Progress Theatre

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Progress Theatre
Progress Theatre logo.png
Formation 1946
Type Theatre and Registered charity
Penny Wenham

Progress Theatre is a local theatre company at Reading, Berkshire in England with 'a reputation for excellence'.[1] It is a registered charity and it is a member of the Little Theatre Guild (LTG) and the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA).

Progress Theatre, 2014


Progress Theatre was established in 1946 with the aim of presenting new and challenging work.

Its first production was staged in 1947 in Palmer Hall, West Street, Reading. It moved to its present location, The Mildmay Hall, The Mount (near Reading University) in 1951.

In 1964, after a fund raising campaign, the freehold of the building was bought. After modernisation, the theatre now seats 97 people.[2]

Kenneth Branagh, who was a member of the theatre in the 1960s, became Progress Theatre patron in 2011.[3]

Educational role[edit]

In the 1950s a Student Group for 14- to 18-year-olds was set up. A charitable organisation, "The Progress Theatre" was established in 1962 with the object of promoting education in performing arts in Reading and the surrounding area.[4] Since 2009, the Progress Youth Theatre consists of two groups for 15- to 18-year-olds and groups for school years 4 to 6 (ages 8 to 11), 7 to 8 (ages 11 to 13) and 9 to 10 (ages 13 to 15).[5] The groups give a public performance each year.[5]

Present day[edit]

The theatre has a membership of around 150 people and puts on a regular menu of classic and contemporary theatre. All of these productions are managed by volunteers.

The theatre also staged a summer open-air Shakespeare season in the historic ruins of Reading Abbey.[6] These productions were managed in partnership with Reading Borough Council. In 2007, the event was expanded to form the Reading Abbey Ruins Open Air Festival.[7] Due to the ongoing restoration of the abbey, in 2011 the event moved to the gardens of Caversham Court, the site of a Tudor manor house on the banks of the River Thames.

Past productions[edit]

Progress has presented contemporary plays since its founding and the first performances in England of The Good Woman of Setzuan by Bertolt Brecht and The Shadow of a Gunman by Seán O'Casey were produced at the theatre[8] in 1952 and 1958 respectively.[9]

More recently, Progress has produced a series of Christmas shows based on popular children's books including:

Recent years have also seen productions of notorious plays such as Blasted by Sarah Kane[15][16] while the more public-friendly yearly open-air Shakespeare season continues to prove popular.[17]

Past seasons[edit]

Productions during the 2009–2010 season
Play Author Dates (P)reviews
Closer Patrick Marber 28 September to 3 October 2009
4th Annual Writefest A festival of new writing 22 to 24 October
Much Ado About Nothing William Shakespeare 26 November to 5 December
Going Postal Terry Pratchett (adap. Stephen Briggs) 28 January to 6 February 2010
A Couple of Poor, English-Speaking Poles Dorota Masłowska 1 to 6 March
The Importance of Being Earnest and Travesties (a Progress Youth Theatre production) Oscar Wilde and Tom Stoppard 22 to 27 March Get Reading review
Intimate Exchanges Alan Ayckbourn 14 to 24 April Get Reading preview Get Reading review
The Pillowman Martin McDonagh 20 to 29 May
Progress Youth Theatre production 14 to 19 June
Death and the Maiden Ariel Dorfman 5 to 10 July

Famous members[edit]


A.^ My Voice(s), a piece of new writing featured in the First Write Fest, was subsequently developed and performed at the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[1][2][3]


  1. ^ "The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband – review". BBC. Retrieved 4 September 2007. 
  2. ^ "Progress Theatre: A Brief History". Progress Theatre. Retrieved 18 March 2007. 
  3. ^ a b "Kenneth Branagh becomes Reading Progress Theatre patron". BBC News. 23 July 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  4. ^ "Progress Theatre: Charity Framework". Charity Commission. Retrieved 11 May 2009. 
  5. ^ a b "Progress Youth Theatre". Progress Theatre. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  6. ^ "The Winter's Tale". BBC. Retrieved 18 March 2007. 
  7. ^ "Reading Abbey Ruins Open Air Festival: History". Progress Theatre. Retrieved 15 July 2008. 
  8. ^ a b "Branagh News Archive: July 2003 – December 2003". Branagh Compendium. Retrieved 18 March 2007. 
  9. ^ "Progress Theatre productions since 1946". Progress Theatre. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  10. ^ "Discworld Monthly – Issue 9: January 1998". Retrieved 19 March 2007. 
  11. ^ "Discworld Monthly – Issue 10: February 1998". Retrieved 19 March 2007. 
  12. ^ "Discworld Monthly – Issue 11: March 1998". Retrieved 19 March 2007. 
  13. ^ "Today you can:… The Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. London. 4 January 2006. Retrieved 19 March 2007. Bypass panto: see the stage version of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach 
  14. ^ "Progress show is giant step forwards". icBerkshire. Retrieved 11 June 2007. 
  15. ^ "Blasted: BBC Berkshire review". Retrieved 19 March 2007. 
  16. ^ "Blasted: reviews". Retrieved 19 March 2007. 
  17. ^ "Have we got Shrews for you...". Reading Evening Post. Retrieved 14 July 2008. 
  18. ^ 'Peter Strickland celebrates win at British Film Awards', 9 February 2010, retrieved 22 October 2013 
  19. ^ 'Elize du Toit Official Biography', retrieved 14 January 2015 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°26′39.9″N 0°57′28.12″W / 51.444417°N 0.9578111°W / 51.444417; -0.9578111