Oscar Lewenstein Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This archive collection consists of material relating to Oscar Lewenstein's career as a producer before he became artistic director for the English Stage Company in 1972. The collection spans the years 1952 to 1974 when Lewenstein worked largely as an independent producer. Production material, correspondence, film rights and photographs of the numerous shows Lewenstein produced during this period are included alongside scrapbooks, scripts, prompt scripts and typescripts with the Lord Chamberlain's licence.

Administrative / Biographical History

Oscar Lewenstein (1917-1997) began his theatrical career at the end of the Second World War working as for the Glasgow Unity Theatre as the general manager. This was followed by a short stint in the same position at the Embassy and the Royal Court Theatres (1952-1954). However, it is through his longstanding association with the Royal Court Theatre and as an independent producer that he is most well known. From the 1950s to the 1980s Lewenstein was instrumental in producing new and experimental theatre, and in 1954, was involved in the creation of the English Stage Company.

Lewenstein began producing in 1954, initially through a partnership with Wolf Mankowitz and later through the creation of Oscar Lewenstein Plays Ltd. Lewenstein worked in co-operation with Hugh Binkie Beaumont of H.M. Tennent, Tony Richardson, Bernard Delfont and the agent Margaret Ramsay to produce the works of Samuel Beckett, Bertolt Brecht, Brian Friel, Eugene Ionesco, Ann Jellicoe, Joe Orton, and John Osborne. He brought new pieces like Brecht's Baal and St Joan of The Stockyards to the British stage as well as producing plays by new playwrights including Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey, Hall and Waterhouse's Billy Liar and Joe Orton's What the Butler Saw.

From the late 1960s onwards Lewenstein became involved in a number of Arts Council boards contributing to the role that the Council played in developing Fringe theatre as well as more mainstream productions.

Lewenstein became the artistic director of the English Stage Company in 1972 and was once again based full-time at the Royal Court where he continued to influence the direction of British theatre through the Royal Court's Sunday Night Plays, and by producing scripts with increasingly political narratives written by a growing number of ethnic minority and female playwrights.

Arrangement

This collection has been arranged as follows:

  • THM/255/1 - Production files for shows produced by Oscar Lewenstein
  • THM/255/2 - Account books
  • THM/255/3 - Scrapbooks for productions produced by Oscar Lewenstein
  • THM/255/4 - Scripts from shows produced by Oscar Lewenstein
  • THM/255/5 - Audio Material for productions produced by Oscar Lewenstein
  • THM/255/6 - Stage plans

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

Acquisition Information

Given by Oscar Lewenstein, 1975.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/archives/ .

Appraisal Information

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

Accruals

No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

Oscar Lewenstein; Kicking Against The Pricks: A Theatre Producer Looks Back - the Memoirs of Oscar Lewenstein, (Nick Hern Books, 1994).

Other related collections held by the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance include: