I have lived in Birmingham for nearly all my life, and although it has its bad points (as does any large city), I will defend it from criticism! If I lived in London I would go to the theatre every week on standby tickets and be able to see a different show each time. Birmingham can not quite live up to that, although there is a lot of entertainment to be had, *if* you know where to look. I will go through some of the major cinemas and theatres in Brummy land (both well known and more intimate venues) and then you can make your own mind up. I love going to the theatre and when I was studying for Drama GCSE and Theatre Studies A Level, I went as often as I could afford it, so I have been to most of the theatres in Birmingham (and in Stratford, but that's another story). I am going to really enjoy writing this, as I love the theatre, I love watching plays and performing in them, and I love the actual buildings of theatres. There is something magical about them, and many of the older ones are haunted by the ghosts of actors (allegedly). Hopefully the information will be of some use for some people, but if not, enjoy the read. If you are a country bumpkin, prepare to feel jealous of all the big city has to offer! Alternatively, if you are a person who thinks nothing works outside of London, prepare to scoff. Here goes, anyway! ____________ The BIG Boys ~~~~~~~~~~~~ _____________ The Repertory ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Located at the end of Broad Street closest to town in Centenary Square lies the Repertory Theatre (commonly known as the Rep). I have seen a number of plays here, including The Nutcracker, Baby Doll and Death of a Salesman. What impressed me most about this theatre is the fact that wherever you sit, you can see the whole stage unobstracted. Yes, even if you have a Marge Simpson lookalike sit in front of you (well-maybe not then!) For titches like myself, there is nothing worse than shell
ing out money for theatre tickets only to be unable to see. So thumbs up to the Rep for that one! The theatre is medium size (900 seats) with one seating area for all the audience, which is sloped. Recent refurbishment got rid of the centre aisle, so there are now aisles only at the edges. Make sure you go to the loo before taking your seat or else a lot of people will have to stand up for you! The Rep is committed to theatre for all, with a range of discounts, not just for the elderly, students and the unemployed, but also a range of deals available to all, such as The Play Package, whereby if you go to see three plays in the main season the price will be only £12 per ticket. Check the site for more details. Facilities also include signed perfomances, lifts providing access for wheelchair users, plus 6 wheelchair spaces (phone first to book these seats in advance). Currently running (until January 19th) is Wind in the Willows, with productions of Harold Bridghouse's Hobson's Choice and Alan Bennett's Single Spies coming up. For more information have a look at their web site: www.birmingham-rep.co.uk Facilities include a bar (warning-expensive!) and a restaurant. Parking is available at several nearby car parks. ________ The Door ~~~~~~~~ The Door is a studio theatre located underneath the Rep. The maximum possible audience is 120 which makes for an intimate setting. The Door puts on new work by new playwrights, for very reasonable prices. On Monday nights there is a special deal where people under 26 or with a student card can see the plays for £2.99. Bargain! I have seen some excellent plays here, notably one called "The Gift" which subsequently went on to London and got rave reviews in the national press. I was very pleased to have been one of the first to see it! For anyone studying drama or theatre studies (or anyone else with an interest in acting/directing, the i
ns and outs of production), the Monday night performances and matinees often have after show question and answer sessions with the cast and crew. Look at the web site for the Rep for more information on The Door. My recommendation is for Silence, a play coming up at the Door from March 20- April 6. A comedy set at the turn of the first Millenium, you can expect great acting, lots of laughs and very cheap tickets. If you don't enjoy it, you can blame me! ______________ The Hippodrome ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Located on Hurst Street, bang in the middle of the gay area and China town of Brum is the Hippodrome. Reopened in November 2001 after extensive refurbishment, this is the crown of Brum's theatre land. Expensive and classy is the name of the game, as is Ballet and big musicals such as Phantom of the Opera. Typical audience is made up of wealthy older people- "Bill Clinton lookalikes" as me and my mate used to say as they all poured out at 10 pm as we were looking around for a decent club! The new building is glass fronted, modern and stunning.The interior is light, breezy and spacious. Seating is in circle and stalls, with 18 wheelchair spaces. Currently running is Dick Whittington, with Madame Butterfly and Carmina Burana lined up for later in the year. Tickets are pricey but there are some discounts for students, OAP's and those on benefit, and you can also get standby tickets for £6 from 11 am on the day of performance. The resident company is the Birmingham Royal Ballet so at last they have a home again. The new facilities include a 206 seater studio theatre, the UK's first centre for dance injuries, education facilities, and complete disabled access to name just a few! The Hippodrome is also home to Dance Xchange, a huge company which hold classes for all kinds of dance and also occasionally put on performances. I will be honest and say that I have not been to the Hi
