New Artistic Director Roxana Silbert Announces Birmingham Rep’s Exciting 100th Birthday Season
Roxana Silbert, the new artistic director of Birmingham Repertory Theatre has today announced plans for the company’s 100th birthday season in February 2013 and outlined her plans for the future of the theatre as it prepares to move back to its newly developed theatre alongside the Library of Birmingham in September 2013.
The 100th birthday season will take place at the original home of the company, The Old Rep Theatre in Station Street with two new commissions and a programme of talks, exhibitions, tours and activity days which celebrate the company’s heritage.
Paying homage to its founder, Sir Barry Jackson and the many great actors, directors and writers who worked at The Old Rep, Roxana Silbert said:
“The Old Rep is where it all began and it is fitting that we celebrate this landmark anniversary there. Sir Barry Jackson was a remarkable man who gave rise to burgeoning talent, championed new plays, was groundbreaking and brave with his artistic vision and put Birmingham firmly on the theatrical map. I am hugely excited to be leading his company into a new era.”
The birthday season opens with the world premiere of Philip Pullman’s fantastical tale, I Was A Rat! (12 February – 2 March) co-produced with Nottingham Playhouse, Ipswich New Wolsey Theatre and Teatro Kismet from Bari in Italy. Adapted and directed by internationally-acclaimed Teresa Ludovico this moving and darkly comic tale is brought to life on the professional stage for the very first time. The English version of Teresa’s adaptation is by David Watson, the writer whose first play was written for The REP’s Transmissions programme when he was a teenager, and music for the show is composed by Frank Moon and recorded by Birmingham Balkan gypsy folk band, The Destroyers. Following its premiere in Birmingham, I Was A Rat! will embark on a major Arts Council funded UK tour to Nottingham, Ipswich, Liverpool, Salford, Exeter, Truro and Bury St Edmunds before being re-launched later in 2013 for tours of France and Italy.
Heather Gardner (14 – 28 March) is Birmingham writer Robin French’s fresh take on Ibsen’s classic Hedda Gabler. This powerful and emotionally charged play about a woman’s separation and isolation from the affluent, materialistic society of which she is a part will be set in 1960s Edgbaston. A former King Edward’s School pupil, Robin French has been hailed by the Guardian as a talent to watch and named a ‘Hotshot’ by Broadcast magazine.
During the run of Heather Gardner, the weekend of 23 and 24 March will be devoted to a series of talks and discussions on Sir Barry Jackson’s achievements and significant influence on the development of British theatre. Topics to be covered will include his ground-breaking productions of Shakespeare in modern dress in the 1930’s, the theatre’s championing of women performers and writers and Sir Barry’s pivotal role in setting up both the Malvern Festival and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Alongside the programme of shows and centenary activities, Roxana Silbert also looks to the future by focusing on new talent. A new initiative, REP Foundry, will invest and support emerging local directors, writers, artists and companies by offering them a year-long development and mentoring programme aimed at bringing new stories, new voices and new vision to the stage. REP Foundry will also offer audiences a unique insight into how new theatre is formed and staged at scratch performance nights which will take place once a month throughout 2013.
For Roxana Silbert nurturing home-grown talent has to be at the heart of The REP:
“Making theatre from scratch remains at the heart of The REP’s work. Birmingham and the Black Country have historically been known as the workshop of the world and they are now celebrated as great cultural workshops too. I want to develop a hub of creativity and excellence, nurturing local talent, building partnerships at home, throughout the UK, and overseas to create world-class theatre made in Birmingham.”
Continuing with its commitment to engage with diverse audiences and young people across Birmingham, the centenary season will see two major new projects launched. The REP’s Children project will offer all children born at City and Heartlands hospitals during The REP’s birthday week, 11 – 17 February 2013, free annual theatre experiences for the first 10 years of their lives; and the 100 Words project will see young people and community members from across the region write their own 100 word plays thematically linked to an aspect of The REP’s history, all of which will be performed over two days at the Old Rep during the birthday season.
Actors David Suchet, Josie Lawrence, Mark Williams, Dame Janet Suzman and local musician Soweto Kinch – all of whom have either worked at or who have a close relationship with The REP – become patrons, giving their support and helping to promote the centenary celebrations.
Finally, to kick start the centenary celebrations, 100 tickets for preview performances of the two birthday season shows will go on sale at 1913 prices. Tickets for a seat in the stalls at The Old Rep in 1913 cost 5/- (five shillings) which equates to 25 pence. Tickets for the birthday season, including the 100 tickets at 1913 prices, go on sale on Friday 14th September to members and Friday 21st September to the general public.