Mini plays in response to Covid-19

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Four Reading writers have penned mini audio plays about their town and their relationship to home in these challenging times.

Reading Rep has partnered with the UK’s leading new writing company Paines Plough to commission the work.

The plays, part of the project called Come to Where I Am, are available free online and, in a first, people who may find it difficult or even impossible to access digital content can hear the plays over the phone. Prospect Park Hospital which treats mental health and Purley Park Trust patients with learning disabilities will receive the free telephone and online readings.

Links to the plays will also be available www.readingrep.com.

The Reading writers are:

•Sam Butler, co-artistic director of Fevered Sleep which works across artforms making performance, installation, books, films and digital art.

•Camile Ucan, a comedy writer-performer and one third of comedy sketch group Birthday Girls whose podcast Birthday Girls’ House Party is available on BBC Sounds now. She has an extensive body of work in TV, film and theatre.

•Ali Taylor, an award-winning playwright and teacher who has created work for stage and radio.

•Adrian Tang, Artistic Director of Exit Pursued By Panda, a theatre company promoting the interests of East Asian writers, directors, actors and other creatives.

Reading Rep founder and artistic director Paul Stacey says: “We have loved collaborating with Paines Plough to create this unique project and it joins the educational outreach work we have been undertaking since theatres shut and Britain went into lockdown.

“The plays also allow isolated audience groups to access on-demand culture.

“We are also excited that we will host live performances of the plays when we begin our first season next year at our new theatre on King’s Road which is currently being built. We have plans that will incorporate social distancing if this is still the guidance by then.

“Meanwhile, please have a listen to the plays and learn more about what Reading means as home to all of us. We have all spent so much time in our home town for the last few months that it makes them especially poignant.”

Actors including David Bradley, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Lisa Hammond and Sally Dynevor will read the plays over the phone for isolated audiences. In total, 30 short plays are being commissioned.

More info

Links to the plays will also be available at…

Hurst Show & Country Fayre

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Hurst Show and Country Fayre are championing ‘the show must go on’ ethos by holding their first ever virtual show.

The traditional event has had to be cancelled but the hope is its virtual equivalent will still be able to raise much-needed funds for local good causes including Alexander Devine Hospice and Just Around the Corner, as well as St Nicholas CofE Primary school, Pre-school, Scouts and Guides.

Chairperson Suzy Turner said: “We are very conscious that now more than ever, local good causes are struggling for funding. Last year the Show was able to donate over £15,000 funding so as a committee, we wanted to do something towards raising an equivalent amount.

“We have been able to kick off the fundraising effort with a £5,000 donation from show funds, and are hoping to make up the £10,000 shortfall through the virtual show. We also hope that the virtual show enables people to have some fun and celebrate the fantastic community spirit that has been shown during lockdown.”

People from all over the area are invited to take part in a calendar of online and socially distanced events all over June, culminating in what would have been the show weekend, June 27th and 28th. These include:

· Hobbyhorse Competition – households are encouraged to make and display their own hobbyhorses, with online voting and the overall winner judged by BBC sports presenter, Mike Bushell

· Virtual Classic Vehicle and Dog Shows – enter your ‘pride and joy’, whether it has wheels or a waggy tail, into the competition on Facebook and encourage friends to vote for your entry

· Virtual Market – an opportunity to browse the online shops of the stallholders who regularly support the show

· Village Souvenir Magazine – a magazine kindly produced by Alexis Jaworski Photography capturing photographs and memories of community spirit. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Over the show weekend itself, a timetable of interactive events from Hurst Show favourites will take place on Facebook, including sing-a-longs with Ukuladies Plus One and virtual sessions with Wokingham charity, Just Around the Corner.

Around the village, there will be displays of art and the popular church bookstall will be set up. Visitors are reminded to observe social distancing measures while enjoying these.

Take-away options will be provided by Hurst caterers, The Castle Inn pub and Vintage Hog Roast, with an ice-cream van also scheduled to stop around the village over the weekend.

There will even be an online disco on the Saturday night provided by local DJ, Thames Valley Discos.

More info

The majority of these events are free to participate, but donations towards the show are kindly requested. These can be made at any time by visiting www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/hurst-show.

