Cheek by Jowl, theatre company: records

Scope and Content

This archive consists of papers relating to the administrative and creative work of Cheek by Jowl.

Administrative / Biographical History

Cheek by Jowl was formed by director Declan Donnellan and designer Nick Ormerod in 1981 with a manifesto to "re-examine classical texts, avoiding directorial and design concepts, and to focus on the actor's art". The company name alludes to a line from A Midsummer Night's Dream and was chosen to convey the aspiration for an intimacy between the actors, the audience and the text.

Beginning as a small touring company, Cheek by Jowl built an international reputation for innovative productions of Shakespeare, Restoration comedies and lesser known European classics as well as new writing (including the premiere of Donnellan's own play Lady Betty ). In 1998 Ormerod, Donnellan and the company took a sabbatical to work on other projects, returning in 2001 with the British premiere of Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul . A relationship grew between Cheek by Jowl and the Russian company Maly Drama Theatre in 1986. Since then they have continuously performed alongside each other at international theatre festivals and in 1999 Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod formed their own company of Russian Actors in Moscow.

The main aim of the Company is to re-examine classical texts, focusing on the actor above directorial or design concepts. Their second aim is to focus on Shakespeare and classical European texts, rejuvenating them for a new audience.


These records have been arranged chronologically (in the case of venue contracts, alphabetically) in the following series:

  • Company History and Correspondence
  • Production and Tour Management records
  • Literary records
  • Marketing records
  • Costume Designs
  • Photographs
  • Funding and Sponsorship records
  • Staff and Venue Contracts
  • Audio-Visual material

Access Information

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: .

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Cheek by Jowl Theatre Company: 1999, 2015, 2017.

Separated Material

Prompt scripts have been removed to the V&A Department of Theatre & Performance Library.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here: .

Custodial History

This material came to the V&A Department of Theatre & Performance from the company in 1999. Further material was accrued by the department from the company in 2015 and 2017.


Further accruals of further Cheek by Jowl Theatre Company records are expected.

Related Material

See also V&A Department of Theatre & Performance Core Collections: material relating to Cheek by Jowl may be found in several collections, including Theatre Collections production files, company files, biographical files for related persons, photographs and the National Video Archive of Performance Recordings. Please ask for details.


Delgado, Maria and Heritage, Paul (eds), In Contact with the Gods? Directors Talk Theatre , Manchester University Press, 1996.

Donnellan, Declan, The Actor and the Target , Nick Hern Books, 2002.

Irvin, Polly, Directing the Stage , Roto Vision, 2003.

Luckhurst, Mary and Giannachi, Gabriella (eds), On Directing , Faber, 1999.

Reade, Simon, Cheek by Jowl. Ten Years of Celebration , Absolute Classics, 1991.