Toby Davies is the co-director of Reading Between the Lines theatre company and played King Henry in the company’s production of Henry 1 of England. He trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, where he met partner Dani (pictured above with Toby), and the pair founded RBL in January 2012, inspired by Bristol’s strong cultural and theatrical scene. Their productions, including Henry 1 and The Royal Burial, present stories of Reading’s rich history in inventive ways and unusual locations, including a historic church and along the Oracle Riverside.
In November 2017, RBL bring their production of Matilda the Empress, the story of Henry 1’s daughter, to St James’ Church in Forbury Gardens. If the preview we saw in the summer is anything to go by, it should be very powerful indeed and worth getting a ticket (read more and book tickets here).
Here, Toby shares his favourite historical sites and cultural spots in Reading, where he goes to watch theatre at the weekend, his favourite Reading cafes and where he goes scouting for RBL production locations.
Heritage and culture
When we rehearsed and performed Oscar Wilde on Trial inside the Gaol, it was one of the most moving, haunting and inspiring moments of my life. Reading Prison is an incredible space with international cultural significance and I really hope that its future is secured soon.
Reading Abbey is pretty amazing as well. Having played Henry 1 of England (who had the Abbey built), I’m excited for the cast members of Matilda the Empress, some of whom will be playing the labourers who built the Abbey, who are going to experience it.
If I’m checking out theatre at the weekend, I’ll head to South Street Arts Centre. South Street’s often got something interesting on and the revamp has transformed the place into a great, contemporary arts centre. Plus the staff are great.
Things to do
We often go walking along the Thames in either direction. I’m one of those who when I see water I have to get in it, so on the way to Henley or Pangbourne you might see my head poking out. They say don’t put your head under water though…
I like the diversity of Oxford Road. Yes, it has its challenging spots, but in a few years’ time I’ve no doubt that it’ll be super-trendy. I like to cook, so for ingredients it’s a decent place to go. I also like to look around speculating about where RBL’s next show could take place.
Food and drink
One thing that Reading does have is exceptionally good independent cafés. Go to Pau Brasil. If you’re at the station, go to Tutti Fruti. Those two places make me very happy indeed, firstly because the products are sensational and homemade, but also because the people that run them are bastions of many decent things.