Shakespeare came to town late last month, as local theatre company Reading Between the Lines brought Twelfth Night to Reading Minster.
Twelfth Night is about emotions. In the programme for the production, Co-Directors Toby and Dani Davies challenge the audience to think of an emotion that isn’t in the play.
They explain: “Shakespeare is so interesting to us still because the characters he wrote are all ones that we still see around the place today and this play, we believe, has the best offering of all of them; the loveable idiot, the vitriolic drunk, the feisty minx, the arrogant, the pathetic, the hilarious, the plain nice and all the rest.”
Director Hal Chambers explains that the play was originally titled What You Will, but due to a clash at the time of creation, Shakespeare had to think of a new title. Hal wanted to go back to the original title: “The spirit of ‘what you will’ is tremendously toxic.”
It was fantastic.
The only bad thing about this production was the numb bum you had by the end of it – but that’s my own fault, I was told to bring a pillow.
It was fantastic because of the venue. The Minster Church of St Mary the Virgin in St Mary’s Butts, Reading, is an outstanding building with beautiful décor all over. The windows, the doors, the pillars, it’s wonderful. The acoustics in the building are great. For example, the occasional eerie chanting by characters not on stage took full advantage of the acoustics in the place, with a slight echo and a real haunted feeling sending a chill down your spine.
It was fantastic because of the acting. Of the 16 actors that were in the production, 12 were from the Reading area. Clear pronunciation, great body language and not one of them seemed out of character for a second. Each actor as strong and confident in their performance. They’re good singers, too. There were no microphones so projecting of voices was paramount, and they did that well.
Reading Between the Lines raised £10,000 to put this production on. Considering that to pay everyone minimum wage the company would have had to have raised £50,000, the quality of the performance was down to the hunger of the actors to do well and make an impression. They succeeded.
It was fantastic because of the music. Sound effects were made down the side of the stage, using a variety of different instruments. The songs were attention grabbing. The music was lovely. Everything was well timed.
It was fantastic because of the production. Over half of the production team were from Reading, too. The lighting was great and the directing was brilliant. The play was a rollercoaster of emotions. Some of these should be put down to Shakespeare, certainly, but the delivery and timing was just right and for every laugh you had there was a frown.
A job really well done by everyone involved in Reading Between the Lines. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any future productions.