Who We Are
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Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service
To create excellent theatre!
- To present a quality programme of popular and challenging theatre
- To keep members happy and involved
- To provide an attractive and safe venue
- To remain financially viable
- To pursue a development strategy
- To pursue excellence in theatrical standards
- To make involvement enjoyable
- To treat everyone with respect and without discrimination
- To foster personal development
A Brief History
Progress Theatre was established in 1946 by a young, enthusiastic, forward-looking group to present new and challenging theatre productions in Reading.
The first production, Whose Pigeon, was staged in 1947 and for the first five years performances were held in Palmer Hall, West Street. The Mildmay Hall, on The Mount, was found to be available for rent from the Co-operative Society, who agreed to its use as a theatre. The members, together with families and friends, converted it into a working theatre and the first in-house production was held in October 1951. In 1963-64 after a massive fund-raising campaign, the Freehold of the building was bought thanks to a fair price from the Co-op. The basis of the present foyer was built at that time together with other (then modern) facilities. With many other alterations and extensions over the years, productions are still staged in the same building. It now seats 97 people and includes a wheelchair space.
Progress has presented contemporary plays since its founding and the first performances in England of The Good Woman of Setzuan by Bertolt Brecht and The Shadow of a Gunman by Seán O'Casey were produced at the theatre in 1952 and 1958 respectively.
Over the decades, Progress has mounted hundreds of productions at the Mount and in the Open Air at Reading Abbey Ruins and Caversham Court Gardens: see a history of our past productions. Our Open Air productions each summer have traditionally been Shakespeare plays, but we produced The Wind in the Willows at Caversham Court Gardens in 2017 and Great Expectations in Reading Abbey Ruins in 2022.
Sir Kenneth Branagh, who was a member of the theatre in the late 1970s, became Progress Theatre patron in 2011.