Ref NoPC
TitleThe Playwright's Company Archive
DescriptionArchive of The Playwright's Company founded in Bristol in 1978, including minutes, newletters, news cuttings and printed ephemera.
Date1978 - 1996
AdminHistoryThe Playwrights’ Company (1978 - 1993) was founded in 1978 by ACH Smith who, having seen his two colleagues, Tom Stoppard and Peter Nicholls escape to London in the sixties, was hoping to nurture a new generation of local writers who might find an outlet for their work and choose to remain. A Council of Management was duly elected; a director, John Downey and part-time administrator, Liz Keys appointed. As usual a lot of work went into securing a start-up grant from SWA and support from interested parties like HTV. Initially, readings of new work were fairly ad-hoc; any writer could submit a script for consideration; a reading would be organised, cast from a pool of local professional actors ready to meet the challenge of new work. After some try-outs of revue material in various venues, in 1981 a full production was mounted at 35 King Street: Out to Lunch - a topical, satirical ‘living newspaper’. Directed by Paul Unwin, the talented cast included recent BOVTS graduates Alex Jennings and Tim Bentink, working closely with a team of four writers.

A link with Arnolfini led to that gallery kindly allowing monthly use of one of their rooms. Council met bi-monthly to select scripts; casts met up for a rehearsal in order to do justice to the script -in-hand performance—a commitment much appreciated considering their modest (£5) expenses. In the same year, 1982, a Women Live! Festival was inaugurated to celebrate women’s work nationwide. A group from the parent company formed themselves into Women In Theatre (WIT) West and a season was celebrated in the summer at various venues around the city, including the Hippodrome Bar. Sheila Yeger’s People for Dinner, Angie Farrow’s Lost Property, Susan Carlton’s Linda’s earned high praise in the local and national press.

In 1985 the PWC was invited by Gill Adams of Made in Wales to participate in their Write On! Festival in the Sherman studio in Cardiff. Sheila Hannon and Nick Thomas were selected to appear together in their play Double Vision which they subsequently toured under their own umbrella (later known as Show of Strength). In the same year a popular nautical venue, the Thekla, was found for a new topical revue, Hair of the Dog. This came to the notice of HTV who gave the show some air time; the Company was then invited to London for an early morning slot on BBC One. The following year funding was secured for a lunchtime season at Arnolfini. Three scripts were chosen also a selection of members’ work for what was now an ever popular House revue: each production played for a week; there were some stunning performances from Ingrid Hafner and Jill Brassington among others in plays by Mick Martin and Roy Bartley. David Foot wrote in the Guardian: ‘The Cuddy Trap is a notable advertisement for the emergent writing this persevering company is encouraging...The PWC will end their season out of pocket but not short of deserved praise.’

Marion Reed
Vice Chair, Playwrights’ Company,
ArrangementFully catalogued by function
Related MaterialACH Smith Archive; Show of Strength Archive;
Extent1 box
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