Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company celebrates its 100th birthday on Friday, February 15. The dramatic century will be marked with a gala performance of Philip Pullman’s I Was A Rat! followed by a celebratory programme of exhibitions, activity days, guided backstage tours, an audio history project and a new website REP100.org which will make the company’s remarkable archives available to the public for the first time.
Throughout February and March, The REP celebrates the 100 years since Sir Barry Jackson founded the company in what was the first purpose-built repertory theatre in the UK, the Old Rep on Station Street. The REP returns to the Old Rep for its centenary celebrations while its current home on Broad Street undergoes redevelopment as part of the new Library of Birmingham, reopening later this year.
Over the years many of the UK’s greatest actors have started their careers at The REP, including Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Paul Scofield, Ralph Richardson, Albert Finney, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Ian Richardson, Elizabeth Spriggs and director Peter Brook. Many illustrious names have also graced the stage such as Peter O’Toole, Julie Christie, Richard Chamberlain, Patricia Routledge, Kenneth Branagh, Damian Lewis, David Suchet and countless more.
Numerous premieres have taken place too from George Bernard Shaw’s epic Back to Methuselah in 1923 to Ayub Khan-Din’s award-winning East Is East in 1996, the controversial Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Behzti (Dishonour) in 2004 to the long-running stage adaptation of The Snowman in 1993.
Starting on February 16 the REP100 programme will celebrate the actors, the directors, the world premieres and the behind-the-scenes staff who have made The REP what it is today. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, REP100 will give people the opportunity to explore behind the scenes and discover the history of 100 years of theatre from The REP’s beginnings, through two world wars, the swinging sixties, right up to the 21st century. With an exhibition of original theatrical artifacts from past productions, to activity days where people can try on costumes and help get the theatre ready for a performance there’ll be plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy.
Roxana Silbert, Artistic Director for The REP commented: “Birmingham Repertory Theatre has a unique place in British theatre history and we want to invite everyone to come and explore that rich heritage as we celebrate 100 years since the theatre was founded by my visionary predecessor, Sir Barry Jackson.
“We’ve scheduled a fantastic series of events to mark our centenary and give people a wonderful opportunity to get a hands on behind-the-scenes insight into the making of theatre and the history of The REP and the amazingly talented people who have worked here. And as the theatre’s iconic home on Broad Street is being renovated and re-opened this year, there’s also a chance to explore the history of that building, as well as the Old Rep.”