Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Birmingham Repertory Theatre

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.

The Rep was founded by Barry Jackson in 1913 when the earlier touring '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. 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 the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Ltd.

However, in spite of the unexpected box office hit 1066 And All That in 1935 the 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, Peggy Ashcroft, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Edith Evans, Stewart Granger and Ralph Richardson. The director Peter Brook launched his explosive career at the Rep in 1945.

Although Jackson retired in 1948 the Rep retained its national and international reputation, discovering actors such as Paul Scofield, Julie Christie and Derek Jacobi.

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. [ [ Shaping the 1970s: 1970s Architecture in Birmingham] ]

In 1972, the Studio opened, it became an example of innovative theatre nationwide. It targeted young audiences and showcased new writing, including the world premiere 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, putting The Importance of Being Earnest on instead.

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

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.

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

In 1998 the company opened The Door as a second auditorium specialising in new writing which replaced 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.

There is a blue plaque commemorating the pioneer of asceptic surgery, Sampson Gamgee, on the wall.

One of the main characters in Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" is called Sam Gamgee and undoubtedly Tolkien would have known of this surgeon.

The 2006 revival of the musical "The Wizard of Oz" was the Rep's biggest selling show in 93 years. 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.

The theatre often trades it's Christmas shows with the West Yorkshire Playhouse. In 2006, their production of "The Wizard of Oz" played in Yorkshire whilst their version of "Alice in Wonderland" played in Birmingham. In 2008, the Rep's version of "Peter Pan" and Yorkshire's version of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" will swap over the Christmas period and play at each other's theatre.


External links

* [ Birmingham Rep Official Website]
* [ Birmigham Theatre Guide] - Comprehensive guide to Birmingham theatres
* [ Birmingham Repertory Theatre Archive Database] , a free online database covering Birmingham Repertory Theatre productions up to and including 1971, hosted by [ AHDS Performing Arts]
* [ BBC News report of the Behtzi controversy]

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