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Our Story

RABBLE Theatre. Rousing the crowd.

2012

RABBLE was formed as Reading Between the Lines in 2012 by actors.

Off the Block, the now annual new writing event, was the company’s first production and the high-pressure, exhilarating night was received exceptionally well by press and public alike.

Following an ambitious crowd-funding campaign and many days of searching for business sponsorship, the company raised the funds to stage their first full-scale production, Twelfth Night. It took place not in a theatre, but inside Reading Minster, a decision which made clear the company’s aim to celebrate the history and beauty of Reading. Directed by Hal Chambers and with a stunningly beautiful score by composer Rosalind Steele, the production received nothing but 5 Star reviews.

Off The Block
Twelfth Night

2013-2015

RBL’s 2013 Romeo and Juliet, again inside Reading Minster, imagined that the 2011 London riots hadn’t stopped and that two sides had taken control…. DJ and Composer Benjamin Hudson, more accustomed to studios and festivals (Maida Vale, Radio 1, 6 Music), made his theatrical debut with this exceptional, riotous rave soundtrack that complemented the show so magnificently. 5 Star reviews were greatly appreciated by the hard working company, as was the transfer to Greenwich Theatre.

Reading’s St James’ Church, Basingstoke Anvil and Greenwich Theatre were the venues for Much Ado About Nothing in 2015, which opened with the sound of Chinook helicopters circling RBL’s now substantial audience, followed by fully-armed British Army soldiers storming the venue. Exploring life for the British in Afghanistan, this production received 8 five star reviews, including this from The Stage, “Revolutionary and ambitious production shows regional professional theatre at its very best” and this from The Independent, “Totally brilliant… genuinely funny.”

Romeo & Juliet

Much Ado About Nothing

2016

In 2016, RBL’s desire to have Reading recognised culturally and historically was transformed by the decision to create new writing about the most notable people who inhabited the town’s extraordinary buildings. Oscar Wilde on Trial by Beth Flintoff staged inside Reading Gaol, with Oscar Wilde’s actual cell door on the stage inside the Old Chapel (produced in association with the Ministry of Justice and Artangel), was seen by over 3000 people in just four days, with the show proving so successful that it was done twice a night. Jonathan Humphreys directed the largely verbatim piece.

In the same year, Conquerors, Part I: Henry I was staged above Henry’s burial site, inside St James’ Church and this really did elevate the company’s status, both locally and nationally, thanks to this feature in The Guardian and a radio drama in partnership with BBC Berkshire. The largely forgotten king had one of history’s most incredible lives and his legacy, Reading Abbey, became one of the world’s most revered buildings. The production was met with five star reviews, sell out crowds and standing ovations.

Oscar Wilde On Trial

Henry I Of England

2017-2018

Henry’s daughter, Matilda the Empress, was the focus of the sequel and it was she who gifted Reading the hand of St James, after which the venue was named. Her life story is tragically still relevant today and in terms of inspiring women, there really are few who contend with her. The highly-praised production was voted one of the top 20 UK Shows of 2017 by readers of The Guardian.

The final part of the trilogy, Henry II, took place in 2018 inside Reading Minster, which was developed from the stone and timber of the Abbey. RBL”s final chapter of the Conquerors Trilogy (which sold over 10,000 seats overall), celebrated the grand opening of Reading Abbey, conducted by Thomas Beckett.

Matilda The Empress

Henry II

2019+

Our first Christmas production opened at South Street Arts Centre that year; A Christmas Carol, adapted by the hilarious Anna Wheatley. It was also the venue’s first festive production, so we were both delighted to welcome 3500 people and to get a full set of 5 star reviews.

Whilst developing future productions in 2019, RBL revisited Shakespeare. In Macbeth, Duncan, Macduff and Macbeth were each played by women. Forensic sheeting stretched up to the ceilings of the Minster and the hideous witches were focused into one clinical nurse. This haunting production was praised for its innovation.

A Christmas Carol

Macbeth

Hansel & Gretel by Anna Wheatley at South Street Arts Centre was our 2019 Christmas show. We were inundated with praise and messages of thanks from schools and the public, for promoting diversity and acceptance, conveyed by our rapping Gretel and autistic Hansel.

In between these full-scale productions, we’ve performed at The Oracle Riverside, in cafe’s, at The Madejski Stadium, Hilton Hotel and plenty of other unconventional places, working hard to reach different communities.

Hansel & Gretel

Reading’s Royal Burial

In 2019 we founded the Get Up On Stage Adult Acting Class and RABBLE Foundations Saturday Acting School. Masterclasses, business workshops and education programmes are constantly being developed and our outreach programme is ever-expanding.

Get Up On Stage

RABBLE Foundations

MEET THE COMPANY

DANI DAVIES,
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Watching RABBLE grow from a tiny seed has been a thrilling experience and Dani is very proud to fill the role of Executive Director and to oversee the Education Department.

Dani grew up in Reading where she attended the Abbey School. She went on to study at Arts Educational in Chiswick and later at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

As an actor, Dani’s credit’s include Shakespeare at The Tobacco Factory, Bath Theatre Royal, Guildford Shakespeare Company and numerous UK tours. For RBL Theatre Company (RABBLE’s previous name), Dani played the Empress Matilda in the Conquerors trilogy, Olivia in Twelfth Night and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing.

Dani also teaches stage combat and writes plays and stories for young people.

TOBY DAVIES,
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Producing world-class theatre in a joyful environment is the aim of our artistic director, Toby Davies.

