Renaissance Theatre Company Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises records of the Renaissance Theatre Company, 1987-1992, in addition to a production of Romeo & Juliet staged by Kenneth Branagh Ltd., 1986. The bulk of the collection comprises prompt books for productions 1986-1992. Additional material includes a sound script for Napoleon - the American Story, 1989; programmes and copies of production photographs, 1987-1991.

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1985, Kenneth Branagh left the Royal Shakespeare Company and joined fellow actor David Parfitt to work on his first independent production, Romeo and Juliet, which played at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith (London), 1986. Branagh took the lead role, and also directed the production. The Renaissance Theatre Company was launched by Branagh and Parfitt, on 28th April 1987. The Company's first production was Branagh's own play Public Enemy, which premiered at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith (London). This was followed by John Session's Life of Napoleon, 1987, which after a sell-out season at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, transferred to the Albery Theatre in London's West End. Renaissance Nights, a weekend festival of new work also played at the Riverside in 1987, followed by Branagh's production of Twelfth Night, with Richard Briers, Frances Barber and Anton Lesser. This production was subsequently recorded by Thames Television for Channel 4. In 1988, productions of Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It and Hamlet, directed respectively by Judi Dench, Geraldine McEwan and Derek Jacobi, opened at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. These productions toured the UK and Ireland, including a two-week stay at Kroneberg Castle, Elsinore, Denmark and a ten-week West End season at the Phoenix Theatre, London. In the summer of 1989, Judi Dench directed a revival of John Osborne's Look Back In Anger. The production played for one week at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, and one night at the London Coliseum. It also played limited seasons in the West End and Newcastle, and was filmed for TV. In the autumn of 1989, John Sessions' Napoleon: The American Story toured Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Dublin and London. Productions in 1990 included King Lear and A Midsummer Night's Dream, with an opening season at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and a subsequent World tour. Subsequent productions included Scenes from a Marriage, by Ingmar Bergman, London and Newcastle, 1990-1991; Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov, Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, 1991; John Session's Travelling Tales, 1991, and Coriolanus, Chichester Festival Theatre, 1992. The Renaissance Theatre Company ceased to operate in 1992.

Reference: Branagh, Kenneth, Beginning (Chatto & Windus Ltd., London, 1989).


Material has been arranged according to format, and then chronologically within each series.

Access Information

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue to file and item level is available in electronic format on the University of Birmingham website at

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

Renaissance Films Collection; Discovering Hamlet, (Unicorn Projects, Washington D.C., 1990) can be found in the Shakespeare Institute Library video collection.

Archives of the Renaissance Theatre Company, dated 1986-1992, are held at the Theatre Museum, London. Include accounts, agreements, contracts, publicity material, papers, diaries, programmes, correspondence, press cuttings, photographs, slides, scripts, audio tapes. Contact Theatre Museum Archivist for further details.

Location of Originals

Originals of Renaissance Theatre Company production photographs are held at the Theatre Museum, London.