Theatre and Performance

Curtain up for the Theatre and Performance blog. This is the place to find out about our news, explore the breadth and depth of the V&A’s Theatre and Performance collections, explore new acquisitions and hear first, when collections are catalogued and available for research in our Reading Room.

In this section we want to share information about what our team does, highlight our discoveries and how we look after the exciting V&A Theatre and Performance collections.

The Department of Theatre and Performance is the UK’s national collection for the performing arts, which was founded in 1924, when a private collector, Gabrielle Enthoven donated her extensive collection of theatrical designs, memorabilia, books and photographs to the V&A. Since then the collection has continued to grow covering all areas of the live performing arts in the UK and is now one of the largest of its kind in the world.

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The Pig on the British Stage

Assistant Curator, Janet Birkett, explores V&A Theatre and Performance Collections for examples of pigs in British theatre. Readers of The Stage newspaper will be familiar with Hamlet, the cartoon pig created by Harry Venning. Hamlet is an actor with strong opinions but only a modest talent, and spends more time in the bar than he […]

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“A Repertory Company on Wheels” – The Actors Touring Company Archive

Assistant Curator, Alice Young, takes a closer look at the Actors Touring Company Archive. The V&A Department of Theatre and Performance recently acquired the Actors Touring Company Archive. The London-based touring company aims to present international contemporary theatre to audiences in the UK and worldwide. Founded in Paris in 1978 by artistic director John Retallack, […]

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Spotlight on: Irish Theatre in the V&A Collections

Assistant Curator, Harriet Reed, explores the history of Irish theatre and shares a few of the highlights from the V&A Theatre and Performance Collections. ‘It is Ireland’s sacred duty to send over, every few years, a playwright to save the English theatre from inarticulate dumbness.’ Kenneth Tynan, 1956 Following on from a recent conference ‘London […]

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Sir Peter Hall (1930-2017)

Assistant Curator, Janet Birkett, remembers the late director, Sir Peter Hall, who died on 11th September 2017. The British theatre would look very different without Peter Hall. Hall founded the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1960, running the theatre in Stratford and acquiring the Aldwych Theatre as the company’s London base. Having established one major, internationally […]

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Erotic Electric Eels and Pig-Faced Women: Animal Curiosities on the Streets and Stages of London

Assistant Curator, Alex Clayton, explores some of the strangest and most extraordinary animal entertainments on offer to Londoners in 18th and 19th centuries, using material from the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Collections. According to Ned Ward’s London Spy (1698), Londoners could find ‘Lions, Tygers [and] Elephants in every Street in Town’. Although an exaggeration, Ward’s […]

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Watery Wonders: Spectacular Aquatic Entertainment – Part 3, Taking the Horses to Water

In the third post of the series marking the forthcoming 250th anniversary of the founding of modern circus, curator Cathy Haill, focuses on the aquatic entertainments at the London Hippodrome. Spectacle sold seats in late 19th century entertainment, and London’s most magnificent building to mount aquatic circus was the London Hippodrome near Leicester Square, on […]

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Behind the Scene(ry) at the Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond

As part of the Assistant Curator Development Programme, Harriet Reed visited the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond to find out more about its history, restoration and archive project. The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond was built in 1788 by Samuel Butler, who managed a touring theatre company around the circuit of Beverley, Harrogate, Kendal, Northallerton, […]

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What the Writer Saw: Remembering Joe Orton

August 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the untimely death of playwright, Joe Orton. Curator of Printed Books, Dr Beverley Hart, looks back at Orton’s controversial career. Monday 27 February 1967: In South Kensington, admired the architectural splendours of the Science Museum and the V&A. Joe Orton’s diary entry is followed by the approving verdict […]

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The Land of OZ: Cataloguing the Felix Dennis OZ Archive

Archive Assistant, Alice Ridgway, gives an introduction to the Felix Dennis OZ Archive and the challenges in cataloguing the collection. Earlier this year the V&A Department of Theatre and Peformance acquired the Felix Dennis OZ archive. Felix Dennis was the co-editor of the underground magazine published between 1967 and 1973. The magazine was renowned for its […]

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100 years of loans: The V&A and The Bowes Museum

From April to July 2017, The V&A loaned two paintings and three prints to the Bowes Museum, County Durham for their exhibition Painting the Stage: Garrick In Action. Assistant Curator, Harriet Reed, visited the museum to find out more about our regional loans programme and the two museums’ historic relationship. A visit to the Bowes […]

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