What is Repertory Theatre?
Our Summer Season will see one world-class company of actors perform 2 of theatre’s greatest plays: Hamlet and The Cherry Orchard. This is similar to the tradition of Repertory Theatre – where one company performs a number of plays over a period of time at a venue. Read on for insights into this historic theatrical tradition!
History of Repertory Theatre in the UK
In the early 1900s, it became popular for regional theatres to house a resident acting company to take on a programme of plays which would be performed either alternately or in succession.
Being part of a repertory company provided many young up-and-coming actors with an opportunity to make a name for themselves in a local community; and acted as a training ground and a way to kickstart a career in theatre acting or backstage work. Younger actors had the opportunity to learn their craft from more established performers in the company whilst taking on a wide range of different roles – something which is much less common in the present day where production companies tend to cast plays individually, rather than using one company for a whole run of shows.
Members of the repertory company could not only take on different acting roles, but also technical roles – this proved a useful way for the young company members to familiarise themselves with the ins-and-outs of a producing theatre. Being part of a rep company also meant being guaranteed a steady form of income over the length of the season.
Repertory companies became established in a number of UK theatres in the 20th century, where they would commonly present new plays on a weekly basis (known as ‘weekly rep’).
Weekly rep was different to true repertory theatre, as ‘true rep’ – which was more prevalent in European countries with state-supported theatre – is when a company keeps a ready repertory of plays, rather than presenting short runs of different titles in quick succession.
Many renowned UK actors were part of a repertory company in their early career. Actors that were once part of a repertory company include Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart, Imelda Staunton, Michael Gambon, Harold Pinter, Judi Dench, Laurence Olivier, Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen.
Whilst repertory theatre is less prominent in the UK than it was in the 20th century, the practice still continues in a number of venues across the country – including our beloved Theatre Royal Windsor!
Repertory Theatre in Windsor
Windsor has a rich history of repertory theatre. John Counsell (TRW Director from 1933 until 1986) founded the Windsor Repertory Company in 1938, which remained at the theatre for decades. The company celebrated its 50th birthday at our venue in 1988, where Her Majesty the Queen Mother was in attendance.
Regular TRW visitors may have attended one of our weekly rep seasons over recent years, the last of which saw one company present Dangerous Corner, Wife Begins at Forty and The King’s Speech over a 3-week period. Whilst this year’s summer season of Hamlet and The Cherry Orchard consists of only 2 plays, the company for the season will be in Windsor for 4 months. During the summer they’ll be rehearsing The Cherry Orchard in the day whilst performing Hamlet in the evenings!
Our audience members that attend both shows of our summer season will see each actor taking on vastly differing roles in each play – just like traditional repertory theatre. Click the buttons below to find out more about each exciting production.
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