We hold the archives of playwrights, actors, directors, critics, theatre companies and theatrical agents. The collection is a unique resource for the study of West End, Fringe and regional British theatre since 1900.
About the collection
The range of material in our archives is extensive, including scripts, letters, diaries, reviews and production photographs. We are increasingly collecting archives in both paper and digital formats.
Our collection includes the archives and/or manuscripts of:
- Actors John Gielgud, Alec Guinness, Cedric Hardwicke, Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Michael Palin, Ralph Richardson, Kenneth Williams
- Directors Neil Bartlett, Peter Gill, Peter Hall, Joan Littlewood, Michel Saint-Denis, Max Stafford-Clark
- Playwrights Peter Barnes, Samuel Beckett, Shelagh Delaney, Ronald Harwood, Peter Nichols, Joe Orton, John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Terence Rattigan, David Rudkin, N F Simpson, Tom Stoppard, Timberlake Wertenbaker
- Critics Kenneth Tynan, Irving Wardle
- Theatrical agents Margaret (Peggy) Ramsay, Gordon Dickerson and Kenneth Ewing
- Theatre companies D’Oyly Carte Opera Company
Our guide to Literary Archives and Manuscripts, 1600 - present contains information about pre-20th-century dramatists.
What is available online?
Selected material is available on Discovering Literature: 20th Century.
What is available in our Reading Rooms?
We don't generally allow access to uncatalogued material, but please contact the Manuscripts and Maps Reference Enquiry Team for further advice on this.
What is available in other organisations?
The following resources will help you find material held in other institutions:
- Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters
- The National Archives' Discovery website
- Archives Hub
- Association of Performing Arts Collections
- C. Fletcher (ed.), 1000 Years of English Literature (London: The British Library, 2012)
- H. Kelliher and S. Brown, English Literary Manuscripts (London: The British Library, 1986)
- D. Shellard, The Golden Generation: New Light on Post-war British Theatre (London: The British Library, 2008)
- Theatre Archive Project
- J.P. Wearing, The London Stage: A Calendar of Plays & Players: 1890-1959, 18 vols. (N.J. & London: Methuen, 1976-1993).