Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Beth Flintoff’s Henry 1, a preview, reviewed at S Bart’s Church, Reading. April 2016.

The event was only an introduction of a major work in progress and not the finished play. You will have to wait until November to catch the ‘world premiere’

Reading Between the Lines declares a commitment to the area and its history and wish to see the town put on the cultural map. They have already performed extensively and, in addition, have encouraged new writers.The Stage wrote of their Much Ado that it was an ‘ambitious production’ and displayed ‘regional professional theatre at its very best’.

Based on this short preview I believe we will be in for a spectacular treat in November. It was an insight into the creative process and how the finished piece is painstakingly put together to achieve a final well-balanced polished production.

Often as theatregoers, we forget all those that contribute, for instance the writers, the musicians, and most importantly, in this case, the research team who ensure the historical accuracy.
This is where Reading University came in under the guidance of Professor Lindy Grant her students unravelled the mysteries and mores of the period, even down to using Reading Museum’s famous reproduction of the Bayeux Tapestry.

From the five extracts that I saw, I believe it will be a disturbing play, conscientiously portraying the cruel machinations of Henry’s court and the lustful ambitions of his family. As the youngest son of William the Conqueror, Henry was no saint. After all, he founded Reading Abbey in 1121 possibly out of guilt for the suffering he had imposed during his life.

Even though the actors played without costume, set or props, they confidently and expertly conveyed the events that led to this. As they admitted it is going to be quite a task to bring many of the historical events to life, but having seen their past productions I have no doubt that it will be a success.

It was said earlier this year that there would be a search for the monarch’s bones later in the year using ground-penetrating radar in the area around St James’ Church.  

This could coincide with both the play and the series of events around it, bringing the play to a wider audience, an audience who sometimes may be daunted by historical drama. If it does, it is another coup for RBL.

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