Take a hip flask with you to a production at the Birmingham Rep, if you want a drink before the show or at the interval. Sadly the recent re-vamp of this theatre has not solved the problem of a lack of adequate facilities for liquid refreshments. Quite the opposite - there used to be a large bar on the first floor, which has now disappeared, to be replaced at the interval by a trolley selling bottles of water, soft drinks and beer. Yes, there are still two bars on the ground floor, one with just three tills and three bar tenders and the other doubling as the bar to the restaurant. I witnessed ten staff behind the restaurant bar on Saturday evening, trying the get to two tills and serve the ever increasing number of playgoers, prior to the production of 'People' by Alan Bennett.

Arriving at Birmingham Repertory Theatre at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm show, we queued for 20 minutes to buy two glasses of wine and order similar for the interval. Anyone queuing after us struggled to get served before being called to their seats for the start of the play. As for the interval, if you hadn't pre-ordered, then it was either more long queues or settling for an ice cream instead (but hopefully, not one like mine!).

The place has been refurbished as part of the link to the new Library - mainly a coat of paint, new comfortable leather theatre seats and a host of new hanging 'art work' created from the costume department's surplus items. Framed hats, dresses, suits and gloves are suspended from every raised area and adorn the public areas like kites at a hobbies festival. The foyer remains a congregation area where one can peruse the audience members, and either their lack of suitable attire or their 'way out' appearance. Beach shorts for a visit to the theatre are a bit extreme!

As for the production, we were in Row K and found it difficult to hear all the performers, particularly Brigit Forsyth, who played Iris. Thankfully, we were no further from the stage or it would have been a disastrous evening. The first half of the show was very slow, but the second much better. A rather boring set and production. Overall a disappointment for an Alan Bennett play.

Finally - my ice cream - a melted tub that had been refrozen costing £2.50 was a disgrace and tasted only of ice and not of cream. Clearly, the catering department at the Rep have to 'up their game' in drinks service and quality, if they want playgoers to return for the rest of the new season at Birmingham's prestigious theatre.


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