V&A app showcases theatre photo archive

by -

Images of famous 20th century British theatre productions that were captured by photographer Douglas H Jeffery have been revealed in a new collection available to view at the V&A museum.

Both official photocall shots and rehearsal scenes from shows such as Peter Brook’s 1970 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Royal Shakespeare Company now feature within the museum’s archive.

Following Jeffery’s death in 2009, the V&A has acquired his whole collection of theatre photography, dating back to the 1950s and comprising more than 100,000 images from around 30,000 productions.

A selection of his photographs has also been included in a newly-launched app that aims to examine the history of theatre in Britain from 1945 to 2010.

The app, called Played in Britain: Modern Theatre in 100 Plays, comprises a chronological collection of photographs of 100 plays, each with an accompanying essay summarising its plot, impact and legacy.

Narrated by actor Simon Callow and with commentary from theatre critic Michael Billington, the app focuses on plays first performed in Britain, but also features a small number of works performed outside the country, such as Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge.

It is available for free in the museum’s theatre and performance galleries and its study room at Blythe House, and can also be downloaded for £7.99 from the iTunes app store for use with an iPad.

Kate Dorney, curator of modern and contemporary theatre at the V&A, said: “Douglas H Jeffery was a pioneer of modern theatre photography and, having indicated that his archive should come to the V&A’s theatre and performance collection, we are delighted his intention has been honoured.

“We consider the app offers the most effective way of showcasing this unique record of British post-war theatre to make available the collection in an interactive and intelligent way to as wide an audience as possible.”