Birmingham Repertory theatre is considering cost-saving measures that may result in up to 40% of roles being made redundant. The announcement, which comes days after Boris Johnson’s £1.57bn rescue package to “protect and preserve” the arts, reveals the enduringly perilous state for a theatre industry devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The redundancy proposals, which equate to up to 47 positions, are part of considerations to ensure the survival of the Rep, which usually generates 80% of its income from selling tickets and associated revenue streams. It closed on 16 March and the government is yet to announce a specific timeline for indoor theatres to resume live performances. The theatre said that despite the government’s support package and funds of £540,000 from Arts Council England’s emergency response fund, “we simply do not know when we will be able to reopen our doors and welcome audiences back into our building”.
In a joint statement, executive director Rachael Thomas and artistic director Sean Foley, who were both appointed last year, said that their role as custodians of the theatre is to ensure that it survives the pandemic. “We could still be facing many months of being unable to trade and must therefore take action to mitigate the loss of income by reducing our costs.” They praised their staff’s fortitude and spirit.
Birmingham Rep was founded by Barry Jackson in 1913 and opened in Station Street. In 1971, the company moved to a new building on Broad Street. It celebrated its centenary in 2013 when it reopened after a two-year redevelopment.
This month, in an article for the Guardian’s Theatres that made us series, the playwright Evan Placey described the Rep as “a community theatre in the truest sense of the word – everyone has a place there. I love that groups of young people, of old people, of every language, just come and hang out. They feel it’s theirs.”
Another of the city’s major venues, Birmingham Hippodrome, announced last month that more than 60 of its roles are at risk of redundancy. The Hippodrome is an independent charity that receives no regular public funding and usually has more than 500,000 visitors a year. The majority of England’s theatres are currently permitted to open to the public but are not allowed to put on live performances. Open-air theatres can stage productions from Saturday.