The UK’s first purpose-build repertory theatre, The Old Rep, has marked its 111th birthday last week. The Historic venue, that sits right outside Birmingham New Street Station, has marked it’s 111th year since opening, back on the 15th of February 1913.


The venue was a permanent home for Sir Barry Jackson, who was an English theatre director, entrepreneur, best known for founding the Birmingham Repertory Company. The theatre took just four months to construct, and opened originally as ‘The Rep’, becoming the first purpose-built repertory theatre, not just in the UK, but the world. A performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night opened the theatre, followed by a reading from Barry Jackson himself, operating matinee, and theatre performances.


In 1971, Birmingham Repertory Company were seeking a larger venue than station street, and so moved to a newly built theatre on Broad Street. Birmingham City Council took ownership of the theatre, however, the company took back their residency at the Old Rep between 2011 and 2013, when the Library of Birmingham and the Rep underwent reconstruction.


Since 2014, the Old Rep Theatre has been owned and run by the BOA Group, after successfully tendering for the Old Rep. Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA) are already renowned in the region for introducing and training new talent into the creative industries, so the running of a theatre was a no-brainer. The Old Rep showcases a number of student-led productions every year, making the venue a creative hub for young, up-and-coming talent, whether that be behind-the-scenes, or performance based.


Theatre Manager, Darren Knapton got in contact with us, to tell us more about the monumental occasion.


What does the 111th Birthday mean to the Theatre?

When Sir Barry Jackson built The Old Rep Theatre in just four months, I am sure he would be delighted to know that not only is the venue is still standing, but it continues welcoming audiences and breeding future generations of theatre workers through its partnership with Birmingham Ormiston Academy and with the local community. With the arts always being a challenging industry, it is so important to celebrate milestones and with our 111th Birthday we are excited to see what is next for this iconic venue at the heart of Birmingham’s city centre.’.


How does the history of the theatre make it so unique? 

‘The Old Rep Theatre occupies a unique place in British Theatre as it was the first purpose-built repertory theatre in the country. With names like Barry Jackson, Laurence Olivier, June Brown and dozens more starting out with us, it is clear to see why the theatre has such a great reputation and sits shoulder to shoulder with the bigger venues of the region.’,


How can members of the public learn more about the history of the Old Rep? 

‘We host historic Venue Tours throughout the year to give people an insight into the history of The Old Rep. Our knowledgeable guides, Grace, Renee and Zak, know everything there is to about the theatre and as well as telling the history they also show customers everything from the balcony all the way down to the basement. Our next tour is on Saturday 16th March at 11am, with few tickets still available.’.


What can we expect from the Old Rep offer today

‘The majority of our programming is aimed at delivering high-quality one-night productions and we pride ourselves on welcoming some spectacular stand-up comedians, fabulous family shows and other performances that reflect the delightful diversity of Birmingham. We also host our own Christmas show, which we co-produce with BOA to bring the magic of theatre to life on our stage.’.


The Old Rep Theatre continues to be a staple in Birmingham’s Station Street, housing performances for everyone. Being ‘dedicated to providing space for young people to craft a career in the arts’, the venue hosts a variety of student-led and professional performances, all while being a historic, grade II listed building.

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