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Judi Dench joins calls for rep theatre comeback

Judi Dench. Photo: Andrea Raffin/Shutterstock Judi Dench. Photo: Andrea Raffin/Shutterstock
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Judi Dench has voiced hopes that repertory-style theatre will make a widespread comeback in a new online documentary.

Dench will discuss her experiences with rep as part of the film Repertory Theatre: An Actor’s Apprenticeship, which will also feature Steven Berkoff and Timothy West. Imelda Staunton and Derek Jacobi have also agreed to take part.

Dench told the documentary it was sad to think there are so few repertory theatres left in the UK, and said the blame could lie with the rise of television.

She said: “I suppose the demise for rep is a lack of money, and maybe a television culture. Having said that, there are wonderful reps around still, and thank goodness for it.”

Discussing the small number of theatres still using a resident company of actors, such as Dundee Rep and Theatre by the Lake, Dench described them as “a little flame we can nurture”.

“As long as there are some of those reps going and they keep going, there’s a light, a little flame that we can nurture, and hope that sometime in the future it will come back to being a bonfire,” she said.

Her comments, aired in the trailer for the documentary, come less than two weeks after Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre announced it would bring back an acting company for the first time in 25 years.

The move has been hailed by Ian McKellen, who said it was “a great shame” that the National Theatre did not have a permanent company.

Repertory Theatre: An Actor’s Apprenticeship is being put together by aspiring actor Luke Dale, who last year won the Alan Bates award for young acting talent.

Dale said he set out to gather the interviews after realising there was a lack of detailed media coverage on the rep system, and how it impacted modern theatre.

“I started to think: this is something that my generation seems to know very little about, but the older generation – the people we consider to be the great actors – look back with incredible fondness at rep and think it’s a shame it’s gone,” he said.

Dale also said he wanted the film to encourage people to think about how modern theatre could incorporate repertory-style systems, such as the upcoming Liverpool Everyman company.

He went on: “I hope that the younger generation of people that are interested in theatre will be able to learn something about our heritage as a country, what we produced and how important repertory theatres were and what they gave this country.”

Repertory Theatre: An Actor’s Apprenticeship is in the process of being filmed, and is expected to be released in December.

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