Ardent Theatre salutes an alternative platinum jubilee

Martin Daniels back in the day….

To celebrate an amazing 70-year acting career, Ardent Theatre have invited Martin Daniels to guest blog this month for them, to describe his experiences in weekly repertory theatre.

Weekly rep, as it was known, was a very popular form of live theatrical entertainment for most of the twentieth century. The first repertory company was founded in Manchester by Annie Horniman in 1908. Previously, theatres had relied heavily on touring shows coming up from London.

Loyal local audiences came week after week to support “their rep” , and see pretty much whatever was on, with a company of actors who stayed for the entire season, appearing twice nightly in the current week’s show while learning the script for the next week’s show during the day. Equity later put a stop to the twice nightlies, reducing to eight shows a week usually including a midweek and weekend matinee.

Almost disappeared now in the UK, traditional weekly repertory theatre can still just occasionally be seen in the summer at Frinton, Sidmouth, Sheringham and sometimes Windsor – although sadly, Covid may have affected their survival and profitability.

In Ardent’s engaging blog piece, Martin Daniels talks about his early start in 1950s Manchester at the tender age of fifteen, the agents specialising in rep, and the numerous rep companies he played with, which in those days spread far and wide across the UK.

Finally, Martin laments the changes in the profession – although he proudly sports his current Equity card!

Congratulations Martin – and may you have many more happy years as an Equity member!

You can read Martin’s whole blog piece here

You can also see and hear Martin talking in more detail (with some fun stories) about his rep experiences in this talk with Ardent’s Mark Sands in 2016. Find it here

Intrigued about weekly rep? A taste of the feeling of weekly rep can be gleaned from a gently amusing comedy from 1952, CURTAIN UP, starring Margaret Rutherford as the precious author of next week’s play and Robert Morley as the exasperated director trying to make something workable from her galumphing script. It is based on Philip King’s successful play ON MONDAY NEXT which ran at London’s Comedy Theatre for 444 performances between June 1949 and June 1951. You can watch the film of the play on Youtube (below) thanks to poster Classics. Enjoy!

“Philip King has simply taken the lid off a weekly repertory theatre during an early rehearsal of the play to be presented ‘on Monday next’ and let the various situations speak most amusingly for themselves … The author gains his effect by ridiculing the ridiculous.” – The Stage, 9th June 1949

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