The Reading Rep Theatre in Berkshire has today been announced as shortlisted for the Fringe Theatre of the Year Award at The Stage Awards 2024.
Reading Rep Theatre is a local theatre with a national reputation. Founded by Reading born Artistic Director Paul Stacey in 2012 with just £500, Reading Rep Theatre is rapidly emerging as one of the leading producing venues in the UK. As a disabled practitioner, Paul created the company in order to break down barriers that prevent people from accessing world class theatre.
Founding Artistic Director Paul Stacey said of today’s news, “We are really thrilled to be short-listed for The Stage Awards for the second time in three years. Being recognised on a national level really puts Reading on the cultural map, and we hope the whole town can be proud of what we've achieved. This is all made possible by our wonderful and dedicated staff team, all the cast and creative teams, incredible workshop facilitators and freelancers and of course... our audience and participants. I want to extend my congratulations to the two other nominees, The Orange Tree Theatre and The Little Angel Theatre.”
This year, Reading Rep Theatre, which like so many theatres around the country has faced an existential threat due to rising costs, took decisive steps to safeguard its future and help sustain its creative community. Its 10th season combined bold new work, fresh takes on classics and family favourites.
The theatre succeeded in growing its audience by 62%, attracting 13,000 people, with outreach and work-experience schemes running alongside its work with youth theatres and associate companies. This was achieved with an offering of £5 tickets for under-30s, family discounts of up to 50% and ticket price reductions for theatregoers who would otherwise miss out – an example of a theatre genuinely walking the walk in making theatre accessible for people on lower incomes.
Its championing of new talent was also notable: Annie Kershaw, artistic director of Reading Rep associate company A Girl Called Stephen, made her professional debut in Hedda Gabler – the climax to date of a journey she began at Reading Rep as a volunteer. In Reading Rep’s new adaptation of Peter Pan, half the cast was made up of young performers from the community, many earning their first professional credit.
Elsewhere, it embarked on its first-ever Christmas repertory season, with It’s a Wonderful Life running alongside Potted Panto – a landmark in the theatre’s history. It also took work for children into 23 schools, libraries and community hubs in Reading.
Other stand-out projects included a transfer and tour of Gary McNair’s adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde, directed by Michael Fentiman, and a revival of Shakespeare’s R&J, a queer retelling of Shakespeare’s tragedy.
Off stage, Reading Rep launched ENGAGE:10 – a celebration of 10 years of its flagship outreach programme ENGAGE, which is set to reach 30,000 people throughout 2023/24. The theatre has cemented itself as a hub of Reading’s creative community, working in partnership with more than 50 other theatres, artists, educational providers and community services. These award-winning programmes are delivered in partnership with Reading Libraries, Reading Borough Council, Reading College, the University of Reading and the NHS.
The Stage Awards launched in 2010 by media publication The Stage to highlight the achievements of theatre companies and individuals across the UK and globally. Now entering its fourteenth year, The Stage has awarded over 100 winners with its prestigious accolades, from national theatres and large-scale organisations to small theatres above pubs and individual unsung heroes behind the scenes.
The winner of the category will be announced at the awards ceremony on Monday, January 29, 2024 at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London.
Image credit: Simon Kennedy