Birmingham Repertory Theatre

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Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Birmingham Rep + Library of Birmingham - 2014-02-11 - Andy Mabbett - 01.JPG
The Rep in February 2014, showing the new connecting wing linking to the Library of Birmingham (right)
Address Centenary Square, Broad Street
City Birmingham
Country England
Coordinates 52°28′46″N 1°54′34″W / 52.479417°N 1.909414°W / 52.479417; -1.909414Coordinates: 52°28′46″N 1°54′34″W / 52.479417°N 1.909414°W / 52.479417; -1.909414
Architect Graham Winteringham
Capacity
  • 824 (Main Stage)
  • 190 (Studio)
Type
Opened 1913 (1913)
Rebuilt 2013
Other names
  • Birmingham Rep
  • The Rep
Website
birmingham-rep.co.uk
The Rep in 2007, before rebuilding as part of the Library of Birmingham project removed the 1991 extension, which can be seen to he right.

Birmingham Repertory Theatre (commonly called Birmingham Rep or just The Rep) is a theatre and theatre company based on Centenary Square in Birmingham, England. It is one of the most influential companies in the history of the English Stage.

History[edit]

The Rep was founded by Barry Jackson in 1913 when the earlier amateur 'Pilgrim Players' company opened a permanent home on Station Street (now the Old Rep). The theatre was opened on February 15, 1913 by Barry Jackson and the first production in the new theatre was Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. The stated aim was to "serve an art instead of making that art serve a commercial purpose." and under Jackson the company quickly revolutionised English Theatre, promoting experimental productions and pioneering innovations such as performing Shakespeare in modern dress.

The Birmingham Civic Society played a critical role in saving the Repertory Theatre from closure in 1924, and again in 1934-5. The link with the Repertory Theatre continues through ex officio membership of the Sir Barry Jackson Trust which holds the shares of Birmingham Repertory Theatre Ltd.

However, in spite of the unexpected box office hit 1066 And All That in 1935 Birmingham City Council took responsibility, founding the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Trust.

The Rep's radical reputation attracted young talent. Actors who first rose to prominence at the pre-war Rep included Laurence Olivier, Cedric Hardwicke, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Edith Evans, Stewart Granger and Ralph Richardson.

The director Peter Brook launched his career at the Rep in 1945 and directed three plays with Paul Scofield in 1945. Other post war actors included Stanley Baker, Albert Finney, Ian Richardson, Julie Christie and Derek Jacobi (Cochrane 2003).

Sir Barry Jackson remained managing director of the theatre until his death in 1961. In 1971 the company moved from Station Street to a new 901 seat theatre designed by Graham Winteringham and Keith Williams Architects on Broad Street, in the area that would later be developed as Centenary Square. The theatre was opened by Princess Margaret and the first production to be shown in the theatre was an adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice called First Impressions which starred Patricia Routledge. The building itself won a Royal Institute of British Architects award in 1972.[1]

In 1972, the Studio opened, it became an example of innovative theatre nationwide. It targeted young audiences and showcased new writing, including the world première of Death Story by David Edgar. In 1974, David Edgar was made resident playwright. Despite the success of Oh Fair Jerusalem, the Rep board decided against staging Destiny because of its strong theme of racial tension,[2] putting The Importance of Being Earnest on instead.

The theatre began to make losses during the mid-1970s and the Board of Directors was restructured in an attempt to secure funding.

The Studio became popular during the 1980s and in 1988, Kenneth Branagh temporarily relocated his Renaissance Theatre Company to the Rep which gave Birmingham the opportunity to showcase plays by guest directors such as Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi.

During the 1970s and 1980s the Studio was a regular home to the Birmingham Youth Theatre, a company which launched the careers of actors Andrew Tiernan and Adrian Lester among numerous others[who?].

The theatre was refurbished and extended in 1991 after the completion of the International Convention Centre. However, the Rep began to stop making profits[citation needed] as the country was hit by recession.

In 1998 the company opened "The Door" as a second auditorium specialising in new writing, replacing the Studio.

In 2004 the company controversially cancelled as series of performances of Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti's play Behzti after protests from Birmingham's large Sikh community.[3]

The theatre often trades its Christmas shows with the West Yorkshire Playhouse. In 2006, The rep's revival of the musical of "The Wizard of Oz" played in Yorkshire and the Playhouse's version of "Alice in Wonderland" played in Birmingham. "The Wizard of Oz" was the Rep's biggest selling show in 93 years[citation needed]. It had been seen by 45,000 people by the time it closed and was the first to take more than £500,000 at the box office. In 2008, The Rep's "Peter Pan" and Yorkshire's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" swapped over. "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" earned £750,000 at the box office.

Between 2011 and 2013, the theatre was closed for rebuilding, as part of the Library of Birmingham complex. The company worked from other local theatres during that time.

There are two blue plaques on the exterior of the building, one commemorating the pioneer of aseptic surgery, Sampson Gamgee, who once lived on the site.

References[edit]

Cochrane, Claire (2003). The Birmingham Rep: A City’s Theatre 1962-2002. Sir Barry Jackson Trust.

External links[edit]