The REP

Our History

Born into a wealthy merchant grocer’s family in 1879, Barry Jackson founded the amateur Pilgrim Players in 1907 and went on to build an elegant 464-seat Repertory Theatre in Station Street in 1913, now known as The Old Rep.

The theatre rapidly became home to one of most famous and exciting repertory theatre companies in the country, reinventing the idea of Shakespeare in modern dress, presenting many world premieres (including George Bernard Shaw’s epic Back to Methuselah in 1923) and launching the careers of an array of great British actors, including Ralph Richardson, Edith Evans and Laurence Olivier.

Knighted in 1925, Sir Barry founded the Malvern Theatre Festival in 1929 and was Director of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford in the late 40s. At Birmingham, Sir Barry continued to discover and promote great actors at the Station Street theatre including Paul Scofield, Derek Jacobi, Elizabeth Spriggs and Albert Finney. He toured plays to the city’s parks, established a theatre school and made Birmingham Repertory Theatre one of the most renowned theatres in the world.

In 1971 the company moved to Broad Street to a newly built theatre with a stage of epic proportions and a democratic auditorium with no balconies, pillars or boxes. Everyone shares the same space and everyone gets a great view. New generations of artists have launched their careers here and new ideas continue to flourish reflecting changes in the city and the world.

From 2011 to 2013, the theatre underwent redevelopment as part of the Library of Birmingham project. The company moved back to their improved home, following two years presenting shows in other theatres and site-specific spaces across the city, ready for the grand re-opening on 3 September 2013.

2013 was also our Centenary and we celebrated with a range of talks, tours, performances and exhibitions, as well as the launch of our digital archive containing photographs and documents from a century of theatre. You can learn more at REP100.org

Our Mission

The REP’s mission has always been to produce excellent theatrical experiences, to entertain, enlighten and engage audiences and, wherever possible, to reflect the diversity of Birmingham and the surrounding region. This supports our vision, which is to ‘Inspire the city of Birmingham to a lifelong love of theatre’

Making theatre from scratch remains at the heart of the theatre’s work. Birmingham and the Black Country have historically been known as the workshop of the world. They are now celebrated as great cultural workshops too. Birmingham City Council vision has put cultural ingenuity at the centre of regeneration and The REP is a force at the heart of that vision.

We have built many links with cities and cultural partners across the UK and Europe as well as Cape Town, Chicago and Seoul, as people have come from around the world to understand the bold and visionary cultural policies pioneered in our city. Many of our productions go on tour, championing the name of Birmingham and the region and contributing to the continued international reputation of our cultural industries.

The REP is one of Britain’ s leading producers of new theatre. We commission newcomers and new groups as well as established theatre professionals. We support the development of new ideas for productions through linking our creative team across many diverse communities of professional and emerging artists. Some new works start life here and go on to become tours or films or transfers to other theatres. For instance, East Is East by Ayub Khan-Din was premiered at The REP in 1996, published and adapted into a multi-BAFTA award winning film in 1999 and returned to The REP in 2009. Frozen by Bryony Lavery was commissioned by The REP, produced for the main stage in 2000, transferred to The National Theatre, won TMA best play award, was produced on Broadway and nominated for 4 Tony Awards.