For the latest details of what’s on, or to get involved as a sponsor or stallholder, please follow the Hurst Show on Facebook page, Twitter and/or Instagram, or visit

Wind in the Willows

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Join Mr Toad, Ratty, Mole and Badger in GSC’s online Wind in the Willows

Motor-cars, boats and the battle for Toad Hall are all re-imagined in this unique live performance in which the award-winning GSC have joined forces with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford and Jermyn Street Theatre, London, to bring their 2015 adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic to online audiences. The production will run from June 4th to 7th.

GSC first staged the story in June 2015 amidst the gardens and woods of Watts Gallery at the foot of the Surrey Hills.

This adaptation of the 1908 family classic is now being reimagined for audiences to enjoy from their own homes. GSC has met with recent success with a series of sell-out online Murder Mystery ‘parties’, created and delivered by their own in-house team.

The 2015 Willows script is being revised for six actors and will once again be directed by Tom Littler who directed the original production.

The 75-minute show will also include elements of audience participation ensuring the immersive style of GSC’s work continues on this new platform.

Matt Pinches, GSC Co-Founder said: “We’re a site-responsive theatre company, so given the current change in our theatrical landscape, we’re excited to be exploring this new ‘site-specific’ context of live theatre online.

“Our Murder Mystery audiences clearly relished being able not only to look forward to a social event and connect with friends and family as in a real theatre, but also expressed a great desire to support their local arts organisations. We’re thrilled to be able to share this production with the audiences of our good friends at Jermyn Street and the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.”

Joanna Read, Director and Chief Executive of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre said: “The Yvonne Arnaud and Guildford Shakespeare have worked together on many productions over the years. We’re pleased to be a part of this foray into producing online performance and exploring new ways of working with them, and with Jermyn Street Theatre.”

Tom Littler, Artistic Director of Jermyn Street Theatre (JST), who also directs, said: “Kenneth Grahame’s enchanting story has been a favourite for grown-ups and children alike for over a century. It’s a novel about the gifts of friendship. Many of us use Zoom for a meeting or a family birthday, but now we’re going to transform it into a place of magic, wonder, and some very naughty weasels. I can’t wait to get back to the Wild Wood and the riverbank.”

Performances are on: Thursday 4th, 7pm; Friday 5th, 3pm & 7pm; Saturday 6th, 3pm & 7.30pm and Sunday 7th, 3pm & 7pm.

Tickets are £20 per device (max two people per device) and are strictly limited.

Running Time 75 mins (approx.)

Book now

Booking via GSC Box Office only

Guildford Jazz Fest

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

The team behind Guildford Jazz are getting ready to hold their first festival this month
with a variety of jazz –as well as funk and Latin – on the bill

Guildford Jazz are getting ready to blow their own trumpet as the first Guildford Jazz Fest is set to take place between 20th and 22nd March.

The three-day event at Guildford’s Electric Theatre will feature music from leading UK jazz, Latin and funk artists and begins on 20th by putting some of the best young jazz musicians from across Surrey in the spotlight, from small ensembles to big bands.

Ease yourself into Saturday with a New Orleans jazz brunch with live music from clarinet maestro Duncan Batchelor and his quartet. Follow that with a wide choice of jazz styles including rising star of the British jazz scene Nicolas Meier who is influenced by his love of Middle Eastern and Turkish music; funk and world-music roller coaster from renowned trombonist Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio and Sandy Burnett reliving The Age of Jazz.

Rounding off Saturday, Pete Churchill sings jazz before headliner Iain Ballamy performs 21st Century Pastoral, an arrangement for big band of music by Ballamy spanning his 30-year career.

Sunday brings Alan Barnes and Dave Newton before a Creole jazz lunch spices things up ahead of the afternoon offerings featuring a tribute to the music of Henry Mancini from The Mark Nightingale/Alan Barnes/Steve Waterman Sextet before a showing of classic Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill, Jr featuring live musical accompaniment by Gareth Williams, one of the country’s leading modern jazz pianists.

Photos from left: Ian Ballamy, event poster, Marianne Windham

The festival finishes with Latin jazz salsa 
courtesy of Heads South combining Cuban and other Latin rhythms.

Founder of Guildford Jazz which is behind the festival, Marianne Windham is excited about the first for the community-based arts organisation.

She said: “The festival represents a celebration of all that Guildford Jazz is about: bringing the finest UK jazz musicians to Guildford to play a wide spectrum of accessible music in a friendly-club like atmosphere. There is something for everyone in the programme whether you are just looking for great live music or are a committed jazzer.”

