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Paul Barker Collection of Osiris Players Materials

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This material is held at V&A Department of Theatre and Performance
Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437
Dates of Creation 1995-2004
Name of Creator Paul Barker
Language of Material English
Physical Description 1 box

Scope and Content

Papers relating to the Osiris Players, assembled by Paul Barker during the preparation of newspaper and magazine articles concerning the history of the company and its founder, Nancy Hewins.

Administrative / Biographical History

The journalist and writer Paul Barker (born 1935) is perhaps best known for his editorship of the cultural commentary magazine New Society from 1968 to 1986. However the material assembled in this archive relate to articles written by Barker about the all-female theatre company The Osiris Players.

The Osiris Players (or the Osiris Repertory Company as they were also known) were Britain's first all-female professional theatre company who operated with the aim of introducing theatre - particularly the works of Shakespeare - to schools and audiences at improvised venues nationwide who may not otherwise have had access to live theatre at accessible prices. Started in 1924 by Nancy Hewins, they specialised in regional touring and were active until 1963.

Born in 1902 in London, (Margaret) Nancy Hewins developed an interest in the theatre - lighting and set design in particular - whilst studying at Oxford University. After graduating she started an amateur theatre company called the Isis Players in 1924. Becoming a professional company in 1927, they changed their name to the Osiris Players, with their first production as a professional outfit being The Merchant of Venice.

Osiris survived on proceeds from ticket sales and was never publicly funded. Hewins would supplement early Osiris funds by working as a lighting designer and director, particularly in large-scale pageants.

As a rule they were always all-female, and never had more than seven members in the troupe. As a travelling company members were expected to take care of necessary domestic duties (washing, cooking) as well as the dramatic (acting, props, make-up) and were paid a weekly allowance. The company would travel in two Rolls-Roycecars, getting through seven in the company's lifetime as Nancy Hewins maintained that they were the only cars suitable. They would improvise sleeping arrangements, often bedding down in school halls or barns to save on costs. Few members lasted more than a few years. During World War II, Osiris put on 1,534 (mostly Shakespeare) plays, often travelling with a horse and dray due to petrol restrictions.

The Company was disbanded by former Osiris performer Wynne Griffiths after Hewins' death in1978.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for consultation in the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance's Reading Room, which is located at Blythe House, 23 Blythe Rd, Olympia, London, W14 0QX. The Reading Room is open Tuesday to Friday between 10.15 am and 4.30 pm. Access to it is by appointment only. To request an appointment please email tmenquiries@vam.ac.uk or telephone 020 7942 2698.

Access to some of these files may be restricted. These are identified at file level.

Conditions Governing Use

Archival material may not be photocopied. Arrangements can be made to photograph material in the reading room using non-flash photography.

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.

Accruals

No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material relating to the Osiris Players (THM/302), as well as the 20th century in general may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Please ask for details.

Subjects

Theater -- Great Britain
Theatrical companies -- Great Britain

Personal Names

Hewins, Nancy. ( 1902–1978)

Corporate Names

Osiris Players

Titles

Benton, Mary-Rose, Family Values, Thanet Publications (1998)

Cataloguing Info

Title Paul Barker Collection of Osiris Players Materials
Creation Created by Amy King using the Archives Hub EAD Editor 2014-02-14

Osiris: Dictionary of National Biography

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/1
Dates of Creation 1995-2000
Physical Description 5 files

Scope and Content

This series contains items relating to Paul Barker's entry for Nancy Hewins in the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB)


Excerpt from notebook

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/1/1
Dates of Creation Mar 1996
Physical Description 1 item

Scope and Content

Excerpt from notebook, containing Paul Barker's handwritten notes on Nancy Hewins's autobiography, Well, Why Not?, 1996.


Presscuttings relating to Osiris

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/1/2
Dates of Creation 1995-2004
Physical Description 3 items

Scope and Content

Presscuttings from:

  • The Independent on Sunday Review (1995)
  • Oxford Today (1995)
  • Guardian Review (2004)

DNB correspondence

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/1/3
Dates of Creation 1995-2004
Physical Description 11 items

Scope and Content

DNB correspondence regarding Barker's biography entry for Nancy Hewins.


Information relating to the creation of Nancy Hewins's DNB entry

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/1/4
Dates of Creation 1994-1997
Physical Description 5 items

Scope and Content

  • DNB notes for contributors
  • DNB entry information sheets
  • DNB entry proof copies
  • Copies of Hewins's birth and death certificates
  • Copy of DNB entry annotated with comments by former Osiris member Mary Rose Benton

Excerpt from John Brande Trend's biography

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/1/5
Dates of Creation 2013
Physical Description 1 item

Scope and Content

Excerpt from Margaret John Anstee's Biography of John Brande Trend (brother of Henrietta, a founding member of Osiris).


