‘The Last Abbot’ preview at the Reading Abbey, June 2019. Image (c) Reading between the Lines

The fabulous Reading Between the Lines (RBL) theatre company, led by Dani and Toby Davies, and fresh from their Cultural Award for Henry II, are embarking on another historical drama to further develop the cultural identity of Reading, in collaboration with second year history students. The Last Abbot, penned by prodigious playwright Beth Flintoff, examines the intriguing tale of Hugh Faringdon, the bloodily executed last abbot of our newly re-opened abbey… was he true or treacherous?

On a sunlit evening amid the atmospheric ruins of the Abbey Chapter House and to the strains of holy chants (mystical mood music by Benjamin Hudson) the company presented preliminary sketches from the second draft (steered sensitively by director Jonathan Humphreys). These ranged from a humorous monologue from the earthy Alice, to Henry VIII‘s “loveliest of loves”, Anne Boleyn (both women played with considerable panache by Emma Denly) and her disintegrating relationship with the ebullient king (a brashly brilliant portrayal by Jamie Baughan), through his burgeoning yet erratic relationship with the hapless abbot Hugh Faringdon (an intriguingly introspective interpretation by Tom Morley). We witness a menacing encounter with Gray (a superbly saturnine performance by Simon Armstrong), before the mood is lightened by a charming song and dance moment as the entire company perform a spirited pavane.

The Last Abbot promises to be compelling theatre in this thrillingly atmospheric setting… watch out for it next summer!

  1. The RBL theatre company
  2. RBL on the Whitley Pump
  3. Reading cultural awards 2019