Records of Talawa Theatre Company

Scope and Content

The records of Talawa Theatre Company consist of the records of the administration of the company, records relating to the putting on of individual productions including relevant photographs, audio-visual recordings, press cuttings and prompt scripts. The collection also contains the Blackgrounds and Blackstage oral history projects, the records of various projects with young people and theatre practitioners and the records of Talawa's fundraising project for a home for Black theatre.

Administrative / Biographical History

Talawa Theatre Company was set up in 1985 by Yvonne Brewster, Mona Hammond, Carmen Monroe and Inigo Espejel. Their first production was The Black Jacobins by CLR James in 1986, a play about the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804, which had not been performed in England for fifty years and never with a complete Black cast. This production was funded by the Greater London Council Race Equality Unit as part of the Black Experience Arts Programme. During the same year Yvonne Brewster directed An Echo in the Bone by Dennis Scott and in 1988 the European Premiere of O Babylon! by Derek Walcott and Galt McDermot.

The company went on to produce works by Oscar Wilde and by William Shakespeare, as well as plays by African and Caribbean writers such as Wole Soyinka and also by new Black British writers. As well as putting on productions Talawa worked to develop new audiences and greater participation in the theatre through the Summer school programme and various workshops and outreach projects. They also developed new writers by putting on script reading events and script writing projects. In 1992 Talawa moved from the Africa Centre in Covent Garden to a residency at the Cochrane Theatre, which allowed them to put on three plays a year. This arrangement ended in 1995 as Talawa embarked on what would become the ten year Capital Project, Talawa's search for a new home for Black Theatre. When the project did not result in a new building, Yvonne Brewster stood down as Director of Talawa.

In 2006 Pat Cumper was appointed as Artistic Director, and she was joined by Deborah Sawyer as Executive Director. The company's current mission statement identifies Talawa as a Black led theatre company that seeks to give voice to Black British experience, to nurture the writers, directors, designers, administrators and marketers of the future and to cultivate Black audiences and audiences for Black work.


Material is arranged chronologically within series, except where stated. Details on where plays were put on, during what dates and the names of playwrights and directors can be found within the descriptions of programmes (TTC/8/3/3) and the descriptions of production management correspondence (TTC/4/1). Records have been arranged chronologically in the following sub-fonds:

  • TTC/1 - Company Management records
  • TTC/2 - Finance records
  • TTC/3 - Legal records
  • TTC/4 - Artistic Mangement records
  • TTC/5 - Literary records
  • TTC/6 - Photographs
  • TTC/7 - Audio Visual Material
  • TTC/8 - Press and Marketing records
  • TTC/9 - Fundraising records
  • TTC/10 - Project and workshop records
  • TTC/11 - Buildings and Estates records

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only.
Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

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

Acquisition Information

Given by Talawa Theatre Company, 2015. Accrual received in 2016.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Custodial History

The archive has been kept by Talawa theatre company until 2007 when it was loaned to Future Histories who in turn loaned it to the V&A Theatre Collections. In 2001 the archive was organised by David Johnson, an employee of Talawa who wrote a PhD on the history of the company (a copy of his thesis is in the collection, reference TTC/1/8/2).

In December 2015, Talawa Theatre Company transferred the loan into a permanent gift to the V&A.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to Talawa may be found in several collections, including production files, company files, theatre buildings files, biographical files for related persons, and photographs.

Please ask for details.

Corporate Names