Foley unveils first full season at Birmingham REP

Published: 11 March 2020
Reporter: Steve Orme

New drama, musicals and comedies are included in Sean Foley’s first full season of work, described as “playful, popular and pioneering”, as artistic director of Birmingham REP.

The theatre has also announced that Sir Howard Panter will be its new chair and a number of associates will help to revitalise the artistic life of the building.

Foley said, “I'm excited and honoured to be announcing my first season. The REP was the world's first purpose-built repertory theatre and has an unrivalled pioneering history in the UK theatre industry. I can only hope to build on its amazing legacy of developing national and international artists, debuting extraordinary new shows and delivering great nights out for the people of Birmingham and the world.

“My own background is in creating and performing in independent, devised, comic theatre along with international touring and European-style physical theatre. More latterly I’ve been directing comedies and musicals.

“I hope that the REP can become a home not just for existing plays and the classic repertory but for great new shows that come from every part of the theatrical and cultural spectrum—artistically ambitious, popular theatre in all its forms.”

Howard Panter said, “under the fresh leadership of Sean Foley and Rachael Thomas, this is a very exciting time for the REP. Birmingham is such an important international city with its unrivalled diversity and vibrant creative industries. I believe the REP is central to the flourishing of its cultural life—I’m honoured to become the new chair and look forward to working with such a great theatre.”

Tanika Gupta has been appointed the theatre’s first literary associate, Pippa Ailion becomes casting associate and Madeleine Kludje, who joined the theatre through the RTYDS scheme, becomes associate director.

A group of artistic associates who will help inform and shape the development of new work comprises Mohammed Ali, Lolita Chakrabarti, Tyrone Huggins, Debbie Isitt, Iqbal Khan, Lorna Laidlaw, Meera Syal, Richard Thomas and Selina Thompson.

Told by an Idiot and The McOnie Company are new associate companies at the REP. Told by an Idiot, led by Birmingham-born artistic director Paul Hunter, has a history of creative collaboration with the REP. Drew McOnie is a Birmingham-born artist whose relationship with the REP began when he was cast as the boy in the original production of The Snowman more than 25 years ago.

As part of the commitment to new work, Foley has announced that new plays are under commission from a raft of writers including Tanika Gupta, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Terry Johnson, Asif Khan, Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto, Katherine Chandler and Casey Bailey.

In his first show as artistic director, Foley will direct the UK première of the Broadway musical comedy Something Rotten. It will run from 8 until 31 October.

Landmark Productions will return to the REP with a new adaptation of Patrick McCabe's Breakfast on Pluto from 3 until 26 September.

Calmer by Lolita Chakrabarti will have its world première in The Studio and will be directed by Adrian Lester, who will be making his directorial debut. It will run from 16 until 31 October.

The full season’s programme is available at the Birmingham REP web site.