Hugh Hunt Papers: Collection-level Description

Scope and Content

Papers of Hugh Hunt, theatre director and first professor of drama at the University of Manchester. There are files on plays produced at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin (including three plays jointly written by Hugh Hunt and Frank O'Connor), the Sydney Opera House and the Bristol and London Old Vic Companies; volumes of press cuttings concerning the Bristol and London Old Vics; programmes from the Abbey Theatre and English provincial theatres; correspondence relating to Hunt's appointments with the Bristol Old Vic, 1945-49, the London Old Vic, 1949-53, and the Australian Elizabethan Theatre, 1954-58; miscellaneous articles and newsletters; and a photograph album for the Oxford University Dramatic Society production of King John in 1933.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hugh Hunt, theatre director and founding professor of drama at the University of Manchester was born on 25 September 1911 at Camberley, the son of an officer in the Indian Army. His brother was Lord (John) Hunt, who led the successful expedition to Everest. Hunt was educated at Marlborough and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was president of Oxford University Dramatic Society. At Oxford, he directed a well-received production of King John . After graduation, he went to work as assistant to Nugent Monck at Maddermarket theatre in Norwich, followed by stints at Croydon Repertory Theatre and the Westminster Theatre. From 1935 to 1938 he was a producer at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, where he put on over thirty new plays by Irish writers, including Paul Vincent Carroll's Shadow and Substance . After war service, Hunt became a director at the Old Vic Company at Theatre Royal Bristol (a.k.a. Bristol Old Vic), where he enjoyed success with productions of King Lear , Tess of the d'Urbervillles and Hamlet . He was then promoted to be a director of the Old Vic Company at New Theatre London, where his opening production of Love's Labour's Lost in 1949 was probably the most successful of his career. This was fortuitous as his arrival at the Old Vic coincided with the removal of the directorial triumvirate of Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson and John Burrell, which was not universally popular. In 1950 Hunt's co-directors Michel Saint-Denis, Glen Byam-Shaw and George Devine resigned, leading to a management crisis at the Old Vic. Hunt moved to become administrative director, although it was felt his talents lay elsewhere; in 1951, he became artistic director, but 1952-3 proved to be his last season at the Theatre. In 1954 he adjudicated at the Canadian Drama Festival and in 1955 became executive officer of the Elizabethan Theatre Trust in Australia, where he planned seasons of ballet and opera as well as drama. He also helped launch the Australian Institute of Dramatic Art.

In 1960 Hunt returned to Britain and in the following year was appointed first professor of drama at Manchester University, which was only the second drama department to be set up in the UK. At Manchester, Hunt stressed the practical side of the subject, and he himself directed several plays including Romeo and Juliet , Ben Jonson's Epicoene and Chekhov's The Three Sisters . Hunt instigated the building of the University Theatre, which opened in 1965, and encouraged professional theatre companies to use it, including the Century Theatre, Theatre '69 (later Manchester Royal Exchange Co.) and the Contact Theatre Company. He also continued to work with the Abbey Theatre.

Hunt's attitude to his profession was summarised in a series of lectures delivered at Bristol and Yale, and published as The Director in the Theatre (1954); he also published Old Vic Prefaces: Shakespeare and the Producer (1954) and The Abbey, Ireland's National Theatre (1979). Hunt married in 1940 and had two children. He died on 22 April 1993.


The Hunt papers have not yet been organized into archival order.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader, unless otherwise stated.

The collection may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Acquisition Information

The papers were deposited at JRUL by Professor Hunt in 1980.

Other Finding Aids

Outline box list.

Separated Material

Hunt's prompt books are held by the University of Birmingham, Shakespeare Institute Library (GB 2188).

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Related Material

The Library also hold the papers of Hunt's colleague at Manchester, Stephen Joseph GB 133 SJ.