If the concept had failed, it could so easily been a disastrous and demoralizing debut. However, it worked and the whole company deserves the credit for that.

As an opener, a short piece "On Hold" written by Chris Lambert that engaged the talents of the four young ASMs 'recruited' from various local theatre groups. It is also worth pointing out that Chris Lambert had won his place as part of a local writing competition Find a Reading Writer with his winning entry "The Stranger" - the final piece of the evening.

"The Vigilant by Bea Roberts, Jim Rastall's Melanie, Angus Barr's Imposters and finally "The Stranger" swiftly followed. Each play was unique and explored a number of dramatic techniques - physical and verbal comedy, farce, tragedy and even surrealism in the writing of Chris Lambert. Moreover, where we saw comedy we were aware of the underlying tensions and terrors that haunt us. 

By restricting everyone to a timetable, it generated freshness and spontaneity that showed through in the actor's delivery. It was all new and untainted by preconception.

Furthermore, it was a brilliant and heroic birth for the new company and, given the time constraints, well produced. One could sense the enthusiasm by all those involved in the five pieces. 

All they need to do now is raise the finance to fund their next production in October. Based on this performance they deserve your respect, your loyalty and your money.

by David Stockton for remotegoat on 28/04/12
See more production shots at Ian Legge, Photography 

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