Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Summer Shakespeare is coming to Mill Meadows

HENLEY is to get its own summer Shakespeare later this month — in what the organisers

HENLEY is to get its own summer Shakespeare later this month — in what the organisers hope will become an annual tradition.

Reading-based theatre company Reading Between the Lines is bringing its acclaimed production of Twelfth Night to the putting green on Mill Meadows from Wednesday, June 15, to Saturday, June 25.

There will be 10 performances in total — with Sunday, June 19 the company’s only night off.

Threaded with joyous original music, performed and sung live by the team of professional actor-musicians, audiences can look forward to stunning moments of visual splendour, outstanding performances from the large company of actors, and the vibrant atmosphere of a live music gig.

The production takes place in the hidden seaside haven of Illyria-upon-Thames in the summertime, where our Illyrians are suffering from the chronic hangover of hedonism.

Cutting through the decadence, however, is the shipwrecked Viola — the epitome of a courageous woman.

Dressed as a man to survive in a potentially hostile world, Viola’s energy, courage and good fortune spark Illyria back to life, reawakening the spirit of love.

Since forming back in 2012, Reading Between the Lines’s productions have garnered numerous five-star reviews.

Billed as a joyous show suitable for all ages, Twelfth Night was the first play to be produced by the fledgling company, but on that occasion the venue was Reading Minster of St Mary the Virgin in St Mary’s Butts.

Reading Between the Lines is run by husband-and-wife team Toby and Dani Davies, who said they were thrilled to be staging Twelfth Night by the riverside in Henley.

Toby said: “When we first formed back in 2012 we opened with this play because it’s really accessible, the characters in it are great, and we happened to be working with an exceptionally talented composer — Rosalind Steele.

“She composed an entire soundtrack for this show which is just really fun — loads of different instruments, lots of voices — and I’m really excited about hearing it outdoors.”

On stage and behind the scenes a team of around 30 people are involved in the production, which is being directed by Hal Chambers.

Toby added: “The plan — and this is the conversation we’ve been having with Henley Town Council — is for this to become an annual summer event in Henley.”

He said that because Reading Between the Lines is new to the town, the company would be offering a “pay what you want” opening night on Wednesday, June 15.

Doors open at 7pm each night, with the play starting at 7.30pm. Picnics are welcome and soft and alcoholic drinks can be purchased from the bar.

Given the outdoor evening setting, playgoers are encouraged to dress accordingly.

Toby said: “We decided not to stage a matinée because of the exposed nature of the thing and I think it wouldn’t quite work doing it in the daytime, but with the light falling around it into the evening I think it will be very nice. It will be lovely.”

And if it should happen to rain one evening? “Well, it’s one of those things — we play it by ear. If it’s light rain we’ll carry on. If it gets a bit heavier we’ll ask the audience what their thoughts are. In our past experience people have said ‘Yeah, carry on!’ you know? Or if it’s too heavy we’ll call it a day and pick it up again next time.”

Reading Between the Lines are especially keen for young people to come and see the play — and with that in mind they have teamed up with the Henley Standard to run a young reviewers’ competition for 13- to 18-year-olds.

The prize is two tickets to the company’s production of Beth Flintoff’s play King Henry I of England. This is being staged at St James’s Catholic Church in Abbot’s Walk, Reading, from November 2 to 19. In addition, a selection of the best reviews will be published in the Henley Standard and in Reading Between the Lines’ own magazine.

Toby suggested that the first night might be the best one to catch, but reviewers are welcome to attend any of the performances.

The closing date for the competition is Thursday, June 30, and those taking part are asked to write a review of up to 500 words in length.

Submissions can be emailed to or posted to Young Reviewers’ Competition, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, Oxfordshire, RG9 1AD.

Normal Henley Standard competition rules apply and the editor’s decision is final. For full terms and conditions, visit

Tickets for Twelfth Night are £20 (concessions £16). On June 21 all tickets are priced £10. To book, visit

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