Guildford Jazz has been running regular events since 2011, has organised more than 250 gigs, holds two outdoor concerts a year as well as hosting a monthly jam session.

All profits from the festival will go the local charity partner Guildford Philanthropy which helps local people disadvantaged by disability, poor education, mental illness or caring responsibilities.

Find more details

For more details and to book tickets click below or call 01483 501200.

Home help

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Didcot’s own Matt Richardson tells Peter Anderson how much he’s looking forward to his show at the Cornerstone – not least because his mum always helps his home gig sell out!

Matt’s first tour at the tender age of 21 was called Hometown Hero, and now he brings his latest tour Imposter to his home town. With this tour, he’s celebrating a decade delighting audiences, both as a stand-up and as a link on many television shows. When I caught up with the lad from Didcot I found, among other things, his mother is still one of his best, and busiest fans.

“I love the show at The Cornerstone whenever I do it,” says Matt. “It’s full of familiar faces and it’s always a lovely sell-out! My mum basically does all the leg work and promotes it to everyone she knows, so it’s a very stress-free show for the promoter!”

What can the audiences look forward to?” It’s loads of new material, about growing up and settling down with some stories about my slightly unusual life on the fringes of the public eye, with one or two of my old routines thrown in from my previous shows as a slight celebration of my decade in the business!”

Feeling he is an imposter as an adult now 28, what’s Matt favourite age? “About 21 or 22. You’ve broken into the world and feel like everything is in front of you and anything is possible, but a lot of the reality hasn’t set in yet. And your parents are still happy to cover your rent once in a while.”

His career has included television work, does the stand-up experience stand him in good stead? “Yes, I really think it does. I’ve done a lot of shows that require dealing with members of the public, and I think years on stage talking to them really sets you up for that. Live TV is such a different beast to stand-up, but I’ve had to make up 10 minutes of a show after the autocue failed and there was nothing to prompt me. The one thing live TV and stand-up have in common are this – when it’s going badly time slows down to a crawl!”

Is there somewhere he would love to perform? “I’d be quite keen to gig in America. I’ve filmed there lots over the years, but I’d be really interested to see how my act goes down with their comedy club audiences. I’ve got a lot of routines I worry are far too UK centric, and I am planning on world domination (once I can sell out Didcot without my mum, of course).”

More info

Matt is performing on Saturday 15th February; visit the Cornerstone website for ticket information.

Unique Unicorn

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Photo: Shackleton Trio

The new year has already got off to a great start for Music at the Unicorn with two fantastic pieces of news.

Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention and guitar virtuoso PJ Wright have once again agreed to be patrons for MATU and they have a new programme curator in the form of Duncan Chappell of Big Ginger Tom Music.

Both Dave and PJ are delighted to be continuing their links with the popular music venue and Duncan has already been hard at work putting together an exciting mix of acts for the 2020 programme which will feature acts old and new as well as many local treats.

He said: “This is an exciting time for me and I’m very proud to be part of this wonderful organisation. I know I can do a great job for MATU. We’re all looking forward to a fantastic 2020.

“The new programme will be ready soon and we will be distributing it early in the new year. Come and see us!”

Among the goodies Duncan has lined up for the Unicorn are the stunning vocals of Me for Queen who kicked off the year in January. March brings Jim Moray with Tom Moore on the 26th, one of England’s finest interpreters of traditional song who has changed the sound of folk music.

Among other highlights Duncan has put together are the Shackleton Trio on 21st May. The musicians have played to great acclaim on the folk circuit with their original work blending with imaginative re-workings of traditional folk songs often with a twist.

Multi-award winning folk duo Ninebarrow have impressed audiences across the country with their innovative take on folk favourites and their delivery of old songs rooted in the landscape and history of the British Isles and are named after Nine Barrow Down in Dorset’s Purbeck hills. Ninebarrow are at the Unicorn on 10th September, but definitely worth the wait.

As 2020 draws to a close there’s no let up in the great music on offer with the aptly-named  The Willows playing on 1st October as autumn blows in with their music influenced by both sides of the Atlantic.

Warm up with family trio Cup O’Joe on 12th November, the two brothers and sister have been playing together since they were in their teens and were due to release a new album in January featuring many original tracks.