ppodrome since it reopened (well, I have been in Cardiff) but I may well go and get some standby tickets in the holidays as I am keen to see how it has changed. If you are visiting Birmingham and want a treat, I suggest going to the Hippodrome for reliable and classy entertainment, but splash out for better seats to ensure you can see, as I imagine that the viewing is somewhat restricted at the back. For more information and on line booking, here's the address: http://www.hippodrome.ws _____________ The Alexandra ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Alexandra is an Edwardian Theatre on Station Street in the city centre, which seats 1347 people. In-house facilities include bars and corporate hospitality suites. Usually shows musicals, pre and post West End shows as well as hosting concerts and kiddies shows such as Tweenies live (yay!) When I went to see Grease here I paid £12 and sat in the upper circle, which to be honest, was about a mile from the stage and a mile up in the air. The viewing was very restricted, so shell out for seats in the stalls or circle to get a good view and make it worth going. The Alex is said to be haunted (by my friend who used to work front of house). There are also dashing ushers in top hats and tails who welcome you into the building. There is a big car park (known as the cage) just around the corner where you can park. I wouldn't recommend on street parking in that area, as it is a dark and somewhat rundown area of town. Phone number for the Alex: 0121 643 5536 They don't appear to have a web site although you can buy tickets on line from www.ticketmaster.com That's it as far as the major theatres go, although the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) near Birmingham International Airport,usually used as a concert venue, occasionally has events such as Disney on Ice or opera. Check the web site at www.necgroup.co.uk for details of upcoming events.
Birmingham has a host of small theatrical venues and theatre companies. Whilst amateur, many are of consistently high standards and well worth going to see. Not only are the tickets cheaper, but as the venues are smaller, you get a much better view and can really get involved in the performance. For starters we have the.... ________________ Crescent Theatre ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Located on Sheepcote Street, just off Broad Street and close to the trendy Brindley Place. It is in a brand new building as the old one was knocked down! Apparently the 1960's style building did not fit in with the prestigious development plans for the Broad Street area. So the beloved Crescent was moved. The Crescent has been running for over 60 years now and the new theatre is its' third home in that time. I used to go to the youth theatre here and also appeared in my school production of The Wizard Of Oz (I was a Munchkin and I wore stripy tights!) so I was sad that it had to be knocked down. The old building was a bit rundown but it had a revolving stage so you could do performances in the round, plus the backstage areas had lots of spooky old corridors and the Green room was all cosy with junk in. The youth theatre were bribed into moving all the costumes and props to the new theatre, with the promise of a barbeque and free drinks! That was a good day..even if the Crescent are too mean to pay for a van to do their moving for them! I should really stop reminiscing about olden days and get on and tell you about the new Crescent. The new building is very modern and has a trendy bar upstairs as well as a lift providing disabled access which the old theatre did not have (tut tut!) The house companies (adult and youth) put on productions as do touring firms. The theatre is fairly small with 340 seats in the main house, and a studio theatre holding 120, as well as rehearsal rooms. Currently running is Cinderella, up until January 26th, with 2
