Thursday, 15 November 2018

New rep company in feminist classic

A NEW rep company set up in Reading last year will be playing August Strindberg’s classic Miss Julie next month.

A NEW rep company set up in Reading last year will be playing August Strindberg’s classic Miss Julie next month.

The three-hander by the Swedish playwright explores the suppression of women in the 19th century, and Reading Repertory Theatre’s production follows on from their sell-out run of Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter last year.

The new company, which is based at a studio theatre in Reading College’s Kings Road campus, was set up by two young men determined to boost the cultural offerings in the Thames Valley. After their initial success, they secured Arts Council funding for Miss Julie, enabling them to pay the three cast members at Equity rates.

Producer Aidan Grounds said: “There’s a big gap for professional theatre in Reading, probably because it’s so easy for people to travel up to London if they want to see a professional show. And that’s the most exciting thing about the company for me. The funding body has given us the opportunity to bring culture to Reading and the surrounding area as a whole.”

Reading Repertory Theatre was set up by 29-year-old director Paul Stacey, who was brought up in the town before going off to university in Nottingham and then studying for a masters at Harvard. He has directed for some of the most prestigious companies in the world, including the Moscow Arts Theatre and Punchdrunk Theatre Company. His directorial début in Sexual Perversity In Chicago made him one of the youngest people ever to direct at the American Repertory Theatre.

He brought Aidan on board after “spotting” him when he was producing a play for Oxford University, where he was studying classics.

Aidan said: “He asked if I wanted to help him run the company, which meant I could keep producing plays, and do them professionally.”

The pair secured funding for the company recently because of their success with previous productions, but also because they have set up two 10-week education workshop courses for Neets — young people between the ages of 16 and 25 who are not in employment, education or training.

He said: “We did some research and found that many of the young people said they found it hard knowing how to act in certain situations, like job interviews. The idea is that through the acting workshops they can learn skills which they can then apply in those situations.”

In the meantime, rehearsals are well underway for Miss Julie, which opens on Monday, April 1 and runs until Sunday, April 13.

The play tells the story of Julie, the aristocratic daughter of a wealthy count who begins an illicit affair with a servant, Jean. Miss Julie is played by Valene Kane, who trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Her first starring role was in the film The Fading Light, which won Best Irish Film 2010 at the Dublin International Film Festival.

Jean is played by Jamie Champion, whose credits include Timon Of Athens at the National Theatre. Christine, the cook and supposed fiancée of Jean, is played by Kate Gilbert.

Although written in 1888, the production will be brought up-to-date — played in the round in the 60-seat black box theatre in modern dress.

Director Paul Stacey said: “Miss Julie will be our most exciting production thus far. I would love for it to have the same impact on our audience as it did first in 1888.

“In my new adaptation, I’ve stripped away anything extraneous. The play will be completely reliant on our talented cast to bring forth the blood, sweat and tears of Stindberg’s gut-wrenching play.”

The company plans to stage John Osborne’s Look Back In Anger later in the year, and is also in discussions with London venues to transfer productions to the city.

— Miss Julie is at Reading College’s Performing Arts Studio on the Kings Road campus from April 1 to 13. All tickets are £10. Box office: 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingrep.com

Our education programmes are run by Katia Cole who is our Community and Education Director.

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