More info

To find out more about the fabulous bands playing at the Unicorn in 2020 and ticket information

Seal of approval

Round & About

Shows & Reviews

Main image: Sleeping like a Weddell by Ralf Schneider Highly Commended 2019, Black and White. Left: Canopy hangout by Carlos Pérez Naval, Spain Highly Commended 2019, Young Wildlife Photographers: 11-14 years old . Middle: Lucky break by Jason Bantle, Canada Highly Commended 2019, Urban Wildlife. Right: The climbing dead by Frank Deschandol Highly Commended 2019, Plants and Fungi

The world-renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, on loan from the Natural History Museum in London, will open at The Base on Friday, 7th February.

“It’s a delight and privilege to bring this exhibition to The Base,” says Corn Exchange Newbury director Grant Brisland. “The previous instalment launched the building [last February] and was enjoyed by over 3,500 people. As we individually and collectively take steps to reduce our impact on the environment, these pictures remind us what we’re aiming to protect for future generations.”

This year’s 100 award-winning images have embarked on an international tour that will allow them to be seen by over a million people. Catch the exhibition at The Base from this month until April.

More info

There are also special events such as Relaxed Days (20th Feb & 8th Apr), a Clay Animals workshop on 22nd February and a Cartoon Animal Drawing workshop on 1st March. Visit the website or call 0845 5218 218. www.facebook.com/WildlifePhotographerOfTheYear

Max & Ivan

Round & About

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Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominees Max & Ivan, as seen in BBC One’s W1A and heard on BBC Radio 4’s The Casebook of Max & Ivan bring their show Commitment to Reading tomorrow (6th February).

Peter Anderson caught up with the hilarious duo…

Q. How did you both discover your talents for comedy & improv?

Ivan: “ Max grew up listening to, watching and reading comedy from an early age – he always dreamed of becoming a performer and through dedication and devotion he got to where he is now.”

Max: “ As for Ivan, we’re both hoping he’ll discover his talents soon…”

Ivan: “ Fingers crossed! That’s one of my talents, incidentally.”

Q. You met while studying at Royal Holloway. Does that mean acting and comedy is to some extent at Plan B?

Max: “ We both studied theatre, so this is Plan A! The fact that we don’t have a Plan B is what worries our parents the most (and us to be honest….).”

Ivan: “ Getting a real job is Plan B! And I’ve no idea what the next letter of the alphabet is, so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Q. How well did you know each other before you came together at the radio station?

Ivan: “ When we met at an audition for a play (in the first week of university) we got talking about comedy and within a couple of weeks we started working together.”

Max: “ Our friendship and working partnership are one and the same and we look forward to it continuing (until the eventual day it falls apart in bitter, furious litigation).”

Q. Who are your inspirations?

Max: “ The League of Gentlemen, Brass Eye, Little Britain, Key & Peele, French & Saunders, Julia Davis.

Ivan: “ Max.”

Q. What can the audience at South Street expect from the show?

Max: “ If you come to see us at South Street you’ll witness the TRUE story of how I attempted to reform Ivan’s teenage band for one final gig on the night of his stag. It’s an incredible story that has to be seen to be believed, filled with an array of embarrassing photos and videos from our childhood.”

Ivan: “ It also made a number of publications’ Top 10 lists for best comedy shows of 2019 – so we can guarantee that it’s FUNNY! We won’t name those publications out of respect to the Round & About magazine, but feel free to Google – sorry, use a prominent search engine of your choice – if you don’t believe us.”

Q. I know Kieran has performed there before have either of you?

Ivan: “ We haven’t! However when we asked Kieran Hodgson (our director) what to expect, he said: ‘Reading South Street is one of my favourite venues, with a discerning clientele and access to a really good canalside Pizza Express for post-show nosh. You’re also under directorial orders to see the weird muscly lion statue during the afternoon. Break a leg! Kieran. X’

Max: “ His directorial brilliance knows no bounds!”

Q. How do you go about writing/creating the framework for the show?

Max: “ With our previous shows, it’s always been a torturous process involving far too many hours spent in a small room drinking lots of coffee and scribbling on hundreds of Post-it notes.”

Ivan: “ We thought that seeing as Commitment is based on a real story it’d be different this time round… but unfortunately not.”

Q. If you had free rein to pick another actor to join you, who would you pick?

Max: “ We have a running joke with James Acaster that he’ll one day appear halfway through our show as a neighbour, saying his catchphrase of ‘hello boys’ – it’d have to be fulfilling that weird dream I guess!”

