Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)MS38
TitleTheatre Collection
Extent200 manuscript boxes
DescriptionA collection of approximately 5000 scrap files relating to plays performed principally in theatres in London but also in provincial theatres around the country and productions on tour in England and America. These scrap files follow a standard format. Each file relates to a single play and comprises a range of material which may include press and magazine cuttings of reviews of performances, photographs of members of the cast and production team, theatre programmes and cuttings from programmes, printed fliers, articles, scripts and synopses of plays and other printed items. The contents of each file usually spans no more than one, two or three years. There are a number of play titles for which more than one file has been created: these usually relate to a different production of another date.

Many of the files also include typescript notes about the play, which have been made by the creator of the collection. Some notes have been made directly on the contents of the file; others are typed on separate paper . Some of these notes relate to the principal production; other notes relate to earlier productions of a play - for which no printed material is included in the file. These notes give information, such as performance dates, venues and cast lists, about productions of plays as far back as the 1860s.
ArrangementArranged in a single sequence of files in numerical order according to the numbers assigned. Detailed information about productions, including venues, names of casts and production teams has been extracted from the contents of each file for each catalogue record for the RSLP Backstage project.
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue. Manual card indexes of playwrights and plays were compiled to this and related theatre collections, probably in the 1960s and 1970s and these can be consulted in the reading room.
Access StatusOpen
Physical DescriptionMost of these scrap files have been made using folded paper. The outside front sheet bears the title of the play, usually in printed form cut from a programme, magazine or other printed format. The contents of the files have been pasted onto the folded sheets of paper.
Administrative HistoryThe creator of these files is unknown although it is possible, from slight evidence found in the collection that Jack Walter Lambert (1917-1986) was connected with the collection in some way. His name has been found on a newscutting and he was much involved during his career in literature and the theatre. He was, for example, appointed as Assistant Literary Editor for the 'Sunday Times' in 1948, becoming its Literary and Arts Editor, 1960-1976. He was also a member of the Board of Management of the British Drama League, later the British Theatre Association, 1963-84 and served on other committees and with other organisations connected the theatre. His publications included 'Drama in Britain, 1964-73 (1974).
Custodial HistoryThe provenance of this collection and the immediate source and date of its receipt is unknown. However, the collection was known to have been housed in the Special Collections Department by the 1960s. Each file was given a running number by library staff, but this numbering sequence does not appear to reflect the original arrangement by the creator which seems to have been alphabetical by title of play. The numbers allocated to each file have been retained as the finding number. Additional acquisitions of theatre-related materials comprising playbills, programmes, newscuttings and associated materials received from different sources were incorporated into this collection and added to the numbering sequence. The provenances of these separate acquisitions have now been established and discrete collection records created.
Related MaterialThe Special Collections Department holds other personal and artificial collections of theatre playbills, programmes, newscuttings and associated materials. These smaller collections, which were formerly incorporated into the Theatre Collection, include the following:

Theatre Collection, MS38;
Heron-Allen album of playbills, MS107;
Colyer-Fergusson albums, MS108;
The Williams Theatre collection, MS109;
Volume of playbills, MS110;
Album of programmes, MS111;
Louis Cohen Collection, MS112;
The Kemp album, MS113;
Volume of Shakespearian souvenirs and programmes, MS114;
Album of presscuttings, photographs and theatre programmes, MS808;
Theatre programmes, MS897;
Birmingham Repertory Theatre programmes, MS934,
Theatre programmes collected by Andrew Leigh, MS937;
Collection of miscellaneous theatre programmes, playbills, and related items, MS939;
Regional theatre programmes: artificial collection, MS991;
Theatre programmes and ephemera, MS1016;
Theatre programmes, MS1035;
Scrapbook for the 1912 production of 'Twelfth Night', MS1058;
Ephemera relating to Victoria Wood, MS1061;
Theatre programme of 1912 production of 'Twelfth Night', MS1062.


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