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Old Birmingham Repertory Theatre

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O.C.

Guest
Edit. This thread is for comments about the Old Rep. For comments about the New Rep on Broad Street please see here https://birminghamhistory.co.uk/forum/index.php?threads/new-birmingham-repertory-theatre.34743/

The man who started the Repertory Theatre in Birmingham was Barry Jackson who first started performing at “The Grange” his home in Moseley in 1903, because his plays were so popular he moved to a bigger venue at St. Judes Mission Hall and again in 1907 moved to the Edgbaston Assembly Rooms a much larger place which offices and storerooms etc. and here because they attracted more people they were paid a salary and changed their name from The Pilgrim Players to The Birmingham Repertory Company and in 1912 achieved a first ….building the first purpose built Repertory Theatre in England.. in Station Street. The Theatre opened on the 15th Feb.1913 and the first play to be performed was “Twelfth Night”. For many years it struggled to keep going and one play “Gas” just had an audience of four so in 1924 Barry Jackson finally agreed to give up is dream and pack it all in.
The Birmingham Civic Society quickly stepped in with an offer to help and persuaded Barry to stay which he did till 1934 till his health deteriorated, once again the Civic Society stepped in and launched an appeal for £20,000.but they found it hard going getting people into the Theatre..during the war years they were hit particular hard when in 1940 a bomb hit the warehouse which held all their costumes and 30 years of work went up in flames…still Barry (Now Sir Barry Jackson) struggled on for another year and came close to turning the Theatre into a cinema or warehouse.
After the war Sir Barry became a Director at Stratford upon Avon and achieved outstanding success 3 seasons in a row but went back to his beloved Rep. in 1948.
The Arts Council in 1954 offered Barry his first direct grant which he reluctantly accepted and in 1960 after a meeting with the City and Arts Council he agreed to them funding a new theatre. Sir Barry Jackson died on April 3rd 1961
In 1969 the foundation stone was laid for the new Repertory Theatre and the following year the Rep. in Station Street closed down
The new Repertory opened in 1971and for a number of years was always struggling financially just like the old Rep. but slowly with the help of sponsorship and the help of some great men and women we have the Rep. that we know today
 
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Phil

Gone, but not forgotten.
Birmingham Repertory Theatre

I rember carrying out a small contract at The Old Rep about 20 years ago. We had to remove about 20 or so seats for some reason. I remember thinking at the time that the theatre was small enough as it was, and that it must have great trouble paying for its upkeep from ticket sales.

Cheers pmc1947 (Phil).
 
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peanut

Guest
the old rep

i can well remember going on a school trip to see (she stoops to conquer) at the old rep in station street about 1959/60.

and just down the steet was the jacy news cinema that used to show
all the news reels followd by 30 minuets of cartoons and repeted this program all day. as a child when my grandmother took me to the town for a days shoping if it was raining we would always go see the cartoons till it stoped raining.
View attachment 8854 this is a modern day pic of the old jacy cinema
which was right next to the old rep in station street.
 

mewla4

proper brummie kid
in the mid seventies the theatre was run by the then amenities and recreations dept of the council ( used to be the Parks dept) and somehow myself and a colleague used to perform the duties of stage fireman when the theatre was being used. It was a really arduous task and involved sitting on the side of the stage during the performance and making sure nobody smoked on the stage and if it was called for in the play that it was extinguished as soon as they came off. One then had to drop the saftey curtain at the start of the interval and wind it back up before curtain up for the secon half. I got quite adept at getting the curtain down. Had many happy times watching local shows and those put on by the stage school, including at the time one Toyah Wilcox and my claim to being famous for 15 seconds is when an up and coming young comedien broke a string on his guitar and asked for somebody backstge to fetch another one , as there was only me and the support act, it was a quick dash up two flights of stairs to his dressing room and back to walk on stage with ... Jasper Carrott.

Glad to read that the old place is still running , it would be a pity if this resource was lost to local amateur groups.
 

