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Sir Laurence Olivier (1907 - 1989)

2007 marked the centenary of the birth of Sir Laurence Olivier, who is regarded as one of Britain's greatest actors both on stage and in film.
Olivier started his theatre career at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre under the artistic direction of Sir Barry Jackson. He was at the Rep for two seasons from 1926 to 1928 and performed in both Birmingham and in London.
In all, Olivier performed in twenty productions for the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

The images below appear with permission from the Sir Barry Jackson Trust.

The Adding Machine, 1927

The Adding Machine played during October 1927. It was written by Elmer L. Rice and was a modern morality play. The main character was called Mr Zero and was played by Frank Randell. Laurence Olivier played a character called Young Man. The set design was by Hugh Owen, an assistant of Paul Shelving and it featured lots of pointed angles and symbols reflected in the expressionism of the play.

Macbeth, 1928

Macbeth was performed at the Royal Court Theatre in 1928. It followed a succession of successful experimental productions of Shakespeare. However, Barry Jackson himself was anxious about the staging of a modern dress Macbeth and was proved right. The setting was incongruous to the play's plot and imagery and especially Shakespeare's verse. This image shows Olivier as Malcolm, Scott Sunderland as Macduff and Nigel Clarke as Ross.

The Silver Box, 1927

Laurence Olivier appeared as Jack Barthwick in The Silver Box, produced by the Rep in 1927. The Silver Box was written by John Galsworthy and was his first play written in 1906. It is a comedy about the difference in standards of power and justice between the rich and poor.

The Silver Box, 1927

This image taken from The Silver Box, 1927 shows Robert Lang as Jones. The Silver Box was performed by the Pilgrim Players, the forerunners of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company, in December 1911 and it was revived several times between 1913 and 1918.

The Silver Box, 1927

When The Silver Box was performed in 1927, there had also been productions of five other Galsworthy plays by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre: Foundations, Strife, The Pigeon, The Eldest Son, and The Little Man.


Aren't Women Wonderful starred Dorothy Turner as Con Hawley and Laurence Olivier as Ben Hawley, her husband. It premiered at the Rep in November 1927.

" Mr Harris Deans, a dramatic critic turned playwright, has written a witty, clever and amusing play. The great success of the comedy, is the brilliant performance of Miss Turner as Con Hawley - so wise and womanly, and complete in its vivid expression of both emotion and humour. Mr. Laurence Olivier also achieved a real success in his exceptionally difficult task of interpreting the weak and in many respects very unsympathetic character of Ben Hawley."

Taken from Birmingham Mail, 7th November 1927

The archive is housed in the Library of Birmingham in Archives, Heritage and Photography

Sir Barry Jackson and Birmingham Repertory Theatre Archive 1913 - 1970
Birmingham Repertory Theatre Photograph Gallery
Contents of the Sir Barry Jackson and Birmingham Repertory Theatre Archive
Sir Barry Jackson
The Birmingham Repertory Theatre Archive 1971 - present
The Birmingham Shakespeare Library