Richard Negri Archive

Scope and Content

This archive contains the work of designer, director and teacher Richard Negri (1927-1999), primarily costume designs from productions that he designed in the 1950s and early 1960s. It also contains some correspondence, backdrop artwork, photographs (primarily from the Wimbledon School of Art in the 1980s), and extensive press coverage of his career.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in Stamford Hill, north London, on 27 June 1927 to Riccardo Negri and his wife Teresa Manattini, Richard Negri grew up in Chingford, Essex. His Italian family emigrated to Britain in the late nineteenth century. He was a radio operator in the Royal Navy during World War II, after which he studied art at Borough Polytechnic. He enrolled at the Old Vic School, Bristol, in 1951 to train in theatre design under Michel Saint-Denis.

After graduating, Negri worked as a designer for the weekly Oldham Repertory Theatre Club in 1953, before co-founding Piccolo Theatre Company in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, which toured in 1954. Negri's other productions in the 1950s included Nekrassov by Jean-Paul Sartre at Royal Court Theatre, directed by George Devine and starring Robert Helpmann (1957); Leslie Bricusse's musical comedy Lady at the Wheel (with costumes by Motley), and Ibsen's Brand (1959) at Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith (1958). It was at Hammersmith that Negri began collaborating with Michael Elliott as a member of 59 Theatre.

In 1960, Negri designed Chekhov's Platonov at the Royal Court Theatre, with Rex Harrison in the title role. The following year, he designed the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of As You Like It , directed by Michael Elliott and led by Vanessa Redgrave. The same year, he designed Peer Gynt at the Old Vic. Negri and Elliott also collaborated on Miss Julie at Chichester Festival Theatre in 1965 (transferring to the Old Vic in 1966), starring Maggie Smith and Albert Finney.

With Elliott, Casper Wrede (with whom he worked on Piccolo Theatre Company) and Braham Murray, Negri was part of 69 Theatre, who transformed the disused Royal Exchange building in the central Manchester into one of Britain's leading theatres, opening in 1976. Negri was responsible for the in-the-round design based on a beehive, in which no audience member would be more than 30 feet away from the stage. As well as designing productions, Negri also turned to directing and his productions at the Royal Exchange included The Caretaker and The Skin of Our Teeth . He continued as an artistic director until 1983.

Negri worked as a designer on ITV's Play of the Week and Television Playhouse between 1957-63. His productions included Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman , which marked Laurence Olivier's television debut, as well as Hay Fever featuring Edith Evans and Maggie Smith, and A Touch of the Sun with Michael Redgrave.

A noted teacher, Negri began teaching on Wimbledon School of Art's theatre design programme in the 1960s. Following his resignation in 1974 to focus on the Royal Exchange, Negri returned in 1982 and retired in 1988.

Negri married Jill Adams in 1956 and they had two sons and six daughters. He died on 17 August 1999 in Fakenham, Norfolk. Following his death, National Life Stories carried out a series of interviews about his career with colleagues and theatre practitioners as part of its Oral History of Theatre Design project, held at the British Library.

Arrangement

This archive is arranged in five series:

  • THM/471/1 Personal Items
  • THM/472/2 Costume and Set Designs
  • THM/471/3 Other Artwork and Writing
  • THM/471/4 Photographs
  • THM/471/5 Press, Programmes and Magazines

Conditions Governing Access

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: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/.

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

Acquisition Information

Given by Louise Negri-Wibberley on behalf of the Negri family, 2016.

Separated Material

Architectural models of Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester by Richard Negri are held by the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance under the reference numbers S.163-2018 and S.162-2018.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: https://www.vam.ac.uk/info/archives.

Custodial History

This collection was previously on loan to Wimbledon School of Art before being transferred to the V&A Museum in 2016.

Accruals

No further accruals expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Theatre and Performance Department. Material relating to Richard Negri may be found in several collections, including production files, company files, theatre buildings files, biographical files, and photographs. Some of his designs are included in the museum object collection which can be searched via the V&A website; https://collections.vam.ac.uk/

Please ask for details.