Scope and Content

Guildford Theatre: the records consist of a near complete series of production photographs and programmes, 1946-1963.

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre: the records received chiefly constitute the performance archive of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. There is a complete series of programmes, 1965 to present, and an incomplete series of press cuttings albums, production photographs and posters. Of the photographs and posters, only a sample were taken in order to show the range of the theatre's own productions and the diversity of styles in which plays and publicity were produced. Publicity photographs issued by touring companies have not been retained.

The deposit includes some files of correspondence and copy minutes relating to the YAT Board and YAT (Scenery) Ltd, as well as budget proposals for individual productions. There is also a sample selection of the Artistic Directors' production files which document all aspects of production from casting and budgeting, to performance.

A detailed summary of the main series of records is below:


7018/1/ Guildford Theatre Company annual report and statement of accounts 1956

7018/1/ Guildford Repertory Theatre production photographs 1946-1963
Between 1946 and 1953, the photographs are in albums, arranged by production with a copy of the programme. Some of the photographs are now loose within the albums. From 1955 onwards, the photographs were stored in brown paper envelopes. The productions contained in each envelope were written on the exterior. At the time of deposit, some photographs were missing from this sequence. Where possible, photographs found loose at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre have been returned to their correct place in sequence. For conservation reasons, all of the photographs and programmes have been removed from the albums and the brown paper envelopes. One empty album has been retained as an example (-/2A). All of the photographs and programmes are now grouped, where possible, by production and stored in photo-safe packaging. A note has been made of any productions known to be missing. When looking for photographs relating to a specific production, please consult appendixes 1 and 2 to find the relevant year in which it took place.

7018/1/ Guildford Theatre: other photographs 1946-1963

7018/1/ Guildford Theatre: programmes and playlists 1946-1953



7018/2/1/ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Trust, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (Scenery) Ltd and Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Management Ltd: copy minutes and agenda papers 1985-1989

7018/2/1/ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Board: Chairman's correspondence with Arts Council of Great Britain 1967-1982

7018/2/1/ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Board: Chairman's administrative files concerning Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (Scenery) Ltd 1985-1989
For administrative papers of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (Scenery) Ltd, 1989, see 7018/2/6/-.


7018/2/2/ Artistic Director's administrative files: arrangements for Opening Festival 1964-1974

7018/2/2/ Artistic Director's administrative files: Arts Council of Great Britain 1964-1996

7018/2/2/ Artistic Director's administrative files: fundraising appeals 1969-1974

7018/2/2/ Artistic Director's administrative files: the Mill Studio 1986-1989

7018/2/2/ Artistic Director's production files 1964-1995
A separate file was created for each production staged at the Yvonne Arnaud, even if it was an external production. The files usually include budgets, show reports, notes on casting and general correspondence. The following represents a sample of the complete series of production files, selected to represent the range of shows and differing demands of touring, in-house and bought-in productions.

7018/2/2/ Stage plans c.1984-1988

7018/2/2/ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre production budgets and profit & loss accounts 1967-1998
These papers represent a sample of the whole series and were extracted from those of the Artistic Director's production files which had not been retained.

7018/2/2/ Artistic Director's correspondence file: liaison with local schools 1966-1967



7018/2/4/ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre production photographs 1965-1998
This following series represents a sample of the complete set of production photographs chosen to represent the stylistic range and difference in scale of productions over time.

7018/2/4/ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre programmes 1965-1999

7018/2/4/ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre commemorative brochures c.1962-1985

7018/2/4/ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre playlists 1987-1990

7018/2/4/ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre posters c.1965-1999
Random sample arranged in alphabetical order of production. Not a complete set.

7018/2/4/ Press cuttings: Opening Festival and related fundraising events 1965-1974

7018/2/4/ Press cuttings collection: performance reviews 1965-1985

7018/2/4/ Press cuttings collection: general events 1979-1982

7018/2/4/ Scrapbooks of press cuttings, posters and related publicity material 1961-1970
These scrapbooks differ in arrangement and to some extent, in content, to those compiled by the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. It is possible that, given their emphasis on fundraising activities, they were either compiled by the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Trust, or donated to the theatre by a local supporter.

7018/2/4/ Yvonne Arnaud Theatre: Youth Education Department 1998

The Millstream Theatre Company were established in the early 1980s as the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre's small-scale touring company.



7018/3/ The Guildford Repertory Company: programmes 1938-1940
The Guildford Repertory Company Ltd was founded in 1932 by Claud Powell, Principal and Managing Director of the County School of Music and Mrs Dorothy Owen, Co-director of the school. The amateur company performed at St Nicholas Hall, Millmead Terrace, Guildford. It was disbanded in June 1941. For a scrapbook of production records and photographs, 1934-1937, see 5063/1/1; for memorandum and Articles of Association, Claud Powell's records and further scrapbooks, see 1756/3/-; for Curtain Calls, a brochure to commemorate the company's 8th season, 1939, see 1693/1.

