The Old Rep in October 2010
|Architect||S. N. Cooke|
|Owned by||Birmingham City Council|
|Opened||15 February 1913|
|Other names||Birmingham Repertory Theatre|
The Old Rep theatre was built as a permanent home for Barry Jackson's increasingly well established amateur theatre group, The Pilgrim Players, later known as The Birmingham Repertory Company. Barry Jackson funded the construction of the theatre, and established his, by now, professional company there.
It was the original home of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and was the first purpose-built repertory theatre in the UK. It was the creation of Barry Jackson in collaboration with the architect S. N. Cooke, a colleague from the Birmingham School of Art. Both Jackson and Cooke took inspiration from the democratic nature of theatres they had visited in Germany. The design of The Old Rep was particularly influenced by Max Littmann's 1908 Künstlertheater in Munich. Building on a small footprint between Station Street and Hinckley Street meant that the auditorium had to be steeply raked. This feature added to the experience of audience members as no view of the stage was obstructed.
Construction began in October 1912. Built day and night for four months, it was opened on 15 February 1913 with a performance of Twelfth Night, preceded by a reading by its founder, Barry Jackson, of the poem The Mighty Line written by John Drinkwater. When completed it had a seating capacity of 464. Many of the current features are original from the theatre's first opening.
It was one of the UK's premier theatre venues and many great stars have walked the boards. There is still an original mirror from the opening of the Old REP just before you walk on stage; famous actors like Laurence Olivier and Paul Scofield will have looked into that mirror.
Now seating 383, it is the home of the Birmingham Stage Company. However the theatre also stages shows from many small scale touring companies, The Young Rep and several local amateur drama companies.
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