Big Gee

master brummie
You could have frozen sides of beef at The Old Rep, years ago. I only performed there once, and nearly froze to death in the dressing-rooms (unlike most theatres which are usually tropically hot). We saw many an amateur production there, and if it took place after about September we always dressed accordingly in Arctic gear.

I also once saw a poor soul fall off the stage during an amateur production of The Mikado....

Great place and great atmos, though, even running to a theatrical ghost or two!

Big Gee
 
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reallyyouthful

Guest
I regularly 'played the wag' from School to go to the rep. I remember 2 members of the company Mr Ralph Nossek and would you believe Julie Christie! My interest in theatre just grew and grew after that. My first job after leaving School was at the Birmingham Hippodrome. I have spent all my working life working in theatre, and television thanks to the Birmingham repertory theatre.
 
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Ann B

Guest
Hi
How wonderful to find a fellow thespian. I went to The BirminghamTheatre School, which was started by Sir Barry Jackson.
Ann
 
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mariep

knowlegable brummie
Hi AnnB

I too went to the Birmingham rep theatre School, with my husband.

Remember Mary Richards. Wow she was a true professional and she expected it from her students. I can hear her now saying" It's not professionsal Ducky"

We staged a really miniature version of the Wars of the Roses on that tiny stage in the Arts Centre. Neil Bennett was a student there and he played Henry VI he was the spit of David Warner who played Henry VI at Stratford.

It was a great time for us, but we decided to choose famliy instead of fame. But we had many TV engagements.
Mariep
.
 
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Ann B

Guest
Hi Mariep,

Great to see your post. Yes, that was Mary's favourite saying, I remember it well. I still have a brooch she gave me, that belonged to her sister. She gave it to me after I'd played the stepdaughter in Pirandello's 'Six Characters in Search of an Author'. I must have been there before you, '70 to '72, when the school was still in Islington Row. But I went there after it moved to the rep, because my boyfriend at the time, David Fleeshman (Richard's dad) was still a student there.
I remember the stage at the Arts Centre, it was as small as the little theatre at Islington Row.
It was a great time for me too, two of the best years of my life. Yes, I did TV too and plenty of rep.
Remember all the old costumes Mary had. We had to do a show wearing them. We all thought we were going to catch some horrible skin disease! I must scan the few photos I have.
Great days!

All the best Ann

Ann
 

Chrisketland

New Member
Hi Mariep,

Great to see your post. Yes, that was Mary's favourite saying, I remember it well. I still have a brooch she gave me, that belonged to her sister. She gave it to me after I'd played the stepdaughter in Pirandello's 'Six Characters in Search of an Author'. I must have been there before you, '70 to '72, when the school was still in Islington Row. But I went there after it moved to the rep, because my boyfriend at the time, David Fleeshman (Richard's dad) was still a student there.
I remember the stage at the Arts Centre, it was as small as the little theatre at Islington Row.
It was a great time for me too, two of the best years of my life. Yes, I did TV too and plenty of rep.
Remember all the old costumes Mary had. We had to do a show wearing them. We all thought we were going to catch some horrible skin disease! I must scan the few photos I have.
Great days!

All the best Ann

Ann
I also went to Birmingham theatre school and did the antique costume shows Toyah Wilcox was at the school when i was there. I remember we changed outside a community centre once as the changing rooms were too small to accommodate us all. If the public knew they'd have seen a better show it was in the winter too.....i did Warwick Castle too. Loved the little theatre in Islington Row.
. And Mary Richards fascinating houses nearby
 

Richarddye

master brummie
I only went to the Old Rep a couple of times when I was quite young. I'm not sure why but there was something about that place that was exciting & wonderful.
 

A Sparks

master brummie
Seeing this thread has reminded me I did an adult evening class course on Mime at the Old Rep - great fun and nice fellow classmates. We did an end of term performance on the stage there :)
 
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