7018/3/ Guildford Corporation Concerts: programmes 1953-1967

7018/3/ Bellairs, Buryfields, Guildford [later Guildford School of Acting, Drama and Dance Education]: prospectus and report 1970-1975

7018/3/ Visiting companies: programmes 1952-1979

Administrative / Biographical History

Guildford Theatre Company, 1946-1963

Patrick Henderson and his brother Roger Winton [Roy Henderson] established the Guildford Repertory Theatre Company in May 1946, although within a year, the company had become known as the Guildford Theatre Company (hereafter GTC). The company leased the former Borough Hall and Assizes Court in North Street from the Guildford and District Co-operative Society as their theatre. Henderson was appointed as General Manager and Winton as Director of Productions.

Refused a stage play licence by Surrey County Council owing to its small size and structure, the theatre operated as a private club. It is clear however, from the newsletters issued as part of the theatre programmes, that some rebuilding work was undertaken during the next decade in order to add a lounge bar and improve the theatre facilities.

Whilst the brothers provided the initial capital to finance the project, the Theatre Club ran as a non-profit making distributing trust. Administrative costs were covered by box office receipts and membership subscriptions. In July 1946, two months after the launch of Guildford Theatre Club, Henderson reported to the committee of management a membership of 5,575.

The Theatre Club was supported by the Playgoers' Society, who held their inaugural meeting at Guildford Theatre on 23 Nov 1946. The aims of the society were to create interest in theatre by arranging concerts, lectures, debates and play readings and their events were advertised regularly in the theatre programmes.

GTC operated a weekly repertory programme with the Christmas pantomime, always the most well attended production, usually running for three weeks. Between 1946 and 1948, GTC alternated theatre once a fortnight with the Amersham Repertory Players (established c.1928) in order to 'raise the general standard of work by allowing more time for each production'. Guildford Theatre was the first to apply this model which was copied five years later by the Leatherhead Theatre Club who, during the early years, alternated with the Marlowe Players of Canterbury. In July 1947, Guildford Theatre became a member of the Conference of Repertory Theatres. Between 1956 and 1960, the Salisbury Arts Theatre Players also provided at least one guest production a year.

The theatre programmes incorporate a regular newsletter from the theatre management, as well as including information about forthcoming productions, lectures or broadcasts, biographical notes, the progress of former members of the repertory company, and the New Theatre appeal. They also include details of forthcoming events organized by the Playgoers' Society; and of concerts given by the Guildford Choral Society and Guildford Symphony Orchestra. (For a complete set of programmes, see 5063/2/-).

Henderson died unexpectedly in the autumn of 1952 and Winton continued to manage the theatre alone until Bryan Bailey was appointed as General Manager in 1953. (For an obituary of Henderson by Winton see the programme for French Without Tears, 27 Oct-3 Nov 1952).

The theatre's audience declined during the 1950s with the advent of television but survived with the aid of grants from the Arts Council of Great Britain. As well as continuing to produce audience favourites by Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward and Agatha Christie, Bailey widened the repertoire to include challenging new works by playwrights such as Arthur Miller, Eugene Ionesco, Peter Schaffer and Sean O'Casey. In July 1956, GTC staged the first repertory production of Samuel Becket's Waiting For Godot, a year after its London premiere. Bailey wrote in the next programme:

'We were naturally gratified by the excellent attendances ... the best for a great many weeks...Exactly 72 people left during intervals or during the second act of the play … only 2 of these were moved to real anger or annoyance at the play. These two people, after their initial outburst, returned … and engaged the producer in a long discussion about the play. They then asked the way to the nearest Saloon Bar to which, with infinite tact, they were directed.'

Bailey left in January 1958 to take up the post of Theatre Manager at the newly established Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. He was succeeded as Manager by Eric Longworth who remained in post until the theatre closed in 1963. Bailey died shortly after moving to Coventry and, in April 1961, Guildford Theatre hosted a concert in support of the Bryan Bailey Memorial Fund, part of the proceeds from which were put towards Guildford's New Theatre Fund (for a programme, see 6583/3/7).

The repertory company had a core of permanent professional actors who were supplemented on an ad hoc basis by guest-artists such as Edward Woodward, Patricia Routledge, Patsy Byrne and Dennis Quilley. Both Peter Sallis and Wilfred Bramble appeared in pantomime during the 1950s; and the Pakistani director and actor, Zia Mohyeddin, directed a production of Hay Fever in 1959.

In 1957, Woodward returned to co-star in a production of RC Sherriff's play, The Telescope, with Frank Finlay and Melvyn Hayes. The production, part of Guildford's Repertory Festival, was broadcast on BBC television in Nov 1957. In the same year, while touring in the GTC production of The Queen & The Welshman, which was presented at the Edinburgh Festival, Woodward was invited to join Laurence Olivier's new National Theatre Company at the Old Vic Theatre, London.

