Patrick Robertson and Rosemary Vercoe theatre design collection

Scope and Content

This collection comprises of materials relating to the theatre and costume design careers of Patrick Robertson and Rosemary Vercoe. Materials include costume, prop and set designs, mock-ups and pieces of set-models, production notebooks, production and research photographs and materials, stage design plans and production promotion items.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born to an Anglo-Irish father, Robertson was a night-time navigator during the Second World War and went on to study architecture at Cambridge, where his involvement with student theatrical productions introduced him to theatre design.

In 1950 he moved to Bristol and began working as a scene painter at the Old Vic Theatre, for a while living in the same house as Peter O'Toole. He became resident designer at the Old Vic, developing a signature style of sparse, economic sets which allowed key details to stand out. Some notable productions from this period include Much Ado About Nothing (1954) and The Crucible (1954). During this period the British designer Rosemary Vercoe was also working at the Old Vic as a scenery and costume designer. They eventually married after the breakdown of Robertson's first marriage.

Rosemary Vercoe worked as a theatre designer, predominantly working in costume design. Prior to her time in Bristol she had worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the late 1940s as costume designer for productions such as The Taming of the Shrew and as a some-time performer.

The couple moved to Nottingham, where they both started working at the Playhouse Theatre. Here they were first introduced to Jonathan Miller, beginning a series of collaborations which would run to over 20 productions, including King Lear (1969), Danton's Death (1971), The School for Scandal (1972), The Cunning Little Vixen (1975) and The Turn of the Screw (1979).

Robertson and Vercoe relocated to London with their family and worked together on such productions as A Streetcar Named Desire, The Doctor's Dilemma and The Three Sisters.

Perhaps their best known collaboration was for the English National Opera's landmark 1982 production of Verdi's Rigoletto, taking inspiration from 1950s Italian-American mafia, New York tenements and Art Deco. The production has been revived a dozen times.

Robertson died in 2009.


These files are arranged alphabetically by production title.

This collection has been arranged into the following series:

  • THM/371/1 - The Cunning Little Vixen
  • THM/371/2 - Danton's Death
  • THM/371/3 - The Importance of Being Earnest
  • THM/371/4 - King Arthur
  • THM/371/5 - Macbeth
  • THM/371/6 - Oedipus Tyrannus
  • THM/371/7 - Of Mice and Men
  • THM/371/8 - Othello
  • THM/371/9 - Rigoletto
  • THM/371/10 - The Taming of the Shrew
  • THM/371/11 - The Turn of the Screw
  • THM/371/12 - Waiting for Godot

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 the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Appraisal Information

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

These series have been arranged alphabetically by production title, since not all of productions have been dated.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to the productions mentioned in this catalogue may be found in several collections, including the productions and photographs files. Further information on Vercoe and Robertson may also be found in the biographical and library collections.

An original set-model for The Turn of the Screw is held at the V&A Theatre and Performance department archives, London (museum number s.807-1984)

Please ask for details.