Reading plays selected bHoward Lichtermany members of the groRos Loweup.

Group Coordinators: Ros Lowe (click to contact) and Howard Lichterman.

Usually Tuesdays, approximately every two months.

Members' houses or a local pub.

We are an informal group of theatre lovers who enjoy reading plays together, making them come alive, often generating much laughter, through the characters we create. Readings take place every two months, normally on the second Tuesday; sometimes we have another reading on the fourth Tuesday, depending on numbers.

We want everyone to feel comfortable in the group, and ‘on the same page’ (literally!), to make sure we have a successful and fun reading. So we have come up with some criteria that we ask each member to abide by:
  • Bring your own copy of the play, as sharing is tricky. We will advise you which edition to buy or borrow. It is really important that we all read from the same edition as the text can vary considerably in different editions.
  • Do read the play at least once beforehand; this is really critical!
  • Think about your character, their interactions, etc., and how best you can bring these out in the reading.
  • Selection and casting the play is quite a long and complex process, so when you are given a part, please do turn up for the reading, or give as much notice as you possibly can, excepting emergencies, of course.
  • And finally, do stay until the end! We always try to have a postreading discussion, needing all of us there to contribute; it’s usually very enlightening and great fun!
Looking forward to seeing you!

Our Next Meetings and Readings
If you'd like any further information, please use the link above to contact Ros.

Our Recent Readings
JB Priestley's I Have Been Here Before — an unusual but intriguing play, bringing to the stage that strange feeling we have all probably had at some point of ‘I have been here before’.

Priestley in his introduction acknowledges his debt to the Russian esotericist PD Ouspensky’s astonishing book, A New Model of the Universe, which proposed that after death we all ‘come back’ either living the same life all over again, or live a continuation and development of our former lives. While this may sound indeed rather other-worldly, the resulting play was a terrific read, by turns intriguing, funny, sad, and ultimately satisfying, with the sentence of predestined disaster being cleverly averted, much to our group’s collective relief! (Rosalynde Lowe)

November: Translations by Brian Friel. This was probably one of the most challenging plays we have attempted, but certainly one of the most interesting, enjoyable and moving. We all loved it and the post-reading discussion was intense.

The play is set in a hedge-school in an Irish-speaking community in County Donegal in 1833. In nearby field camps, a recently arrived detachment of the Royal Engineers is making the first Ordnance Survey of the land; the local Gaelic place names having to be recorded and translated into English. Friel skilfully reveals the profound personal and cultural effects on the lives of the local people, leading to a shocking and heartbreaking denouement.

We had huge fun reading this play, which has many speeches in Irish, Latin and Greek, and which would have been almost impossible without the aid of a helpful pronunciation website, cleverly found by one of our members. We were also hugely fortunate to have a real Irishman in the group who patiently helped our varying efforts! (Rosalynde Lowe)

September: Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce: In the midst of the turmoil at home and abroad, this has to have been the best play we could have chosen to lift and distract us from all the doom and gloom.
It was a miracle we managed to get through our various parts, such were the convulsions of laughter generated by Mr. Ayckbourn’s wickedly funny and sharply observed scenes set in the bedrooms of three married couples, with a fourth couple availing themselves of various beds as the scene demanded, during one very long night.

Each couple’s relationship, some more dysfunctional than others, is severely tested as they all struggle to deal with their own and their friends’ difficulties, which come to a head at a disastrous party. Add to this the hilarious attempt to construct an ‘easy-to-assemble’ flat-pack dressing table, and you have an achingly funny play that was a joy to read, and highly recommended.

And it all ended happily ever after…. we hope. (Rosalynde Lowe)

July: Henrik Ibsen —A Doll's House: A much-reduced number of us met in the middle of a heatwave to read this excellent and thought-provoking play, published by Ibsen both to sensational acclaim and to outrage in 1879. The plot focuses on Nora Helmer and her increasingly fraught relationship with her patronising and infantilising husband, Torvald. We follow her as her frustration in her lot in life in general and her marriage in particular gradually leads to her leaving Torvald and their three young children, dramatically slamming the door as she exits for good. A neat plot involves Nora illegally borrowing a large sum of money (not having asked her husband’s permission) to take her sick husband to recuperate in Italy, forging her father’s signature, and attempting to persuade Torvald to give a job to her old friend, thus ousting the very man who lent her the money.

Lies, blackmail, hypocrisy, harsh words, and many misunderstandings all conspire to make this a fast-paced and affecting play, which resulted in much discussion amongst the group about the changing role of women, and the shock such a play must have been to a 19th century Norwegian audience. (Ros Lowe)

In March our buzzy Playreading group read the superb, and surprisingly tense, and at times emotional, Pressure by the talented actor and author, David Haig. This play tells the ‘based on fact’ story of the forecasting of the weather for the D-Day Landings in June 1944....not particularly gripping, you may think, but....just read, or even better, see it! I was fortunate enough to see the Park Theatre’s production in 2018, with David Haig in the main role of Dr James Stagg, the Chief Meteorological Officer seconded to the Allied Forces; it was utterly gripping, as we also found it throughout our reading. The tension was built up early on when it becomes clear that Stagg, a quietly spoken but forceful Scot, crosses swords with the charismatic and confident Irving P. Crick, the Chief Meteorologist for the US Armed Forces, and Stagg’s second in command. Their wildly differing views of the weather forecast for D-Day, a mere three days away, almost leads to blows, as each man tries to justify why he thinks the day will bring gale force winds, huge seas,
thick cloud cover and consequent massive deaths and casualties (Stagg’s view), as opposed to bright, sunny, calm June weather, leading to an Allied victory and a consequent German defeat (Krick’s prediction). Whoever would have thought isobars and upper atmosphere wind speeds, not to mention “depressions over the Azores..” could be so riveting?! Haig brilliantly brings out the contrasting characters of all the main parts, in the claustrophobic cauldron of one room, the ‘forecasting office’, on a stiflingly hot June weekend, with aircraft noisily flying overhead, and everyone only too aware of the critical nature of their decisions. While the two meteorologists argue their corners, a chain-smoking Eisenhower becomes more and more manic in his desperation to be given the correct information to launch, or not launch, hundreds of thousands of troops on a hopefully unsuspecting German army across the Channel. Cleverly woven into this tension are the equally affecting personal stories of the worrying and imminent arrival of Stagg’s second baby when he cannot be with his wife, whose life is in danger, and that of the close relationship between Eisenhower and his personal aide, Kay Summersby.