Guildford Theatre burnt down on 24th April 1963, during a production of Kill Two Birds. Fortunately, the company only lost a small portion of their final season as the lease on the theatre was due to expire in October of that year. A memorial concert, Out of the Ashes, was held on 28 April 1963 to raise money for the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Fund (for a programme, see 6609/1/32). The publicity arising from the destruction of the theatre encouraged fund raising for the new Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, which eventually opened two years later in June 1965.

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, 1965 to present

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Trust was established in 1961 in response to local demand for the construction of a larger theatre which was to be named after the French artiste, Yvonne Arnaud (1892-1958), a former concert pianist who made her debut as an actress on the English stage in 1912. A long-time Guildford resident, she had been a supporter of the local arts scene and was a Director of the GTC from its incorporation in 1946 until her sudden death in 1958.

The Trust's patrons included Dame Sybil Thorndike, Sir Michael Redgrave and his daughter, Vanessa. Its initial aim was to raise money for Guildford's new theatre. After a high profile fundraising campaign the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre opened on 2 June 1965 with a Gala performance of A Month In The Country starring Michael Redgrave and Ingrid Bergman. The actor, Dirk Bogarde, opened the evening with a prologue specially commissioned from the playwright, Christopher Fry.

The internal administration and financial management of the theatre is vested in the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Board of Directors (YAT Board). From its inception, the YAT Board has received regular grants and awards from the Arts Council of Great Britain and Guildford Borough Council, and from the mid 1970s onwards, from South East Arts. The Trust continues to function as a fund and profile raising body on the Board's behalf.

Since its foundation, the Yvonne Arnaud has operated as a producing theatre and, until the mid 1980s, nearly all of its output was produced internally. Under the first Artistic Director, Laurier Lister (in post 1964-1974), plays were usually produced on a fortnightly basis, the annual Christmas pantomimes enjoying a longer run.

In 1974, Lister was succeeded as Artistic Director by Val May who strove to counter financial pressures by increasing the number of works received from touring companies or produced in partnership with West End management. During his tenure of the post, 27 productions were transferred to the West End. May also founded the Millstream Theatre Company in the early 1980s to generate further revenue. Composed of a small number of actors, the company toured studio theatres with a number of small-scale productions per season.

In 1985, as a further move to ease the financial situation, the YAT Board incorporated the theatre workshops as a separate company, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (Scenery) Ltd. In addition to creating sets for the Yvonne Arnaud's stage the company regularly builds for Glyndebourne Opera House, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Chichester Festival Theatre and most of the country's leading commercial companies.

Under the directorship of James Barber, who took over the post in 1984, the number of touring and pre-West End transfer productions received by the Yvonne Arnaud has increased, although the theatre continues to produce its own shows. In 1993, part of the 18th century Town Mill, beside the theatre, was converted to provide a studio theatre and office and storage space and base for the Youth Theatre's activities. Named the Mill Studio, the building's facilities were further enhanced by the receipt of a grant from the National Lottery in 1997.

According to the theatre's publicity material produced in 2001, the Yvonne Arnaud offers 'an eclectic mix of classical and contemporary work … staged by new, lesser-known and established writers. Ballet, opera and children's events are also staged, alongside music, comedy, contemporary dance and more experimental theatre in the Mill Studio. An annual pantomime, art exhibition and film season feature and the Youth and Education facility offers an exciting mix of activities for young people and adults all year round.'

Access Information

There are no restrictions on access to the programmes, posters and photographs. Requests for copies of Yvonne Arnaud Theatre production photographs must be referred to the Publicity Department of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. All unpublished material is closed to public access for 30 years from the last date on file.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the Funding Executive of Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, in July 2001.

Other Finding Aids

An item level description of the archive is available on the Surrey History Centre online catalogue

Related Material

Guildford Theatre: for minutes of the Guildford Repertory Theatre Company Board of Directors, administrative and financial records, theatre programmes and publicity material, 1946-1963, see 5063/2/-; for scripts of Christmas shows, 1949-1960, some (duplicate) programmes and newscuttings, 1946-1963, see 6853/3/-; for (duplicate) programmes, 1951-1956, see 1640/-, 4562/2/1-3 & 5010/1-2; for scrapbooks of programmes and news cuttings, 1951-1963, see 6609/1/-. For glass negatives of theatre productions, 1950s, see 9504.

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre: for exhibition material relating to the construction of and fundraising appeal for the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, c.1962-1965, see 4580/-; for papers concerning Founder membership of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Trust and Fund Raising Committee, 1962-1969, see 1639/-and 6853/4/-; for (duplicate) programmes, 1967-1969, see 5180/2/-. For minutes of the Trust and Board of Directors, 1961-1983, see 7432. For additional papers relating to the building of the theatre and performances, 1960s-c.1970, see 9559.


Guildford Theatre: The First Two Years, Patrick Henderson (Guildford, 1948);
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Opening Festival (Guildford, 1965);
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre: The First Five Years (Guildford, 1970);
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre: 1965-1975 (Guildford, 1975);
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre: Twentieth Anniversary Souvenir (Guildford, 1985);
Guildford; A Biography, RE Chamberlin, (London, 1970)