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Birmingham Repertory Theatre | About Sir Barry Jackson | Birmingham City Council

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Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Sir Barry Jackson's life and the Repertory Theatre at Station Street in Birmingham are inextricably linked. Sir Barry used his money to fund the building of the theatre in 1912 and from then until 1935 completely subsidised the theatre and its work. His enthusiasm and passion for the theatre can be seen in his involvement in the early days directing and designing productions as well as selecting the programme for example, The Christmas Party (1914). Sir Barry was not afraid to take risks and provided a platform for new writers and new work, as well as experimenting with traditional theatre. In 1923, there was the first production of Shakespeare's Cymbeline in modern dress and the premiere of Back to Methuselah by G.B Shaw, both directed by H.K Ayliff and designed by Paul Shelving.

Despite, critical success and tours to London the people of Birmingham did not share Sir Barry's passion for modern theatre. Audience numbers rarely filled the 464 capacity of the Station Street theatre. Largely out of frustration, Sir Barry closed the theatre for sporadic periods throughout the 1920s and early 1930s whilst pursuing interests in London and at Malvern.

In 1935, Sir Barry asked the city to intervene. Within twenty one years he had lost not less than £100,000 on the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. His interest was transferred into Trust and the City Council became responsible for funding the theatre. Sir Barry, however, retained artistic control as Governing Director.

After withdrawing from the Malvern Festival in 1937, Sir Barry devoted himself to Birmingham. During the Second World War he directed a season of Plays in the Parks performed by the Basil Langton's Travelling Repertory Theatre at the request of the Lord Mayor. Throughout he continued his policy of providing opportunities to young, aspiring actors and directors and shunned the star system. Peter Brook and Paul Scofield were two who benefited during the 1940s. Following a term of directorship at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Sir Barry returned to Birmingham in 1948.