Liverpool Everyman returns to rep after 25 years
Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre is a make a landmark return to producing repertory seasons of plays with a resident company of actors.
Starting next year, the theatre will produce an annual rep season from January to July, in addition to its annual pantomime and one co-production each year.
It will be the first time in nearly 25 years that the Everyman has hosted a full-time company of actors, following the theatre’s last rep season in 1992.
Under its five-year plan, the city’s Playhouse theatre – managed by the same trust – will also extend the length of bookings for visiting companies, allowing them to take up “residencies” in the building for two weeks at a time.
Everyman and Playhouse artistic director Gemma Bodinetz has pledged that the new acting company will have both a 50:50 gender balance and a remit to represent a diverse range of talent. All of the company’s rep productions will be directed by either Bodinetz or associate director Nick Bagnall.
Bodinetz told The Stage that the theatre had previously been dependent on star-casting to offset the risk of more challenging plays.
She explained: “We don’t always want to be saying, ‘We could do this quite difficult title if we had a really famous person in it’. So I thought: well, why don’t we create some famous people? And they will become famous because you will see them regularly, and you will see how skilled they are.”
Ian McKellen and Judi Dench are among leading actors who have previously called for a widespread return of the repertory system, while playwright Alan Ayckbourn recently expressed sadness that the “great learning curve” for actors had been taken away.
Only a small number of theatres still host a rep company, including Dundee Rep, Theatre by the Lake in Keswick and Frinton Summer Theatre.
Acknowledging that the Everyman’s return to rep “may feel a little against the tide”, Bodinetz revealed that a number of other theatre leaders had lent their support to the idea.
“It’s amazing how many artistic directors have said: ‘I’m watching you, because I’ve always wanted to do this’,” the director added, while stressing that a rep system “might not be the right thing” for every regional theatre.
The Everyman is seeking around 12 to 14 actors with a variety of skills for its new company, including those who can sing and play instruments. Performers will initially be contracted for the length of one season, though it is hoped several will remain for longer.
Some slots in the company will be filled through open auditions, which will take place within the next two months, while at least one actor will be hired from the theatre’s Young Everyman Playhouse talent pool.
Meanwhile, companies visiting the Playhouse will be encouraged to host talks, workshops and debates about their work, which Bodinetz said would help develop an audience base and encourage “word of mouth” in Liverpool.
Both the Playhouse and the Everyman previously hosted repertory companies, with the latter famously providing early career platforms for Julie Walters, Bill Nighy, Matthew Kelly and Jonathan Pryce in the 1970s.
The Everyman will unveil its first rep season and new company of actors in the autumn.
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