Tag Archives: Rabble Theatre



Minghella Theatre

GLITCH at the Minghella Theatre


“Liz Elvin doesn’t give us theatrical fireworks, but something much more subtle and involving”

What has been described as ‘the biggest miscarriage of justice in British legal history’ is the focus of this interesting new play by Zannah Kearns. It is drawn from Nick Wallis’ seminal 2021 exposé of the Post Office Horizon scandal. It tells the story up to 2019, when after a joint legal action, over 500 Postmasters and Postmistresses were granted a settlement of £58 million.

The play was commissioned by the University of Reading and was developed with help from their Law Department. It is performed by Reading’s RABBLE Theatre which has a special remit to ‘tell local stories of national significance’. Playwright Kearns based her story on her interviews with one Post Mistress called Pam Stubbs who modestly says she ‘got really cross’ when she first noticed false transactions on the screen of the branch she was running from a Portakabin near Reading.

A cast of four include seasoned performer Elizabeth Elvin as Pam Stubbs. Stubbs was unique amongst the other litigants in that she kept meticulous records which enabled the Horizon system to be directly challenged. Liz Elvin doesn’t give us theatrical fireworks, but something much more subtle and involving. We see a mild-mannered woman who is genuinely puzzled by the total and catastrophic upending of her life because the Post Office stubbornly refused to admit their software was faulty.

Laura Penneycard, Sabina Netherclift and Fayez Baksh deftly take multiple roles as customers, shop assistant, barrister, judge and other litigants. The play is performed in a ‘black box’ space for which Caitlin Abbott has designed a set of wheeled units which are moved around by the cast.

From ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to TV’s ‘Crown Court’, court room scenes are bread and butter drama. ‘Glitch’ features some gripping moments drawn directly from the legal transcript. For me, some of the other writing and direction by Gemma Colcough and Gareth Taylor still has a somewhat sketchy quality about it. I wanted a little more drama and less understatement, even if some of it (say) came in the form of techniques like projected graphics.

The founders of RABBLE describe this show as ‘stage one’ for the piece. They hope that with more financial support it will evolve more fully. This worthwhile and involving play certainly deserves a much wider showing.

GLITCH at the Minghella Theatre

Reviewed on 2nd July 2024

by David Woodward

Photography by Annabel Crichard






Recommended Show reviews from June:

CLOSER TO HEAVEN | ★★★★ | June 2024
DIVA: LIVE FROM HELL! | ★★★★ | June 2024
GIFFORDS CIRCUS – AVALON | ★★★★ | June 2024
HASBIAN | ★★★★★ | June 2024
IVO GRAHAM: CAROUSEL | ★★★★ | June 2024
JAZZ EMU | ★★★★★ | June 2024
KISS ME, KATE | ★★★★ | June 2024
NEXT TO NORMAL | ★★★★ | June 2024
RACHEL PARRIS: POISE | ★★★★★ | June 2024
THE BECKETT TRILOGY | ★★★★★ | June 2024
THE BLEEDING TREE | ★★★★ | June 2024
THE GIANT KILLERS | ★★★★ | June 2024
WET FEET | ★★★★ | June 2024



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Henry I


Reading Abbey Ruins

HENRY I  at Reading Abbey Ruins


Henry I

“a stand-out exemplar for other locally-rooted companies wishing to make drama that speaks compellingly to their audiences”


When Game of Thrones and other big budget spectaculars grab the headlines and audiences, how can 900 year old stories be brought to the stage in a way that will speak to modern audiences? This is the challenge with which Reading based company Rabble have been engaged since their founding in 2012.

This latest production is their biggest yet. Based on a show that premiered in 2016, it follows the life of King Henry I of England from the moment his father William the Conqueror died in 1087, to his own death 48 years later. This is raw and visceral theatre. The writing is not cod historical but vivid and gripping.

Eleventh century lives were short and men’s war-making was brutal. But this play is also feminist to its core, placing women at its heart, both in casting women actors in male roles and in depicting the pivotal roles women played in the story.

Rabble’s vision is also community-based and often site specific. Over 500 members of the local community were involved in bringing this epic to the stage. It sits in a sequence of linked history plays the company have developed. They appear amongst the professionals in the show and continue to be involved in workshops around the play which tours to Winchester and the Actor’s Church in London after its Reading run. In Reading it is performed in the ruins of the great abbey Henry I built to expiate his memory, and where he lies buried. There’s a further frisson. The final scene is performed on the very spot where the events depicted occurred.

Beth Flintoff’s Henry I uses a rich variety of story-telling techniques to bring a great swathe of history to dazzling life. Characters speak directly to their audience about their future. Climactic crowd scenes play out in slow motion with compelling lighting effects by designer Michael Brenkley. Many of the costumes by Sarah Jane Booth are a lush riot of satin and velvet and her spare set suits the full-on and physical drama to a tee.

Amongst an outstanding cast, Toby W Davies is excellent as Henry I. Whilst some other characters occasionally veer close to parody, he gives a compellingly real performance of vulnerability and struggle amongst all the rabble-rousing. Georgie Fellows is his queen and Mabel. Like the exceptional Amy Conachan (Adela Countess of Blois), she gives a blisteringly feisty performance of a woman at the heart of the action.

Greg Barnett is a wonderful embodiment of lip-smacking evil as Robert de Belleme. Mark Middleton is a peevishly inadequate brother to Henry and has some moments of fine comedy. Gabrielle Sheppard cuts a swaggering dash as William Rufus and William Atheling. Anjelica Serra gives an equally energetic and compelling performance in this high octane show that delighted the first night crowd. Joseph Black has huge stage presence as Bishop Roger and Conran.

Many other performers give wonderfully energetic and committed performances in this brilliant show which is a warmly recommended triumph for Rabble. It is also a stand-out exemplar for other locally-rooted companies wishing to make drama that speaks compellingly to their audiences. Congratulations to Director Hal Chambers for bringing this production to such electrifying life.



Reviewed on 15th June 2023

by David Woodward

Photography by Alex Brenner


Further dates:

12th – 15th July 2023
Winchester Great Hall, Winchester

20th – 22nd July 2023
St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, London




Previously reviewed by David:


Hedda Gabler | ★★★★★ | Reading Rep Theatre | February 2023
Cybil Service | ★★★★ | VAULT Festival 2023 | January 2023
Barefoot in the Park | ★★★★ | The Mill at Sonning | July 2022
Spike | ★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | January 2022
Dorian | ★★★★ | Reading Rep Theatre | October 2021


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