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 Guardian Angel of Theatreland: A History of the Spirit of Gaiety

Figure 1 - The Spirit of Gaiety, Hibbert C. Binney, 1904. Museum no. S.2630-1996.

As a team of conservators begin work on restoring the Spirit of Gaiety statue on display at the V&A Museum, Rosie Vizor from the Department of Theatre and Performance uncovers the history of the statue and the theatre on which she stood. The magnificent Spirit of Gaiety statue has been in the care of the […]

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A History of Oscar Wilde in Three Plays

Assistant Curator, Alex Clayton, celebrates LGBT History Month with a blog exploring the career and legacy of Oscar Wilde, using material from the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Collections. On the 31st January 2017, Queen Elizabeth II signed the Police and Crime Act. The law posthumously pardoned over 50,000 historic convictions of ‘gross indecency’ and other […]

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Watery Wonders: Spectacular Aquatic Entertainment – Part 1, Water Takes To The Ring

As we approach the 250th anniversary of the founding of modern circus in 2018, in a series of posts Curator for Popular Entertainment, Cathy Haill, will explore aquatic entertainment in the circus.   Circuses are more generally associated with the smell of the sawdust than the waves of the water, but a recent visit to […]

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Guest Blog: Portable Theatre and the Arts Council of Great Britain Archive

Guest blogger, Dr Chris Megson, shares his experience of using the Theatre and Perfomance archive collections. Portable Theatre was a short-lived but influential company founded by David Hare and Tony Bicât in 1968. The company – named after the then ubiquitous ‘portable’ radio – was established as first and foremost a nomadic entity. Whilst touring […]

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Six things you didn’t know about the Society for Theatre Research (and its archive)

The V&A Department of Theatre and Performance recently acquired the 70-year archive of the Society for Theatre Research, full of correspondence, minutes, reports, manuscripts, posters, press cuttings and other ephemera – revealing histories of the campaign for university Drama departments, the abolishment of theatre censorship, and the protection of our British theatrical heritage. Assistant curator, […]

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Interviewing Modern and Contemporary Performance Curator, Anna Landreth-Strong


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Patience, or Getting to Grips with the D’Oyly Carte Archive

Assistant Curator within the Theatre and Performance collections, Veronica Castro talks about the process of cataloguing the D’Oyly Carte Archive. The prospect of cataloguing the D’Oyly Carte Archive was a daunting one.  Faced with hundreds of files, boxes and filing cabinets full of materials reflecting the work of generations of the D’Oyly Carte family and the […]

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Introducing the D’Oyly Carte Archive

Curator of Popular Entertainment Catherine Haill gives us a brief history of one of the jewels in the crown of the V&A Theatre and Performance collections. The D’Oyly Carte Archive is one of the most significant archives in the world relating to the operas of W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) and their production and […]

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Guest Post – The First Gas-Lit Stage

We welcome our guest blogger Pieter van der Merwe to illuminate the story of the first gas-lit stages in Britain. A forgotten London theatrical ‘first’, 5 August 1816 Coal-gas was first used to light public areas of major London theatres in 1815. The Lyceum Theatre in the Strand is usually said to be the first to have […]

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Peter Brook: From Archive to Action, Oral History Project

As part of the Peter Brook: Archives to Action project, we’ve been speaking to practitioners and performers who have worked with or been inspired by Peter Brook, as well as audience members who experienced many of his key productions. From Helen Mirren to Adrian Lester, Peter Brook has worked with a wide range of actors […]

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