Panto cast with Hexagon and RBC representatives

Reading’s Hexagon Theatre celebrates its 45th Anniversary

  • A ‘Hexabition’ exploring memorabilia from the Hexagon’s past launching in 2023
  • The iconic building was built and opened in 1977

READING’S much-loved theatre, The Hexagon, is celebrating its 45th Anniversary season.

Children’s television star Justin Fletcher, award-winning panto dame Paul Morse and the cast of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ joined in the anniversary celebrations with a Gala Performance of the theatre’s flagship pantomime.

‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ is the twelfth in a long run of magical pantomime performances produced by the successful partnership of Reading’s Hexagon team and Imagine theatre. The partnership began with ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in 2010 and has been delighting Christmas audiences ever since.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hexagon’s resident orchestra, celebrated the anniversary of their partnership with the Hexagon with a concert. The orchestra, which has been playing concerts at the venue since 1978, launched a new Classical Music Alive season in November. The orchestra returns to the Hexagon on 25 March and 5 May 2023.

The celebrations will continue into 2023 with a ‘Hexabition’ exploring memorabilia from the Hexagon’s past and limited-edition Hex 45 merchandise will be available for purchase.

The Hexagon

Cllr Adele Barnett-Ward, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Leisure and Culture, said: “Reading’s Hexagon theatre has kept us entertained over the years with big-name comedians like Frankie Howerd and Victoria Wood, singers including Ben E King, Cilla Black and Paloma Faith, spectacular musicals like We Will Rock You, hilarious pantomimes and exquisite classical concerts - and even snooker and wrestling back in the day! It’s not just about the big names though, local amateur, community and youth groups have always been at the heart of the Hexagon. Many future stars began their careers performing here including Kate Winslet, Christian Bale and our very own Hexagon panto star, Justin Fletcher.

“It was wonderful to have our partners at The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) supporting our celebrations back in October. Reading’s award-winning panto is one of the highlights of the Hexagon’s entertainment calendar – and I’m delighted they are joining us in celebrating the Hex 45 anniversary season. The celebrations don’t end here – into 2023, we’ll be hosting a Hex 45 exhibition, with memorabilia from the venue’s illustrious past, as well as a chance for people to own their own Hex 45 themed merchandise, including posters, mugs and tote bags.

“Whist we celebrate the past 45 years we also have ambitions plans for the future of the Hex, with our aim to add a new performance space and our work to contribute to a net zero carbon Reading by 2030, as well as our exciting programme of shows for 2023.”

Steve and Sarah Boden, Imagine Theatre, said: “We are delighted to be celebrating the Hexagon’s 45th anniversary as well as the opening of our latest pantomime production ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’.

“We started working closely with Hexagon team when we produced our first pantomime ‘Sleeping Beauty’ with them in 2010. This year, we celebrate our twelfth pantomime at the Hex, working alongside the same fantastic team of people who were here at the start. That’s one of the things that makes working at the Hexagon unique; very few venues are lucky enough to have the continuity of such a long-serving, strong and dedicated core staff who really care about the products on their stages. They care enormously, not just about the audience experience but also the artist experience for those who visit the venue to perform. That’s what makes a partnership strong, particularly when creating a show that frequently gives so many people, regardless of their age, their first introduction to live theatre both on stage and off.

“We are the custodians of pantomime – generations that follow will be inspired by what we do today and will pick up the panto baton and run with it. The example set by the team at the Hexagon along with the support from Reading Borough Council will ensure that performance in Reading is in safe hands for generations to come.”

James Williams, RPO managing director, said: “The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is immensely proud of its long-standing partnership with The Hexagon Reading. Stretching back to its debut concert here on Monday 3 April 1978 to the present day, the RPO has across 40+ years brought the world’s finest conductors and soloists to Reading to delight audiences with the mesmerising sound-world of symphonic music. The RPO’s annual Noisy Kids family concerts have become something of an institution in Reading, providing young children with their first orchestral experience. And beyond the concert platform, the RPO has worked in a diverse range of community and education settings across the town, most notably through its strong partnership with Berkshire Maestros, ensuring the widest possible access to its work.

“Music has an innate ability to inspire us, lift our spirits and create unified shared experiences and never has it felt more urgent than today to have these qualities in our lives. Long may this partnership with our friends at The Hexagon Reading continue and on behalf of all the musicians at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, thank you for your continued support of the RPO and live music.”

The iconic building was built in 1977 by Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall (RMJM) in the Brutalist style of modernist architecture. It opened in the same year and the very first production was the Gondoliers presented by local group the Sainsbury Singers.

Some of the notable performances and personalities it has featured over the years include:

  • 1970s: Morecambe and Wise, Frankie Howerd, Whitesnake, Billy Connolly, Quentin Crisp.
  • 1980s: Victoria Wood, Nana Mouskouri, The Smiths, The Cure, Cilla Black, David Essex, Ben E King, Chaka Khan, French and Saunders.
  • 1990s: Chuck Berry, Newman and Baddiel, Norman Wisdom, Kenneth Branagh and James Brown.
  • 2000s: Joan Rivers, The League of Gentlemen, Dinner Ladies, Tim Minchin, The Saturdays, Cabaret, McFly, Rik Mayall in the New Statesman and Peter Kay.
  • 2010s: Goldfrapp, Stephen Merchant, La Roux, The Amazons, Diversity, Kaiser Chiefs, Noel Fielding and Paloma Faith.
  • 2020s: Sarah Millican, Stars of Strictly, Mo Gilligan, Laura Marling, John Bishop, Omid Djalili, Nish Kumar and We Will Rock You.

Find out more about the Hexagon’s current programme of events here: