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THM/9 - Unity Theatre, theatre company: records
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Unity Theatre, theatre company: records

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This material is held at V&A Department of Theatre and Performance
Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9
Dates of Creation c.1930s-2000
Name of Creator Unity Theatre
Language of Material English
Physical Description 149 files

Scope and Content

The records of the management and administration of Unity Theatre Company and of the management and marketing of individual productions, including photographs and press cuttings.

Administrative / Biographical History

Unity Theatre was founded on 5 January 1936 by a general meeting of the Rebel Players and Red Radio, left-wing theatre groups derived from the Workers' Theatre Movement. WTM had been founded in the 1920s under the influence of the artistic movements arising from the Russian Revolution. Unity began as Unity Theatre Club, an amateur theatre group as a way of avoiding censorship by the Lord Chamberlain.

A self-converted hall at Britannia Street was used from 1936 until 1937. In order to be able to expand their range of activities a new hall was converted in Goldington Street, which opened in November 1937. In 1938 Paul Robeson turned down several West End roles to appear in Plant in the Sun for free, as all Unity's actors did at that time. From 1946 Unity also put on various touring shows by the Mobile group, including those featuring the Amazons, a women's company.

Unity became a professional company in 1946 but reverted back to being an amateur group in 1947. At this time they also established other Unity groups in other UK cities including Glasgow and Merseyside. They staged the world premieres of plays by Sean O'Casey and Arthur Adamov and British premieres of plays by Jean-Paul Sartre, Maxim Gorky and Bertolt Brecht. They also specialised in traditional entertainment forms such as Music Hall shows. Unity's theatre burnt down on 8 November 1975, putting a temporary end to activities.

There was a revival in the 1980s and 1990s with political plays such as Major Minor and Red Roses for Me. The final Unity production was in 1994.

Arrangement

These records have been arranged chronologically in the following sub-fonds:

  • THM/9/1 - Company management records
  • THM/9/2 - Artistic Management records
  • THM/9/3 - Finance and Membership records
  • THM/9/4 - Press and Marketing records
  • THM/9/5 - Photographs
  • THM/9/6 - Related Organisations records
  • THM/9/7 - Promptbooks and scripts

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

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

Access to some material may be restricted. These are identified at file level.

Acquisition Information

Gift of the Unity Theatre Trust, 1995.

Custodial History

Following the initial Gift in 1995, the archive was delivered to the V&A in batches from the various individuals who had taken responsibility for its safeguarding, principally Clive Gehle but also Mike Harwood and Delysia Price.

Accruals

No further accurals to this archive are expected.

Other Finding Aid

The archive has previously been partially catalogued and these superseded references may have been used by researchers. For reference, a copy of this catalogue can be found in the archive (THM/9/1/3/10).

Location of Originals

A number of items from the Unity Theatre Archive have been separated and added to the V&A's museum collection. The items can be accessed through Search the Collections http://collections.vam.ac.uk/.

17 set designs by Ern Brooks for a production of The Big Win, for the Unity Theatre, first performed on 4 Mar 1960. [Museum reference numbers: S.41-2011 to S.57-2011]

1 poster for We Fight On, a Unity Theatre production at the Scala Theatre, London, on 27 Feb, year unidentified. [Museum reference number: S.58-2011]

8 papier-mache masks for an unknown production at the Unity Theatre. Possibly made by Barbara Niven, c. mid 20th century. [Museum reference numbers: S.69-2011 to S.76[1-6=5]-2011

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material relating to Unity Theatre may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

See also, Unity Theatre records, 1931-1960 at the Morris Library at Southern Illinois University. Also, Unity Theatre collection, 1930s-1976 at Labour History Archive and Study Centre at the People's History Museum at the University of Central Lancashire. Also, the Archive of Alec Baron (1913-1991) for material on Leeds Unity held at the Library of the University of Leeds. Also, the Records of Glasgow Unity Theatre 1941-1967 held in Special Collections at Glasgow University Library.

Please ask for details.

Separated Material

Programmes and flyers have been removed and transferred to the V&A Theatre and Performance Core Collections.

Bibliography

  1. Chambers, Colin. The Story of Unity Theatre. London: Lawrence and Wishart Ltd, 1989. 446 p., ill. ISBN 0853155879.

Subjects

Amateur theater - Great Britain - 20th century
Theater - Great Britain - History - 20th century
Socialism and theater - Great Britain
Theater management

Personal Names

Robeson, Paul
O'Casey, Sean
Adamov, Arthur
Sartre, Jean-Paul
Gorky, Maxim
Brecht, Bertold

Corporate Names

Unity Theatre Company
Rebel Players
Red Radio
Workers' Theatre Movement

Cataloguing Info

Title Unity Theatre, theatre company: records
Sub-title Catalogue of records in the Victoria & Albert Museum: Department of Theatre and Performance
Author Catalogued by Vaila Holbourn
Revisions

Company Management records

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1
Dates of Creation 1936-1999
Physical Description 61 folders

Scope and Content

Statutory records, company management minutes and correspondence and company history files including various publications and personal reminiscences about the history of Unity.


Statutory records

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/1
Dates of Creation ca.1966-1994
Physical Description 3 folders

Scope and Content

Contracts, licenses and agreements relating to the management of Unity.


Contracts

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/1/1
Dates of Creation 1966
Physical Description 1 folder

Scope and Content

Agreement for rental of Goldington Street and blank contracts for authors.


Correspondence regarding occasional licence for putting on plays from Camden Council

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/1/2
Dates of Creation 1992-1993
Physical Description 1 folder

Scope and Content

Also other correspondence relating to premises.


Correspondence regarding occasional licence for putting on plays from Camden Council

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/1/3
Dates of Creation 1993-1994
Physical Description 1 folder

Scope and Content

Includes drawings of theatre space and other correspondence regarding premises.


Correspondence with members and/or audience regarding occasional licence

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/1/4
Dates of Creation 19th March 1951
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes and correspondence

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2
Dates of Creation 1936-1997
Physical Description 46 folders

Scope and Content

Minutes of management committee meetings and related correspondence, including material about new premises and the future of Unity.


Unity Theatre Club minutes

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/1
Dates of Creation 1936?
Physical Description 1 folder

Scope and Content

Second page of signed minutes. This appears to be part of the minutes of the meeting to establish Unity Theatre Club on 5 January 1936.


Company Management minutes for 1936

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/2
Dates of Creation 1936
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1937

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/3
Dates of Creation 1937
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1939

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/4
Dates of Creation 1939
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1943

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/5
Dates of Creation 1943
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1944

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/6
Dates of Creation 1944
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1945

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/7
Dates of Creation 1945
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1955

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/8
Dates of Creation 1955
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1956

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/9
Dates of Creation 1956
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1957

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/10
Dates of Creation 1957
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1963

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/11
Dates of Creation 1963
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1964

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/12
Dates of Creation 1964
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1965

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/13
Dates of Creation 1965
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1966

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/14
Dates of Creation 1966
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1967

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/15
Dates of Creation 1967
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1968

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/16
Dates of Creation 1968
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1969

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/17
Dates of Creation 1969
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1970

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/18
Dates of Creation 1970
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1971

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/19
Dates of Creation 1971
Physical Description 1 folder

Company Management minutes for 1972

Reference Number(s) GB 71 THM/9/1/2/20
Dates of Creation 1972
Physical Description 1 folder