Tricycle Theatre Company Archive

Scope and Content

The archive includes records relating to company history and management, education, production management and press and publicity management. It also includes photographs, posters and audio-visual material.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Tricycle Theatre opened on the Kilburn High Road, London in 1980 as the permanent home of the Wakefield Tricycle Company, a touring theatre company that was known for producing British premieres, new writing, children's shows and theatre for the community in London and the South East. Starting out in 1972 performing to lunchtime audiences in the back room above the Pindar of Wakefield pub in Kings Cross, they swiftly developed into a touring company, performing at theatres such as the King's Head and the Bush. Led by artistic director Kenneth Chubb, they produced over 60 productions, including several plays by Sam Shepard and John Antrobus, and they also commissioned and produced Olwen Wymark's Loved, which was staged at the Bush. In addition, they produced a number of plays in community venues, including A Roof Over Your Head, a play examining social housing policy, Some Animals Are More Equal, a comedy sketch revue, and several children's plays, some of which were written by WTC co-founder Shirley Barrie.

After securing the support of the London Borough of Brent, the GLA and the Arts Council, the company began work converting an old music and dance Forester's Hall on the Kilburn High Road into what is now known as the Tricycle Theatre, opting for this space due to the lack of local entertainment facilities for the residents of Kilburn at the time. The 230 seat auditorium, designed by architect Tim Foster and theatre consultant Iain Mackintosh, resembled a courtyard and was built using free-standing builders scaffolding that supported padded benches rather than individual seats, which resulted in an innovative, intimate and unique theatre space. In 1987 the theatre suffered a devastating fire that spread from a neighbouring timber yard and which gutted the auditorium, however, after extensive fundraising, the theatre was rebuilt and reopened in 1989, with only minor alterations. The theatre also houses an art gallery a cafe and bar, a large rehearsal studio funded by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, the James Baldwin Studio - a small theatre and workshop space, The Paint Box - a visual arts studio endowed by the John S Cohen Foundation, a 300 seat cinema which was added to the complex in 1998, and a Creative Space which was built in 2001 for the theatre's education and community work.

Since the theatre opened its doors, its mission has been to produce work that attracts and reflects the culturally diverse communities in the local area, including its Irish, African-Caribbean, Asian, Jewish and South African audiences. In 1984, founders Kenneth Chubb and Shirley Barrie departed the company and Chubb was replaced by Nicolas Kent as Artistic Director, who had previously brought a successful production of Playboy of the West Indies by Mustapha Matura, to the theatre with the Oxford Theatre Company. Under Kent, the theatre's reputation, particularly in the areas of Black, Asian and Irish theatre, continued to grow. The theatre has presented world premieres of plays by Mustapha Matura, Brian Behan, Gary Mitchell, Harold Pinter and Athol Fugard, and British premieres of plays by August Wilson and Howard Sackler.

The theatre has proved a popular venue for a diverse range of visiting theatre companies from Foco Novo, The Black Theatre Co-operative, The National Theatre of Brent, The Woman's Theatre Group, The Market Theatre of Johannesburg and Carib Theatre Company in the 1980s and early 1990s, to Red Kettle, the Birmingham Rep, Pigsback, Field Day, Talawa, Dubblejoint, Druid, Shared Experience and the RSC from the 1990s to the present.

In the 1990s the Tricycle became known for its pioneering "Tribunal" plays, dramatisations of edited inquiry transcripts. The first of these, Half the Picture, edited by Guardian journalist Richard Norton-Taylor, with additional material written by John McGrath, and which dramatised the Scott Arms to Iraq Inquiry, went on to become the first play to be performed in the House of Commons. The form has since been used to address the issues raised in other real-life tribunals, including the Saville inquiry into the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry/Londonderry in 1972 and the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry in The Colour of Justice (both edited by Richard Norton-Taylor), and Srebrenica, by Nicolas Kent. In 2007 the theatre presented Norton-Tayor's Called to Account, a mock-trial of Prime Minister Tony Blair for crimes of aggression against Iraq. Gillian Slovo and Victoria Brittain also used a variation of the form for their Guantanamo in 2004, which transferred to the West End, the House of Commons and to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Many of the tribunal plays have also been adapted for television and radio broadcast. In 2006 the theatre was awarded an Evening Standard Special Drama Award for "pioneering political work", and a Laurence Olivier Award for "outstanding achievement" for Bloody Sunday.

Access Information

This collection is available for consultation in the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance's reading room, which is located at Blythe House, 23 Blythe Road, Olympia, London, W14 0QX. The reading room is open Tuesday to Friday between 10.15 am and 4.30 pm. Access to it is by appointment only. To request an appointment please email or telephone 020 7942 2698.

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

Acquisition Information

Tricycle Theatre Company, gift, 2006.

Accruals received in 2013 and 2016.

Separated Material

Production programmes and leaflets have been removed from the archive, and integrated within the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance's core collections production files. Depending on the date of the production this may either be held under Tricycle Theatre, or in the Wakefield Tricycle Company file for productions prior to the opening of the theatre.

Conditions Governing Use

Archival material may not be photocopied. Arrangements can be made to photograph material in the reading room using non-flash photography.

Appraisal Information

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


Further accruals are likely.

Related Material

See also Theatre Museum Core Collections: material relating to Tricycle may be found in several collections, including Theatre Museum production files, company files, theatre buildings files, biographical files for related persons, and photographs. Please ask for details.