Progress Theatre, Reading – until 6 April 2019
Guest reviewer: Louis Train
In One Million Tiny Plays About Reading, a pride parade passes through the town, two kids commiserate over their hard luck at school, a tour group visits the town centre, and an MP takes photos at a food bank. This charming kaleidoscope takes the model invented by Craig Taylor in his landmark play One Million Tiny Plays About Britain to present a few dozens vignettes about daily life in Reading.
Most of the scenes are comedic, and some also have heart. Characters of all places on the socio-economic spectrum are represented, and often class issues are the cause of conflict – say, when an affluent man stops to offer advice to a man sleeping rough on the street, or when a spoilt child gets a job at a charity shop. There is also a fair amount of ribbing aimed at the town council, and a fair amount of ribbing aimed at the people who love to moan about the town council.
Some of the scenes are especially charming, and capture the odd and titled spirit of this town. Two women picnic in the cemetery at Cemetery Junction, enjoying the company of the tombstones and sharing cake with the departed. A few scenes address the town’s complex relationship with the Thames – something people love, and love to throw rubbish into. Even one of Reading’s many barber shops sets the scene for a vignette (seriously, why does Reading have so many barber shops?)
If there’s ones thing this show is missing, it’s a wider perspective on Reading’s various ethnic, religious, and immigrant communities. I remember the time my housemate confessed he’d never been to West Reading because he heard people got stabbed on Oxford Road. This production, likewise, keeps a cautious, silly distance from a big part of the city.
That said, most Readingites – even a recent transplant such as myself – will identify with something in this show. It does more than just depict the places and faces of daily life in Reading – it makes a sincere go at putting the character of Reading on stage. I’d like to see more of them.
One Million Tiny Plays About Reading runs through 6 April.
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