Theatre News

V&A Opens Doors to New Theatre Collection

Ahead of the opening of the V&A museum’s new Theatre & Performance Galleries on Wednesday (16 March 2009), the doors were opened this morning to give journalists a preview of what’s on offer from the new space, which acts as a replacement for the Covent Garden-based Theatre Museum which closed in January 2007 (See News, 5 Jan 2007).

Although smaller in scale, the Theatre & Performance Galleries are designed to provide what curator Kate Dorney today described as the “highlights” of the collection, alongside exhibits added since the closure of the old museum.

The exhibits are not arranged chronologically (as they were at the Theatre Museum), but grouped in in sections such as ‘rehearsal’, ‘publicity’, ‘costumes’ and ‘producing’. Items on display include posters, manuscripts, photographs, costumes and props, as well as interactive and multimedia elements.

Kate Dorney said the new layout was designed to be “more dynamic” than its previous incarnation, and “able to respond quickly to changing events, such as major anniversaries”. Alongside the permanent collection, the galleries include a section for temporary exhibitions, which currently includes a selection of Reg Wilson photographs (pictured).

Other highlights currently on display include a large selection of costumes worn by performers including Richard Burton, Margot Fonteyn, Laurence Olivier, Elton John and Mick Jagger, as well as the original conductor’s score of Jesus Christ Superstar and an early draft manuscript of Sheridan’s The School for Scandal, dating from 1777. There is also a selection of archive footage featuring performers including Rudolf Nureyev, Marlene Dietrich, Fiona Shaw, Michael Redgrave and Carlos Acosta.

In tandem with the new galleries the V&A will also be touring exhibitions from the collections and presenting them online ( The Theatre & Performance Galleries are situated on the first floor of the V&A and admission is free. The theatre archive, which used to be housed in the basement of the Theatre Museum,  can be accessed in the V&A’s newly refurbished Blythe House Archive & Library Reading Room.

– by Theo Bosanquet