The New Shakespeare Company

Scope and Content

The archive comprises the records of the New Shakespeare Company, Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London, dating largely from the creation of the Company by David Conville in 1962, with a few items relating to productions given at the Open Air Theatre during the 1930s. Production records include those relating to each summer season in the Park (1962-), the Company's British tours (1964, and most years 1970-) and overseas tours (1964, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1994, 1995). Material includes prompt books, show reports, scrapbooks, reviews, programmes, posters, production photographs, costume and set designs, ground/stage plans, music scores, and production administration files. Company administrative records include papers relating to the founding of the Open Air Theatre, its administration and development, including the construction of the new auditorium in 1975; correspondence of its managing directors, David Conville (1962-1987) and Ian Talbot (1987-); correspondence with sponsors and grant-awarding bodies; staff contracts and details of remuneration; production costs and annual accounts, box office returns and educational packs. A small number of records relating to productions staged by David Conville Productions Ltd are included in the collection.

Administrative / Biographical History

In February 1962, David Conville Productions Ltd. signed a contract for a three-month summer season at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London, with David Conville as Managing Director and David William as Artistic Director. The season opened with a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream on 4th June 1962, and included Twelfth Night and Love's Labour's Lost. In 1963 David Conville founded the New Shakespeare Company, a charity and a non profit-distributing company, which received grant-aid from the Arts Council, the Greater London Council and the St Marylebone Borough Council. The Ministry of Works [later Department of the Environment] granted the company a licence, and the new artistic regime was launched at the Open Air Theatre. From 1964, the New Shakespeare Company presented yearly summer seasons in the Park. The pattern that emerged was a programme of 3 major productions (including at least 2 Shakespeare plays), and in later years a Children's Play, Theatre in Education Workshops, lunchtime productions and occasional Sunday concerts. The Company also undertakes British and overseas tours.

Richard Digby Day succeeded David William as Artistic Director in 1968. In 1975 a new outdoor auditorium, designed by William Howell, was built with a 1,200 seat capacity, making it one of the largest theatres in London. 1982 saw the Golden Jubilee of the Open Air Theatre, which was celebrated with a visit from Queen Elizabeth II. In 1987, David Conville became Chairman of the New Shakespeare Company, while Ian Talbot succeeded him as Artistic and Managing Director. The New Shakespeare Company is headed by a Board of Directors and Trustees. The present day administrative structure of the Company includes a small core of permanent staff, including the Artistic and Managing Director, General Manager, Office Manager, Marketing & Administrative Assistant and Book-Keeper. Other staff are employed on a seasonal basis, and include a Press and Marketing Manager, Box Office Manager, Front-Of-House Manager, Education Officer, Production Manager, Stage Manager, Deputy Stage Manager and Company Manager, technical staff (Master Carpenter, Costume Supervisor, Wardrobe Manager and assistants), and the Company of actors. For each production, there are also a number of externally contracted staff including the Costume and Set Designer, Musical Director and Choreographer. Casual staff include the Set Painter and Set Crew. The Parkfood Company independently leases the catering facilities at the Open Air Theatre.

Reference: University of Birmingham Library, research Libraries Bulletin (Number 5 Summer 1997).


The records have been arranged to reflect the artistic and administrative functions of the New Shakespeare Company, and are grouped according to the individual or team that created them during the course of their business. The main administrative functions are represented by the Managing Director (David Conville 1962-1986), the Artistic and Managing Director (Ian Talbot, 1987-), the General Manager, Office Manager, Press and Marketing Manager, Box Office, Front of House Team, Production Team, Stage Management and Theatre in Education Team. The remaining divisions represent roles taken by external, freelance staff, and include the Photographer, Costume and Set Designer and Music Director.

Access Information

Production records are open to researchers. Administrative, records which contain information of a confidential nature are closed for 30 years; those containing personal data are closed for 75 years, or until the death of the individual where this is known (in accordance with principles set out in the Data Protection Act 1998).

Acquisition Information

This collection was deposited in 1997.

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 expected.

Related Material

This collection augments the Shakespeare Institute Library's collection of theatre records begun with the deposit of the promptbooks of Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance Theatre company. Papers (c.1914-1938) relating to the career of Sydney Carroll are held at the Theatre Museum, London. They include material relating to Carroll's work at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park. Contact Theatre Museum Archivist for further details.