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Stratford Memorial Theatre | About Sir Barry Jackson | Birmingham City Council

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Stratford Memorial Theatre

Sir Barry Jackson was appointed Artistic Director at Stratford in 1945. His appointment was welcomed by the press and a period of reform was anticipated. The Memorial Theatre had been neglected during the war and was worn and shabby. Sir Barry's aim was to transform the theatre into one of national and international status. However, it was a difficult undertaking. Sir Barry's relationship with the Chairman of the Governors, Fordham Flower, was uneasy from the start as Sir Barry insisted in bringing in his own staff and using a completely new company of actors. This alienated some previously loyal supporters within Stratford.

Undeterred Sir Barry followed his plan to produce eight plays staggered throughout the season, each directed by a guest director. The hit of the first season in 1946 was Love's Labour's Lost directed by Peter Brook and starring Paul Scofield as Armado. However, despite critical success the season culminated in the largest financial deficit the Memorial had ever experienced. Whilst this did not faze Sir Barry, the Governors used it as a further reason to question his methods. But, despite their protests his contract was extended to three years, this demonstrated a recognition that in order to establish real change Sir Barry needed more time.

The 1947 season included Brook's Romeo and Juliet and Benthall's The Merchant of Venice. Neither received much praise from the critics and the Governors patience was tested again. This culminated in Sir Barry's dramatic announcement of his retirement in January 1948. The governors did nothing to prevent his departure and had already decided on his successor, Anthony Quayle. However, in three years Sir Barry had done much to restore the fortunes and reputation of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.