The Caretaker - Lewes Repertory Theatre

The Lewes Repertory Theatre Company, which debuts this week with a performance of The Caretaker, is the first of its kind to be established in the UK since 1932, according to founder Sean O'Kane. I meet O'Kane to discuss what makes repertory theatre different and why he has chosen to revive the tradition. With a blend of pragmatism and idealism, he begins with a bold statement of intent, ‘I want to get people out of their parochial mindset’, he asserts, ‘and produce professional affordable theatre, which people will travel from Brighton and London to come to.’ He sees working as a repertory theatre largely as a means of making the project financially viable, ‘it makes economic sense to retain the same group of actors, with a programme of plays.’

Repertory theatre in its original incarnation - which suffered in the war, I am informed, referred to the practice of a single company putting on a variety of plays successively for short runs, usually from a week to a fortnight. With an emphasis on a range of genres, it provided young actors with the chance to cut their teeth across a spectrum of disciplines, and has been the launch pad of the likes of Judy Dench and Linda Marlowe. The Lewes Repertory Theatre will not operate at quite the same pace - offering a programme of two or three plays a year, which run for a few weeks each. The Caretaker will be the first 'product' from the LRC, whilst a version of The Signalman, specially adapted for Lewes will be revived alongside The Bear for the Christmas season. Their home will be the Market Lane Garage, which is being converted into a performance space.

Repper’s delight: Sean O’Kane (right) aims to turn Lewes into a
theatrical focal point for punters and actors alike