Great seal of Matilda the Empress

Bookings are now open for Matilda the Empress which will be performed by Reading Between the Lines (RBL) this November in St James’ Church in the Forbury.

Matilda is the sequel to Henry I of England which was rapturously received by audiences when it was staged as part of Reading year of culture 2016.

In the words of the theatre company:

Told through the eyes of both Matilda herself and the people who lived and worked in Reading Abbey, the play will fascinate those who have an interest in what Reading would have been like almost one thousand years ago, and introduce us to one of the most formidable females in history.

Matilda was the daughter of Henry I, his only legitimate heir and nominated by him as his successor. After Henry’s death in 1135 there was a power struggle between Matilda and her cousin Stephen who both claimed the throne. This led to a civil war in England often referred to as ‘the Anarchy‘. During this period, the emphasis shifted from Matilda’s own right to rule England to that of her son, Henry FitzEmpress. In the 1153 Treaty of Winchester (or Wallingford), Stephen accepted Henry as his adopted son and successor, and Stephen’s only living son William renounced his claim. This paved the way for a peaceful transition when King Stephen died only a year later.

The theme of gender inequality is also explored. Matilda was the daughter of Henry I, her first husband was Emperor Henry V and she was the mother of Henry II by her second husband Geoffrey of Anjou. The inscription on her tomb includes “great by birth, greater by marriage, greatest in her offspring: here lies Matilda, the daughter, wife, and mother of Henry”.

RBL have produced a short trailer about the making of the play.

The play is written by Beth Flintoff and directed by Hal Chambers; the lighting is designed by Oliver Welsh and the music composed by Benjamin Hudson and Rosalind Steele.

The play will run from 2-18 November at St James’ Church with performances from Monday to Saturday. Special performances include a ‘pay what you want night’ on Friday 3 November, a ‘tweet night’ on Friday 10 November and a signed performance at the matinee on Saturday 11 November. Full details and ticket booking are available on the RBL website.

Katesgrove Konnections: Katesgrove Hill would no doubt have been on the routes of both factions during this civil war because it is located on major thoroughfares between Winchester, Oxford, London and the west country.

  1. Reading Between the Lines
  2. Henry I of England
  3. Empress Matilda – Wikipedia
  4. Reading Abbey Quarter