Our Playreaders tackled all these tensions and nuances with gusto and sensitivity, each taking on at least two parts each, differentiating the roles with pretty good American and Scottish accents! In our animated discussion afterwards, we were treated by one of our number, who had thoughtfully done some prior research, to some excellent explanations of what the ‘real’ story was, and some other characters who didn’t figure in the play. Whatever the real story, we agreed that this play illustrated a fascinating piece of history, and one that we intended to find out more about. A terrific afternoon! (Ros Lowe).

The Real Inspector Hound: Tom Stoppard. We started the new year reluctantly back on Zoom due to the surge in Covid infections. Nevertheless it was apparent none of us had lost our Zooming skills, and all went very smoothly, even when the play had us convulsed with laughter. The play is short, only one act, but Stoppard packs a huge amount of intrigue, mix-ups, farce, satire and parody into a play within a play. Imagine an extremely clever and complex version of The Mousetrap, and there you have Inspector Hound.
The plot follows two theatre critics, Moon and Birdboot, as they sit in the stalls, watching a whodunit country house murder mystery, the body lying in full view of the audience but not, for the longest while, of the cast. The critics’ own personal desires and obsessions are cleverly woven into their reviews of the play, until they themselves become actually involved in the action.

When the play was first put on in 1968, rumours flew as to whom Stoppard had in mind when he wrote the characters of the two critics, with their clichés, lofty pronouncements and bitter jealousies. You’ll have to read the play yourself to find out what happens in the end... I couldn’t possibly say!


Dolly West’s Kitchen (1999) by Frank McGuinness: Hurray! The play-readers at last reconvened in person at the Drapers Arms round a table set ready with Bushmills whiskey, strawberries and a bottle of Guinness.  We were being invited on to the set of Dolly West’s Kitchen, this being Frank McGuinness’s successful 1999 play which takes place in Buncrana, during World War II, near the border with Derry. Buncrana was McGuinness’s home town and this is a generational family drama with strong personal associations for its author. His mother died during the writing of it and she is commemorated in the character of the matriarch Rima, the feisty Irish heart of the family, the emotional centre and the source of much of the folksy comedy and pathos, whose life is abruptly cut short at the end of the second act. The circumstance of war has brought together Irish, English and American servicemen under one roof and reawakened old enmities and rivalries. Although not all of us could attempt the range of accents, all could relate to the interpersonal dynamics. One of us reminisced on how the age differences of Rima’s children mirrored those in her own family, while our most experienced ‘thespian’ enlivened our after-reading chat with an account of dinner in Dublin together with the hard-drinking McGuinness and Geraldine McEwan.

It was Melanie Anderson, our outgoing coordinator, who had suggested this play before handing over to Ros and Howard, and what an inspired choice it proved. Even if, unlike the War’s end, there is not yet an end to Covid, what better way to mark our group’s reunion? (Jane Grayson)

With the exception of Jean Anouilh’s Ring around the Moon, a comedy of mistaken identities, match-making and love set on a country estate, the other plays read so far this year have been by 20th and 21st century British playwrights: Anthony Minghella, Jack Thorne and Nathaniel Hall.

Minghella’s Two Planks and a Passion centres around a performance of the Mystery Plays York in 1392, where the religious faith of the humble performers (here using adapted extracts from the original Mystery plays) contrasts with the competitive ambitions of local notables and the amused cynicism of visiting royalty.

This was followed by Jack Thorne’s 2nd May 1997 — focusing on the night and morning after of Labour’s electoral landslide and the reactions of three very different couples (elderly Conservatives, 20/30-year-old Lib-Dems and Blairite six-formers) — a new age has dawned!

In June we read Nathaniel Hall’s First Time, a monologue in 17 scenes, in which a young gay man, who is infected with HIV on his first sexual encounter, charts his tormented path from fear and shame to acceptance, pride and solidarity.

The year started with J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls and then lockdown caught us just after our first reading (in the congenial surroundings of the Draper’s Arms), of Moira Buffini’s Dying for It — an adaptation of The Suicide (1928), a satirical, absurdist comedy by the Soviet author Nicolai Erdman. The second reading of this play, in April, was our first Zoom reading. Like subsequent Zoom readings this was made possible by the technical know-how and good will of Vivek and Derek. 

There followed a particularly successful reading of Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem, a ‘state of England’ play which though first performed in 2009 has many resonances with present times.

Next came the very different comedies by Pinero (The Magistrate) and Beaumarchais (The Marriage of Figaro), and the moving drama by the Black American author Lorraine Hansberry, Raisin in the Sun.

The year ended with a reading of Charles III by Mike Bartlett, written in blank verse, portraying the accession of Prince Charles to the throne and constitutional and familial conflict…

Previous Years
The group has been running a number of years now. For a report on our previous readings please follow the link to our archive:
For October 2015 to September 2019 here.

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