Osiris: Background

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/2
Dates of Creation 1927-2004
Physical Description 3 files

Scope and Content

This series contains items relating to former Osiris members:

  • Nancy Hewins
  • Barbara Baker
  • Mary Collins
  • Margaret Thomas

Presscuttings relating to Nancy Hewins

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/2/1
Dates of Creation 1978
Physical Description 1 item

Scope and Content

  • Copy of Times obituary for Nancy Hewins
  • Newspaper cuttings relating to the estate of Nancy Hewins
  • Newspaper cuttings relating to the auction of the Osiris Rolls Royce vehicles

Osiris material provided by Barbara Baker

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/2/2
Dates of Creation 1927-2004
Physical Description 8 items

Scope and Content

  • Correspondence dated 1995 and 2004
  • Copy of a child's review of an early London Osiris performance dated 1927
  • Photocopies of newspaper cuttings relating to the history of the Osiris Players
  • Remuneration and Benefits in Kind for Working Members document
  • Copy of the programme for the Osiris's Twenty First Birthday Celebrations
  • Osiris Repertory Company War Record
  • Touring 1927-1957 notice
  • Pages from Barbara Baker's account of being a new Osiris member

Correspondence

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/2/3
Dates of Creation 1951-1996
Physical Description 10 items, 1 tape

Scope and Content

  • Responses to the publication of Paul Barker's articles on Osiris published in The Independent and Oxford Today magazine, dated 1995-1996
  • A copy of performer autographs and a letter of response from Nancy Hewins dated 1976
  • Letters to the press dated 1996, including one from former Osiris member Margaret Thomas
  • Letters from former Orisis member Mary Collins dated 1995 with accompanying photographs
  • Mary Collins audio tape dated October 1994

Conditions Governing Access

Access to the audio tape is restricted for conservation reasons and is not available for consultation in the reading room.


Osiris: Photographs and correspondence

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/3
Dates of Creation 1943-2004
Physical Description 2 files

Scope and Content

This series contains various photographs from Orisis productions. It also includes photographs of the grave of Nancy Hewins and Paul Barker correspondence.


Photographs and negatives relating to Nancy Hewins

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/3/1
Dates of Creation ca. 1995
Physical Description 1 folder

Scope and Content

Colour photographs and 35 mm negatives taken by Paul and Sally Barker at Willersey, all undated. Photographs include the grave of Nancy Hewins, her home, and St. Peter's Church. Also one picture of Paul Barker at the graveside, and a pamphlet relating to St. Peter's Church.


Photographs and copy negatives of Osiris productions

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/3/2
Dates of Creation 1943-2004
Physical Description 1 folder

Scope and Content

Correspondence from Paul Barker to the Guardian regarding a prospective article on the Osiris Players for publication in 2004; presscuttings showing Osiris photographs in print; 8 colour photographs of Osiris performing Henry IV in 1943, and 4 black and white prints with accompanying copy negatives of:

  • Osiris Players loading their vehicle on Wynne Griffiths' first day with the company, 1952
  • Wynne Griffiths as the Queen in Richard II
  • Kay Jones as Prince Hal and Nancy Hewins as Falstaff at Chipping Campden Festival
  • Nancy Hewins at the wheel of an Osiris Rolls Royce

Osiris: TV/Radio/Theatre/Books

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/4
Dates of Creation 1994-2004
Physical Description 3 files

Scope and Content

This series contains Paul Barker's research into the Osiris Players, including correspondence relating to television features, newspaper articles and Osiris inspired stage plays including We Happy Few.


Paul Barker's research into the Osiris Players

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/4/1
Dates of Creation 1994-2000
Physical Description 1 folder

Scope and Content

This file contains research and correspondence relating to the history of the Osiris Players. It includes copies of newspaper articles as well as correspondence with former Osiris members.


Imogen Stubbs and her production We Happy Few

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/4/2
Dates of Creation 2004
Physical Description 2 folders

Scope and Content

This file contains programmes, reviews and correspondence relating to Imogen Stubbs' production We Happy Few, based on the history of the Osiris Players.

Conditions Governing Access

Parts of this file are closed until 01 Jan 2032


Wynne Griffiths interview

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/437/4/3
Dates of Creation 1995
Physical Description 8 items

Scope and Content

This file contains Paul Barker's notebook for his interview with Wynne Griffiths, and associated correspondence.