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Repertory theatre returns to Manchester for the first time in 50 years

Interior of the Great Northern Warehouse, which will house the Northern Rep Interior of the Great Northern Warehouse, which will house the Northern Rep
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Rep will return to Manchester for the first time in more than half a century, as part of a growing trend for the once prevalent theatre model.

Theatre company Northern Rep, which launched late last year, is creating a theatre in former railway goods building the Great Northern Warehouse.

Northern Rep will create two permanent spaces in the warehouse – which is now home to bars, restaurants, shops and a cinema. A flexible main house will seat between 200 and 300 audience members, while the company will also create a 100-seat studio theatre, which will stage smaller-scale work and function as a hub for actors and writers.

It marks the first resident rep company in Manchester in more than 50 years, and will be the first time the Great Northern Warehouse has been home to theatre.

Rep was previously staged by the Gaiety Theatre – the first regional rep theatre in the country – but that venue was demolished in 1959.

The new theatre will open permanently in May, although the company will stage an immersive production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in March, in a part of the warehouse that can accommodate 400 people.

Northern Rep director Thomas Moore said he was “really reassessing” how the rep model could work in the 21st century.

“The old model doesn’t work and stopped because it didn’t work. Bringing a rep back can seem crazy – however, we are confident that with some clever planning we can make it work,” he told The Stage.

Moore added that his plans included having a large ensemble of actors, directors and musicians, who live and work in the city, with individuals remaining part of the company for as long as they wish.

Plans also include touring, both to allow the theatre to be a receiving house itself and to diversify the company’s offer for other receiving venues.

“The brilliant thing about rep theatre is that over the course of our life [as a company] we will be able to build up a menu of shows and won’t be bound by having only one title available to us at one time,” Moore said.

He said he hoped to stage “everything from a quite traditional theatrical experience through to something that rips the seats out and tears the roof off”.

Theatre professionals including producer Tristan Baker and actor Julie Hesmondhalgh have praised the plans. Hesmondhalgh said she was “thrilled” that they included rep returning to Manchester.

Last year, plans were unveiled for a rep company to return to the Liverpool Everyman. The company begins shows this month.

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