“It is hard to describe the cavernous project I have been thrown into since the beginning of October. I have attempted to describe to family and friends the complexity of this challenge and its many, and perhaps never ending, avenues. Quite simply, I am working on a project celebrating the REP’s 100 years of existence which could, ironically, take 100 years to finish. Despite the stress, the river-like quantities of Diet Coke, and severe hair loss (I’m being melodramatic, I had a haircut) there couldn’t be a better or more gratifying time to be working at the REP. There is a charged atmosphere in the office resulting from a combination of frantic deadlines and a prevailing sense that what we are working towards is a momentous moment for the REP, and indeed for Birmingham as a city.
I began my internship with a tour of the kitchens at University College Birmingham, a somewhat surreal way to begin, and it hasn’t stopped since then – from painting the Old REP (or more accurately painting myself), to falling down a hill in Malvern in search of Barry Jackson’s house, to not-knowing-where-to-look in a meeting at which a prolific playwright spoke ardently about sex, my experiences have been dynamic and varied.
More recently, I have worked on the installation of a Caravan, recycled from the REP production Eat! in Centenary Square and have since been tasked with luring people inside to share their memories of the REP. It’s less base than it sounds. Despite being a mammoth challenge to organise, I have been continually supported by the REP staff, who have responded to my endless stream of inane questions with endless patience. If you have a spare five minutes whilst perusing the delights of the Christmas Market, please come and say hello to the REP100 team. If you see a slightly frozen, blonde female generally stood near the Ostrich burger stall – that’s me.
A hidden and unexpected gem has been meeting and working alongside over 70 volunteers from across the West Midlands, all from different walks of life, all united by a shared love for the REP. The volunteers describe their dedication as a ‘way of finally giving back to the REP’ and this really does emphasise the role the theatre has played and continues to play in the community. At a time when regional theatre faces an uncertain future and crushing funding cuts (I write this at the same time Newcastle City Council announces plans to cut all funding to its external arts organisations), REP100 has given me ample time to reflect on my passion for theatre. I hope that this project awakens the same passion in others and demonstrates the value theatre brings to communities – enough to secure another 100 years.
Outside of the REP it has been a pleasure to build friendships with the other University of Birmingham interns; collectively as a group we may not act that ‘cultured’ but the sheer quantity of art we are exposing ourselves too has really opened my eyes and changed my perception of Birmingham – no longer the city of cheap drinks and late nights in places that barely warrant the name ‘club’, I now have a more refined view of the city’s untapped potential. Through our individual internships we are learning together about each other’s disciplines and art forms, ones which I may have previously overlooked (having said that these moments can always be improved with a cheap drink).
This I hope effectively summarises our unique position at the moment; post-University life for graduates is bleak to say the least, particularly in the arts, but with schemes like these it gives us a real chance to gain experience in our chosen fields and take a step up the proverbial ‘work ladder.’ And with the REP by my side I am looking forward to the rest of my internship and the future that lies ahead.”