Monday, 23 September 2019

Work-in-progress preview left us wanting more

Work-in-progress preview left us wanting more

The Last Abbot preview | Reading Abbey Ruins | Friday, June 14

CURIOUS theatregoers turned out in force on Friday to get a glimpse of a work in progress from the innovative theatre company Reading Between the Lines.

Building on the success of previous productions featuring key figures in Reading’s history — Henry I, Matilda, Henry II — RBL has now turned its attention to the stand-off between Henry VIII and Abbot Hugh Faringdon of Reading Abbey, with writer Beth Flintoff now at the drafting stage of The Last Abbot.

Here, under direction by Jonathan Humphreys, cast members entertained an enthusiastic audience in the abbey ruins by performing four excerpts from the production due to be staged next year.

Hugh Faringdon is remembered in the name of a local school but, other than that, he remains an unsung hero to most people.

Flintoff’s writing has required much research — the University of Reading and Reading Museum have contributed to the writing process.

This was a “script in hand” performance, which has a different dynamic from a polished production.

In the selected scenes, we see Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visiting the abbey, the asset stripping as the closure of the abbey looms, and Hugh Faringdon struggling with his conscience when asked to surrender his abbey.

A question and answer session at the end of the four scenes offered further insight into the creative process.

The production incorporates dance (Sabina Netherclift) and music (Benjamin Hudson) and should be a spectacle well worth seeing when it takes to the stage in summer 2020.

Susan Creed

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