Ivan: “ You never know – he might turn up in Reading!*”

Q. How do you relax away from acting?

Ivan: “ We write an eight-part geo-political comedy thriller podcast of course!”

Max: “ Why not give it a listen: it’s called Max & Ivan: Fugitives and it’s nothing like our live show…”

Q. I guess there is a lot of driving between gigs, what do you listen to; music, audio-books?

Max: “ John, our tour manager and driver extraordinaire** is actually a trained musical director, so we’ve actually spent most of our travelling time together learning three-part harmonies to songs…”

Ivan: “ We’re quite tempted to spend our final tour date performing some rousing folk songs instead of Commitment (although we’re not sure what the good people of Norwich would think of that).”

 

* he won’t.

**John’s driving is actually quite dangerous and when we’re not learning harmonies we’re reminding him how roundabouts work, or warning him that he’s about to crash into a parked car.

Banff film festival

Karen Neville

Shows & Reviews

Picture credit: Ben Tibbetts

Celebrate the great outdoors with exhilarating stories and intrepid characters as the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour returns for 2020. 

The tour features two different collections of films from the world’s best film makers, with super-human challenges, inspiring journeys and stunning cinematography from the four corners of the globe.

The tour’s films are chosen from hundreds of entries into the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which is held every November in the Canadian Rockies. The UK and Ireland tour visits 60 locations along the way. As well as thrilling films, each event features a free prize draw for exciting outdoorsy goodies from the tour partners.

UK tour director Neil Teasdale said: “We can’t wait to share the latest inspirational films from the world’s most prestigious mountain film festival on our biggest tour yet.

“As well as exhilarating stories starring intrepid characters and pioneering journeys, an evening at Banff is a celebration of the great outdoors, with a vibrant atmosphere and a real sense of community. And we guarantee audiences will leave inspired to have an adventure of their own.”

For more information about the films and to book tickets visit www.banff-uk.com

The tour comes to G Live in Guildford on 13th March with the ‘red’ series of films and 29th April with the ‘blue’ series of films.

‘Red’ films – Charge, Danny Day Care, The Flip, Home, Up to Speed, The Imaginary Line, The Ladakh Project and Thabang

‘Blue’ films – A Nordic Skater, Return to Earth, The High Road, Spectre Expedition – Mission Antarctica, The Frenchy, The Long Rover Home and The Running Pastor

All programmes may be subject to change.

Banff film festival

Karen Neville

Shows & Reviews

Picture credit: Ben Tibbetts

Celebrate the great outdoors with exhilarating stories and intrepid characters as the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour returns for 2020. 

The tour features two different collections of films from the world’s best film makers, with super-human challenges, inspiring journeys and stunning cinematography from the four corners of the globe.

The tour’s films are chosen from hundreds of entries into the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which is held every November in the Canadian Rockies. The UK and Ireland tour visits 60 locations along the way. As well as thrilling films, each event features a free prize draw for exciting outdoorsy goodies from the tour partners.

UK tour director Neil Teasdale said: “We can’t wait to share the latest inspirational films from the world’s most prestigious mountain film festival on our biggest tour yet.

“As well as exhilarating stories starring intrepid characters and pioneering journeys, an evening at Banff is a celebration of the great outdoors, with a vibrant atmosphere and a real sense of community. And we guarantee audiences will leave inspired to have an adventure of their own.”

For more information about the films and to book tickets visit www.banff-uk.com

The tour comes to Oxford’s New Theatre on28th January; The Hexagon, Reading on 29th January and 18th March; Abingdon’s Amey Theatre on 5th February; Wycombe Swan, High Wycombe on 11th February; Cheltenham’s Town Hall on 12th February and 28th April; Wyvern Theatre, Swindon on 19th February

Oxford, Reading (29th Jan), High Wycombe, Swindon and Cheltenham (12th Feb) are showing the ‘red’ series of films – Charge, Danny Day Care, The Flip, Home, Up to Speed, The Imaginary Line, The Ladakh Project and Thabang

Abingdon, Reading (18th March) and Cheltenham (28th April) are screening the ‘blue’ series of films – A Nordic Skater, Return to Earth, The High Road, Spectre Expedition – Mission Antarctica, The Frenchy, The Long Rover Home and The Running Pastor

All programmes may be subject to change.