A new city centre audio walk is bringing 100 years of theatre in Birmingham back to life. Created as part of Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s centenary year, the REP100 Centenary Stroll is a free guide taking listeners on a stroll through some of the city’s landmarks tracing moments in history and featuring archive recordings from the past. The REP100 Centenary Stroll, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, gives listeners an insight into 100 years of theatrical history starting in 1913 when Sir Barry Jackson founded the company in what was the first purpose-built repertory theatre in the UK, the Old Rep on Station Street. Taking in the Electric Cinema and Birmingham’s Town Hall, the audio walk winds it way through the city centre ending at the newly refurbished REP on Centenary Square. And the walk reflects the huge changes that have taken place in the city itself – in terms of architecture and people – over the last century.
As well as taking in local sights and sounds, the REP100 Centenary Stroll also features archive recordings of some of the people who have worked at Birmingham Repertory Theatre over the last century including founder Sir Barry Jackson delivering his opening night speech from the Old Rep stage, actors such as Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Paul Eddington, Bernard Hepton and Margaret Leighton recalling tales and memories of Birmingham and writer George Bernard Shaw at the premiere of his epic play Back To Methuselah.
But the audio walk is not a straight factual guide as REP100 Project Manager, Jenny Smith explains:
“We wanted to create an audio walk that had more of a theatrical and historical story to tell. From the opening night of Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company in February 1913 up until the foundations being laid for the new REP in 1969 we wanted to bring alive not just part of our history, but also the city’s too. The guide is very atmospheric and has been written in a way that we hope listeners will feel immersed in the sights and sounds of the past with the modern city scenery providing the backdrop.”
The REP100 Centenary Stroll has been created by Stand + Stare, an independent theatre and interactive design company in collaboration with The REP and is narrated by actor David Graham (who provided the voice of Parker in the original Thunderbirds and who will also be familiar to youngsters as Grandpa Pig in Peppa Pig).
The Birmingham guide is just the first chapter of the Centenary Stroll with a further three chapters continuing the story of Sir Barry Jackson and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Malvern and the last 40 years of the newly refurbished Birmingham Repertory Theatre which is due to reopen this September. The final two chapters will be available in the Autumn.
The REP100 Centenary Stroll can be downloaded from birmingham-rep.co.uk/audiowalk or alternatively MP3 players can be borrowed from The REP’s box office, The BOX, situated in Birmingham Central Library (until 20 July) and then from The REP’s Stage Door on Cambridge Street (from 22 July).
Birmingham Repertory Theatre reopens on Tuesday 3 September 2013 following its two-and-a-half year closure for refurbishment alongside the new Library of Birmingham. The REP’s centenary celebrations continue to the end of the year with a programme of events, open days, talks and exhibitions throughout the autumn.