The talented students from the John Madejski Academy (JMA) present a dynamic night of drama at 7pm on 24 January, at the JMA on Hartland Road in Whitley. They will be performing works by literary giants Brecht, Shakespeare, Goethe and Shaffer with additions by their creative and performing arts teacher, Tommy Robinson.

The evening will consist of four performances: A Winter’s Tale, A Midsummers Night’s Dream, Juliet (a new dance piece) and a few songs to end the evening. A Winter’s Tale is the play with one of the bard’s very rare and concise stage directions “exit pursued by bear”.

There is a long history of theatrical productions in Whitley from the community centre in the 1940s to popular shows at Ashmead School in the 1980s, right up to the present at the JMA. On Saturday, the pupils were still frenetically creating a stage, but all will be ready for the opening night on Wednesday. Everyone is welcome and its free to attend!

Tommy Robinson, John Madejski Academy performing arts teacher, about to exit pursued by a teddy bear.

I asked the very busy Tommy Robinson about the production .

We have only been working on our plays (The Winter’s Tale and Juliet) since the start of this term; on the face of it a very short amount of time. Our students are extraordinary and thrive on the pressure.

Last year we produced 30 performances as well as winning choir of the year and we were the pick of the crop at Reading Fringe festival, So far this year we are up to 13 performances! We are currently planning an event at the Hexagon in February (Children helping Children) and a return to choir of the year.

We are very proud of what we achieve here at JMA with the performing arts and intend to get bigger and better!

Tommy also told me about their trip last year to Düsseldorf and the strong reciprocal bonds he and the pupils have made in the 70th year of friendship between the towns.

On 1 October 2017 the JMA performing arts department set off to Düsseldorf to perform at the Reading-Düsseldorf 70th Anniversary weekend. We were working with the Theodor-Fliedner-Gymnasium on a new play I have written called The way we live.

The group have been working hard on the piece, as well as fund raising for almost a year! Once in Düsseldorf, we went straight to the school for our first performance, and it was immediately clear that we had a long way to go before we were ready for the performance. After a week of re-writes, rehearsals, tears and joy we were ready for the first performance on the Thursday in front of staff and family.

The next day was the official event at a local arts centre, and with both Düsseldorf and Reading dignitaries in attendance, we performed our socks off, and at the end received our well-deserved standing ovation.

During the week, we also tasted the German way of life that included visits around the city and up the Rhine, as well as a day in Cologne. We learnt some German and ate German sausage, with mixed reviews.

The students all returned home on the Sunday, exhausted but proud of what they had achieved. We are now looking forward to a visit from Theodor-Fliedner-Gymnasium on the 22 January ready for an evening of Shakespeare on 24 January

Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.

  1. John Madejski Academy
  2. Children helping children
  3. Reading and Düsseldorf celebrate the 70th anniversary of friendship