Red Shift Theatre Company

Scope and Content

The collection contains administrative papers relating to Company contracts and internal and external correspondence; financial papers relating to budgets and funding, miscellaneous personal papers of the Company's director, Jonathan Holloway; production records including scripts, technical notes, rehearsal and production notes and directions, stage directions, information on casts, and tour and venue information; audiovisual recordings of productions; promotional, marketing and educational-outreach material; press-cuttings and reviews, photographs of named and un-named actors and productions; publications inspiring Red Shift productions; a study of the Company's production of 'The Love Child'; and an untitled script.

Administrative / Biographical History

Red Shift Theatre Company was founded as a profit-share company in south-east London in 1982 by Jonathan Holloway, who became the Company's Artistic Director, and the theatre designer Charlotte Humpston. They assumed a collaborative Director-Designer partnership rather than a Writer-Director partnership.

Jonathan Holloway had studied dance at the Laban Centre and Noh Theatre at the International Centre for Theatre Creations, Paris. During the 1970s he worked as an actor, stage manager, sound technician, freelance writer, director, film-maker and lighting designer. He established the Red Shift Theatre Company because he believed it was not possible to do the type of work he wanted in established theatre. Instead of focusing on the text of the play, Holloway wanted to produce shows where the notion of text was broader than simply what is printed on the page.

Initially Holloway had difficulty in finding work since there was a strong feeling in the 1970s that there was an established career pattern for directors, whereby they started out as assistants in regional theatre and gradually worked their way up the ladder. Jonathan Holloway had spent time at the Royal Court in 1977-78, but left conventional theatre to work as a community artist for two years before establishing the East End Theatre Group with Dave Fox in 1979. Since he didn't have a conventional directing background he needed to forge a working context for himself.

The Red Shift Theatre Company combined traditional narrative and character-based drama with art-house performance, using design, image and spectacle. Holloway made considerable use of text and visual siginfication to provide a broad story-telling vocab, whilst great emphasis was placed on 'cinematic' use of music and design to lift Red Shift productions above most UK small-scale company productions.

Red Shift attempted to make English and European classics accessible and relevant to the concerns of modern audiences by producing radical new versions. New plays were also performed and the Company received acclaim for its ability to create imaginative and inspiring work.. Within a year of its inception Red Shift had its own venue at the Edinburgh Festival. In 1986 Jonathan Holloway's stage version of Dostoyevsky's 'The Double' secured the Company's first Arts Council grant, and in 1989 Germaine Greer presented BBC2's Late Show special on the Company's 'Timon of Athens'.

As a not-for-profit organisation and registered charity undertaking small and middle-scale touring around Britain and across the world the Company sought to bring theatre to broad audiences via use of modest performance spaces in rural communities and inner-city venues not frequented by mainstream theatre-goers. Approximately 175 performances each year were given by the Company to over 25,000 people. Red Shift also invested in the future of British theatre by running workshops for writers and by commissioning new plays.


  • 1987-89 - Edinburgh Fringe Firsts
  • 1990 - Charrington London Fringe Award for Best Music
  • 1990 - Robert Breckmen Award for Best Poster
  • 1993 - London Fringe Award nomination for Best Director
  • 1993 - London Fringe Award for Best Music

Government funding:

The Arts Council of Great Britain awarded the company three-year funding from January 1991. This was renewed from 1994-95 until 1996-97.

Media appearances:

Appeared on the 'Late Show' (BBC2), 'Edinburgh Nights' (BBC2), 'Kaleidoscope' (BBC Radio 4)


The Company has performed in Egypt, Santiago de Chile and Hong Kong.


Arranged into 'Administrative Records', 'Financial Records', 'Directors' personal papers', 'Production records', 'Audio-visual material', 'Promotional material', 'Press-cuttings and reviews', 'Photographs', and 'Miscellaneous'.

Access Information

All records are open subject to the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. All records containing personal information about individuals are subject to the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998.

The archives service is open Wednesday to Friday with seasonal closures. Visits to view records are by prior appointment only. More information can be found on our website

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Jonathan Holloway in February 2008.

Other Finding Aids

The full catalogue for the collection is available through our website:

Archivist's Note

Papers arranged and catalogued by Anna Flood, 2008.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the College Archivist.