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From bombs to its own bar - 75 years of The Oldbury Rep
11:35am Tuesday 13th August 2013 in Local
ACTORS started treading the boards as Germans dropped bombs around them but next month the Oldbury Repertory Players will celebrate its 75th anniversary season.
The amateur theatre, which receives no public funding, started when the teacher of the Oldbury Technical School elocution class left town in 1939 due to the impending war and was replaced by budding thespian Will Payne.
The class of actors changed their name to Oldbury Technical School Players and through out the war performed plays for the local community despite air raids disrupting rehearsals and performances.
As the war drew to an end an independent company was established under the name of Oldbury Repertory Players.
They quickly outgrew their home at The Parish Rooms after local benefactor and councillor Charles Barlow and his wife Jessie bought a lease on Institute Hall, Langley and the 1947 season opened with the play Robert’s Wife.
The Players continued to grow and when Spring Street Methodist Church and School went up for sale the company bought the property after a £1,700 interest free loan from Cllr Barlow who was then the companies president.
Alan Wood, Oldbury Rep publicity officer, said: “Over the next few years members, with the help of local companies, turned their hand to converting the church into a theatre and they reached their goal in January 1956 when the Barlow Theatre opened its doors with a triple bill of one act plays.
“Throughout the years improvements were made throughout the theatre until in August 1972 disaster struck when fire, started by an arsonist, left parts of the theatre destroyed and most smoke damaged.”
He added: “Strangely disaster can often turn out to be a positive force for change and regeneration and so it turned out and while the membership re-built the theatre the company still continued to put on plays at outside venues re-opening on February 10, 1973 with Noel Coward’s This Happy Breed.
“Since that time the company has continued to improve its facilities and provides live theatre for the people of Sandwell and the surrounding area.”
In its 75 year history Oldbury Rep has staged 483 main house productions and 26 studio productions over 1,000 different people have appeared on stage.
Now the theatre boasts a bar, rehearsal facilities and a 173 seat theatre which hosts plays, concerts and shows films.
The 75th anniversary season, which aims to capture the era when the Players began, starts with Quartet by Ronald Harwood on September 14 and will also include JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls and Noel Coward’s The Happy Breed.
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