Experience Twelfth Night in Reading Minster

Published: 12 Oct 2012 17:301 comment

Reading Between The Lines bring their first production to town

It is always going to be a risk for a theatre company to take on Shakespeare. The texts weigh so heavy in the hearts and minds of the literary world that one slip-up could signal the end of the line for any aspiring actor.

DRAMATIC TURN: Ben Ashton plays Antonio in Twelfth Night
PHOTO: RODDY PETERS

But when a production recreates the humour and dark drama of the visionary writer's works it can make for a spectacular experience and we spoke to actor Ben Ashton to find out why he thinks his next role will more than pay off.

William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night or What You Will is being brought to life by Reading's upcoming theatre company Reading Between The Lines (RBL). Reading's Dani and Toby Davies, the professionally trained actors and masterminds behind RBL, have their producing hats on and, after promising to bring unique and accessible theatre to audiences in Reading, are rolling out the Shakespeare classic from Wednesday, October 24, to Saturday, November 3, against the stunning backdrop of Reading Minster Of St Mary The Virgin Church.

Twelfth Night is the tale of a sister, washed up on strange shores, who disguises herself to fit into the potentially hostile new world, but finds herself caught up in a love quadrangle. All RBL productions are performed wholly by professionally-trained thespians and this production sees seven of the 10 cast members from Reading, including Ben, who will play Antonio. He said: "I went to Starmaker Youth Theatre Company and that's where I met Dani Davies. We grew up together and ended up at the same drama school, Bristol Old Vic. We did professional work with RSC and toured all over the country with other companies. I have never performed to a home crowd - it's an exciting feeling. Family can come and see me down the road rather than having to travel miles.

"Any Shakespeare comes with an expectation of how the audience feels the play should be and how they'd like to see the piece. We are trying to play what the director wants and their vision. We've just got to go with the flow. We're not going for Elizabethan. It's more post Edwardian, nearing Victorian. It's not quintessential and we are playing on the Jubilee theme slightly, but more the hangover stage of the party.

"The church is a major part. It's very unique [In the church]. It's quite restricting with setting up the lighting and such but then there is that epicness and grandness. There is a lot in the story about religion, so that is going to be played to the fore. The echoes, being able to make sure you can be heard, those are some of the challenges. But we've got some amazing harmonies going on with the music. The opening is quite choir-like and we flip it on its head and turn it into folk later on.

"It is going to be a beautiful set and we have a lot of live music. It's top quality professional theatre at a reasonable price."

Tickets from £13, with school and group concessions, are available from www.readingbetweenthelines.co.uk

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