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Review: Rabble Theatre’s Glitch strikes at heart of Post Office scandal through ordeal of Berkshire subpostmistress Pam Stubbs





In 2022, the University of Reading’s School of Law contacted RABBLE Theatre to ask if they’d be interested in developing a new play based on the largest miscarriage of justice in English legal history. RABBLE tell local stories of national significance and on hearing that the story was based on Pam Stubbs, who was a local sub post mistress until her life was shattered by the Horizon scandal, agreed that this was a project that very much suited their aims. Zannah Kearns has created a script that deals brilliantly with the complexities and emotional challenges of the story. Over the last year, Zannah has worked with associate writer Beth Flintoff, from Newbury, and RABBLE’s creative team to develop the script, soundtrack and movement style at a first stage development process. This process also included students from both the University of Reading’s Film, Theatre & Television Department and the School of Law.

They staged this version of the production ahead of a planned national tour next year.

RABBLE Theatre: Glitch, The true story of the Post Office scandal, at the Minghella Theatre, Reading University, from Thursday, June 27 to Friday, July 6

Review by MIREK GOSNEY

Glitch, the true story of the Post Office scandal. Credit: Rabble Theatre
Glitch, the true story of the Post Office scandal. Credit: Rabble Theatre

READING’S Rabble Theatre cuts through the noise to get to the heart of one of the worst legal scandals in British history.

A full house watched Glitch on July 4 at Reading University’s Minghella Theatre, produced in association with the University’s School of Law.

Elizabeth Elvin as Pam Stubbs. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre
Elizabeth Elvin as Pam Stubbs. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre

Glitch is a powerful account of human suffering and perseverance in the face of corporate corruption. It tells the true story of Pamela Stubbs, who suffered years of harassment after being targeted in the Post Office scandal.

Pam bought Barkham Post Office in 1987 and took over running the branch in 1999, the day after her husband died from cancer. But her real problems began in 2009 after her Horizon computer system began producing shortfalls amounting to £28,000.

Elizabeth Elvin as Pam Stubbs. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre
Elizabeth Elvin as Pam Stubbs. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre

But “if there’s one thing I do, it’s fight to the death,” says Elizabeth Elvin’s stubborn yet personable Pam Stubbs. And fight she did.

Pam cleared her name, but she almost lost everything.

Glitch’s minimalist sets collaborate with haunting sound design and lighting to turn Pam’s familiar village stores and post office into a Kafkaesque nightmare. The performances were captivating , the scene transitions seamless.

The strain of the false accusations levelled against Pam and being shunned by her community, forcing her to resign as a district councillor, takes its toll. The parcels stack high and paperwork is scattered everywhere as Pam hopelessly tries to explain the ‘missing’ money.

Pressure mounting as Pam's shortfalls increase. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre
Pressure mounting as Pam's shortfalls increase. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre

In a cruel irony, the answers she needed were only 20 minutes away at Fujitsu’s Bracknell headquarters – the multinational corporation behind the faulty IT system.

Elizabeth Elvin as Pam Stubbs. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre
Elizabeth Elvin as Pam Stubbs. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre

A standout moment is the eerie silence as Pam is forced to give up the keys to her branch, her last shred of dignity stripped away.

Her story is interspersed with monologues by other affected subpostmasters, and the cast does a convincing job of alternating between a host of real-life figures, including campaigner Alan Bates.

Sabina Netherclift. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre
Sabina Netherclift. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre

Pam’s story, as told by writer Zannah Kearns and directors Gemma Colclough and Gareth Taylor, asks viewers to consider the human cost of a world dominated by profit margins.

Laura Penneycard as Tracy, with Sabina Netherclift and Fayez Bakhsh as investigators. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre
Laura Penneycard as Tracy, with Sabina Netherclift and Fayez Bakhsh as investigators. Credit: Annabelle Crichard, supplied by Rabble Theatre

Many other subpostmasters are still fighting for justice.



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