After studying English Literature at St Andrews University, where Toby won the Contributions to Theatre Award having acted in some 32 shows, Toby trained professionally at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

As an actor, Toby’s credits include The Mousetrap (West End), Hampstead Theatre, Bath Theatre Royal, Tobacco Factory and numerous tours across the UK.

However, he soon committed to developing a high-quality theatre company for the diverse community of Reading – and it’s this desire to inspire, involve and embolden everyone from this colourful town and to get Reading on the cultural atlas, that gives Toby his relentless energy.

Toby is also on the executive board of Theatre and Arts Reading (TAR), chaired by Melvin Benn.

Away from theatre, he cooks and enjoys the outdoors.

EMMA LAWRENCE,
GENERAL MANAGER

Emma first met RABBLE back in 2012 whilst working at BBC Radio Berkshire. An instant fan, she supported the company first as a member of the audience and then regularly volunteered to help front of house and on the in-house bar.

In 2017 Emma joined the team as front of house manager and since then has taken on a variety of roles including coordinator of our wonderful team of volunteers, bar manager, production manager and box office manager.

She brings with her 10 years experience working in live events with The Big Chill Festival, 18 years honing her organisational skills at the BBC, a love of working with audiences and is passionate about helping people access theatre.

In 2020 Emma left her scheduling role at the BBC to join RABBLE full time as General Manager.

LOUISE GILMOUR,
EDUCATION OFFICER

Louise first became aware of RABBLE when she went to see ‘Matilda, the Empress’ and knew that having local work of such quality and dramatic impact meant that she knew she had to get involved. She has worked as Head of Drama at a large, state comprehensive which had a Theatre Arts Specialism as well as being awarded an Arts Mark Gold for her 10 years there. She also brings her 10 years experience as a professional actress to her work with the company. For many young audience members, seeing a RABBLE show is their first experience of live theatre and she is proud to be associated with such an inventive, dynamic and company and help build the audiences of the future. And perhaps also the professionals too!

OUR HONORARY PATRONS

SIR JOHN MADEJSKI

Sir John Madejski, OBE DL, is probably most widely known as the chairman of Reading Football Club, and, with a raft of commercial interests spanning property, broadcast media, hotels, restaurants, publishing and football, knows what it’s like to start from small beginnings. Art is one of his passions and he is a patron of many institutions in the arts, academia and education.

MELVIN BENN

“Like Reading Festival, RABBLE enables expression and brings together people from all walks of life. Their work is inspiring and important and I’m delighted to support them.”

Melvin Benn is the Managing Director of Festival Republic and has been responsible for some of the UK’s best-known festivals and events including Reading and Glastonbury Festivals. He was also Chairman of the Board of Directors of Wembly Stadium for 5 years.

OUR TRUSTEES

VICTORIA LAVERY-BALL,
CHAIR OF TRUSTEES

Victoria has been with RABBLE since the beginning and loves being a part of such an innovative charity, bringing exciting and inspiring productions and educational programmes to the people of Reading and beyond. RABBLE’s aims of producing accessible, world-class, #MadeInRDG theatre are what attracted her to the role and she’s delighted to oversee this inspiring journey.

Joe Marsh

Joe Marsh is a writer, teacher and actor based in the Derbyshire Dales. Joe is delighted to bring his theatrical experience on and off the stage to RABBLE’s board of trustees.

Jules James

Jules James, MD of Voyage Brand & Communication, is delighted to throw her knowledge and creative support behind this inspirational team. She brings with her all things brand – strategy, storytelling, identity and concept development, design, brand architecture, messaging, value systems and purpose.

JULIE GREGORY

Julie Gregory is delighted to be the treasurer for RABBLE Theatre, bringing previous knowledge of charity finances and a passion for theatre to the board.

Kirsti Wilson

Kirsti Wilson is head of marketing and fundraising at Launchpad. Kirsti has over 20 years of marketing experience and a stonerg network of local contacts – as well as a passion for Reading and the arts. Kirsti is also a member of Get Up on Stage.

Mads Brain

Mads Brain is passionate about all the opportunities that RABBLE Theatre presents in Reading and beyond, delivering the highest quality productions, drama and education for all, pushing the boundaries of conventional theatre with outstanding results.

Nick BarnetT

Nick Barnett is lawyer and CEO of Soulscape. Having spent 26 years in private practice, Nick moved to the not for profit sector, bringing wisdom and experience to charity leadership. Nick is pleased to serve on the board of RABBLE.

OUR CREATIVE PARTNERS

MOVEMENT DIRECTORS:

Gareth Taylor

Sammy Fonfe

Rebecca Randall

WRITERS:

Beth Flintoff

Anna Wheatley

SOUND DESIGN:

JOE MORRIS

LIGHTING DESIGNERS:

OLIVER WELSH

MICHAEL BRENKLEY

LUKE DRINKWATER

Our Past Productions

Hansel & Gretel

Hansel & Gretel

9th - 31st December 2019

South Street Arts Centre

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Macbeth

Macbeth

24th October - 9th November 2019

Minster of St Mary The Virgin Church

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The Last Abbot Preview

The Last Abbot Preview

14th - 15th June 2019

The Abbey Ruins

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Off the Block #8

Off the Block #8

24th May 2019

South Street Arts Centre & St Bart's Theatre

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Foundations: Macbeth & Julius Caesar

Foundations: Macbeth & Julius Caesar

23rd - 24th February 2019

Minster of St Mary The Virgin Church

View production