Birmingham Repertory Theatre has built a trailblazing national reputation for its innovative engagement projects, including city-wide Youth Theatre groups and creative learning in schools across the region.
Now, with The REP temporarily closed, the theatre’s Creative Learning team have taken a proactive online approach launching REP RELOADED.
For schools, REP RELOADED offers a pioneering 5-day a week digital programme for hundreds of young people across the Midlands. It will run across the summer term until mid-July, and offers participants access to vital interaction and creativity online from the safety of their own homes supporting cultural education and emotional wellbeing.
Regular digital content and videos will be sent out to 8 local schools: Billesley Primary School; Braidwood Trust School for the Deaf; Hillstone Primary School, Shard End; Robin Hood Academy, Hall Green; Percy Shurmer Primary School, Highgate, Welsh House Farm Community School, Quinton, University of Birmingham Secondary School and Peter’s Hill Primary School, Stourbridge. The content will enable students to tell digital stories through drama, learning adventures, storytelling, drawing, devising and writing plays. Children will submit responses to the challenges which can be shared via school blogs, websites and REP channels. The REP will also provide access to British Sign Language (BSL) workshops.
Commenting on their experience so far – Gill Sparrow, Head Teacher at Hillstone Primary School said “I am so impressed with the digital offering, REP RELOADED. It has meant that we have been able to continue our engagement with the arts for our pupils, specifically our strong links that we have with The REP. When we went into lockdown our REP artist in resident, Bhavik Pharma, offered to create digital workshops for us. They are such an innovative approach; I love the idea of the ‘navigator ‘ who guides the child through the drama. They are very engaging and children will definitely want to participate. They will form part of our weekly offer in the Hillstone virtual School.”
For youth theatres, REP RELOADED provides the famous Young REP, one of the longest running youth theatres in the country, with an exciting opportunity to participate in digital workshops hosted by professional directors at The REP, including Artistic Director Sean Foley. The workshops will cover acting for screen, performing puppetry, devising, improvisation, monologues and creating plays. Through games, writing challenges and theatre-making young people aged 8-25 will remain connected during lockdown and give voice to their experiences.
As part of Shifting The Dial, a national scheme to strengthen the mental wellbeing and skills of young black men, REP RELOADED offers Lightpost Theatre Company an opportunity to continue to create new plays of social and historical significance. The scheme aims to develop a Birmingham-based brotherhood of 300 young men who feel mentally stronger and healthier for their engagement in a wide range of cultural activities. The theatre company’s activities will continue online.
Through The REP’s partnership with London based Company Three REP RELOADED offers to provide a week-by-week response to the pandemic, through the eyes of teenagers everywhere. ‘The Coronavirus Time Capsule’ will provide the Young REP with the opportunity to join thousands of other young people to record videos of their experiences during the pandemic which will be edited by the theatre and included in a national cumulative weekly video time capsule. You can keep up with the latest time capsules here www.companythree.co.uk/#coronavirus-time-capsule
Artistic Director of The REP, double Olivier Award-winner Sean Foley says “I’m delighted to be able to be part of our nationally recognised Creative Learning team at this time. Everybody at The REP has worked hard to develop and deliver a programme of engaging digital content for REP RELOADED.”
Sean who grew up in Birmingham added: “This new venture is typical of the groundbreaking work of The REP – we’re not open for performances, but we are continuing to create theatre in many ways – remember, it’s ‘Only The Interval’”
As well as youth theatre provision, The REP will be streaming a selection of previous REP productions online, offering remote play-reading sessions for families and community participants, and will continue to provide activities for local young people in care as well as adult engagement.
The REP is keen to extend this engagement across the city. For those interested in further information about REP RELOADED please contact firstname.lastname@example.org in the Creative Learning team.
If you are an individual or organisation and would like to help The REP to support talented young people whose families maybe struggling financially at this time you can make a donation at www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/support-us/donate
Rep photo by Ross Jukes.