001 productions including Hamlet, Captain Corelli's Mandolin and Shirley Valentine. The type of shows the Crescent puts on are a wide variety, from musicals to Shakespeares, to comedy, to kids shows like Martha the Magical Cat! As part of the youth theatre there (which meets every Saturday) I was in the Pirates of Penzance and Lady Macbeth (different from *the* Macbeth I must add!). Tickets cost £8.50 (£7 concessions) for the main house and £6 for the studio if booked in advance, with discounts for children, OAPS, students and the unwaged. Check first though as visiting companies may have different ticket prices. Have a look at their comprehensive web site with pictures of the new theatre and details of upcoming productions at: www.crescent-theatre.co.uk ________________ Maverick Theatre ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ One of my favourite companies, the Maverick theatre recently got a new home at the Library Theatre. Previously this company most often performed in the function room of the Billesley Pub in Kings Heath, bringing theatre to people who may not normally go. I saw several productions there, including Educating Rita and Shakers, both of which were excellent and it was nice to be able to get a drink in the interval and after the show. The company itself is a not for profit venture, which aims to use home grown talent and show contemporary and new plays. The company was set up in 1994, and interestingly, 60% of the audience at Maverick shows rarely attend mainstream theatre. Coming up from them is a production of Shirley Valentine, which I am going to see once my exam and coursework is out of the way. Going from previous performances, it's going to be a great night! I suppose I had better introduce the Library Theatre too.. I have actually performed here too (oh, the life of a star!) in a production of Shakers with the RAGE company. The Library theatre, believe it or not, is located next to
the central library in town, just outside the Paradise Circus arcade. It is a 200 seater venue hosting literary events and talks as well as drama and music productions. The phone number is Tel: 0121 236 5622 for more information. The backstage area is tiny and there is no way out from backstage other than via the stage, which I imagine could be quite frustrating for long performances, as you can hear all the backstage noises, including flushing loos on stage! Luckily, for Shakers, I was on stage about 90% of the time so I didn't have to sit back stage in silence and darkness! There is a small bar and cafe in the lobby area but they are nothing special. The Birmingham School of Speech and Drama host all their performances at the Library Theatre, as do the Maverick Theatre (see above) so it is well worth looking out to see what is on there. It is not the swankiest or trendiest theatre around but it hosts some great productions, which is what it is all about! Take a tip from me and make sure you get there on time as when anyone comes in late to the Library Theatre, the doors are right opposite the stage and let in lots of light. It's very off putting for the actors, so don't do it! ___________________ Midlands Art Centre ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This is an arts centre located within Cannon Hill Park in Moseley (about 3 miles from the city centre). Not only is there an art gallery, dance classes, a shop, a small cinema, a cafe and bar, but yes, there is a theatre there. Actually, there are 3-the main house, the Hexagon (a studio space), and the Arena, an open air theatre. I don't imagine the open air one gets used much though! The MAC aims to provide shows for everyone- children, musicians, dancers or classic theatre lovers, there will be something on there for you at some point. They claim to show 400 productions a year, which is no mean feat! The MAC have a huge youth theatre called Stage 2, who pu
t on lots of productions in the theatres there. One I went to see was called "Once a Catholic". The theatre was very small, but the acting was excellent and the lights and sound were also of a good quality. I can't say too much about the MAC due to the huge variety of shows they put on, but check out their web site at www.mac-birmingham.org.uk to see what is coming up. Even if you don't want to see a play or production, it is well worth a visit, to go to the cafe, look at the paintings or just take a walk around the lake. There are plenty more small theatre venues, but I will be here forever if I go into detail about them all. So here are a few recommendations from me: _________________________ Hall Green Little Theatre ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A small local theatre with an adult and youth company. They show contemporary works as well as pantomimes and childrens shows. Their web site is at: www.hglt.co.uk ___________ The Old Rep ~~~~~~~~~~~ Station Street, city centre. Great musicals and childrens shows such as Fantastic Mr. Fox and Charlotte's Web. A small, old fashioned theatre which is lovely and quaint, just like a theatre should be! Seats 378 and is home to several amateur companies. Box office number is : 0121 236 5622. I really want to go to the theatre now after I have spent so long writing about them all! Hopefully if you ever come to Birmingha you will also visit one of the theatres which I have mentioned, and if so, have a great time. More people should go to the theatre- I think pub theatre and local companies which offer cheap tickets are great-often just as good or better than "professional" companies. Oh yeah, and when you do go to the theatre, make sure you write an opinion about it on DooYoo as there is a severe shortage of theatre ops around! P.S. I realise that this category is for the Repert
ory theatre, but I have asked DooYoo to add this category so this opinion will be moved soon. Thanks for reading!