See the 1960s Royal Shakespeare Company, now at the Folger!

Want to see Patrick Stewart in his mid-20s? How about photos of set design models for Peter Hall’s 1959 Coriolanus, starring Laurence Olivier? Come see the Folger’s newly acquired Gordon Goode Collection of Royal Shakespeare Company photographs.

Two x x 10 glossy photographs

Left: Ian Holm and Estelle Kohler in rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet, 1967. Right: Dorothy Tutin (Rosalind), Patrick Stewart (Duke Senior), John Kane? (Silvius), Michael Williams (Orlando), and ?, in rehearsal for As You Like It, 1967.

Gordon Goode (1931–2008) ran a freelance photography studio in Stratford-upon-Avon between 1958 and 1968, the decade that coincided with the formative years of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Frequently called upon to photograph rehearsals and performances, Goode left behind an archive of approximately 15,000 negatives, plus programs and other publicity material, documenting a significant period in modern Shakespeare performance.

Row of binders, two 8 x 10 glossies, stacks of notebooks and programs.

Overview of the Gordon Goode Collection

The collection includes the work of a number of influential directors at the starts of their careers, including Peter Hall, John Barton, Trevor Nunn and Terry Hands. Others were already famous, like Peter Brook. Photos include Brook’s production of King Lear (1962), starring Paul Scofield (later made into a film); Peter Hall’s Hamlet (1965), starring David Warner; and Trevor Nunn’s revival of The Revenger’s Tragedy (1966), one of the first modern productions of the play.

Contact sheet of 9 negatives

Peter Brook’s King Lear, 1962. Shots 9 to 12: Diana Rigg (Cordelia), Irene Worth (Goneril), and Patience Collier (Regan). Shots 7 & 8: Brian Murry (Edgar) and James Booth (Edmund). Shots 194 to 196: Irene Worth (Goneril), Tom Fleming (Kent), Paul Scofield (King Lear), Patience Collier (Regan), Tony Church (Cornwall).

In addition to photographs of actors on stage and in the rehearsal room, the collection includes character studies and informal portraits of Peter O’Toole, Judi Dench, Eric Porter, Paul Scofield, Janet Suzman, Michael Jayston, Estelle Kohler, Christopher Plummer, Peter Brook, Guy Wolfenden, John Barton, and Peggy Ashcroft. Gordon Goode also photographed costume designs, draft cover designs for programs, and set design models so that they could be sent to London, for approval by members of the company not on-site in Stratford. Photographs include the set design models for All’s Well That Ends Well (1958), Coriolanus (1959), The Taming of the Shrew (1960), Troilus and Cressida (1960), Cymbeline (1962), and Macbeth (1962).

Contact sheet: 8 negatives in 2 strips

Peter Brook’s King Lear, 1962: Top row: Edgar Brian Murry (Edgar, disguised as Poor Tom) and Alan Webb (Gloucester). Bottom row: Paul Scofield (King Lear)

It was Goode’s wish that, after his death, the collection be sold to benefit his widow, Margaret. Accordingly, she carefully organized and described the material in preparation for sale. This past November, the Folger purchased the collection and copyright to all the images in it. A few of the photos are available as prints and contact sheets (like the ones shown here), but the vast majority are film negatives, making them difficult to use at the moment. We hope to make digital contact sheets available relatively quickly. In the meantime, researchers are welcome to put the negatives on a light sheet, snap a digital photo themselves, and reverse the darks-and-lights on their own computer.

Author: Erin Blake

ERIN BLAKE is Head of Collection Information Services at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Previously (from March 2000 through March 2014) she was the Folger's Curator of Art & Special Collections. Erin teaches History of Printed Book Illustration in the West at Rare Book School, and is chief editor of Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Graphics).

2 Comments

  1. These photos bring back a lot of happy memories but I think you’ll find that Patrick Stewart was playing Duke Senior in 1967. He didn’t take over the part of Touchstone until the revival in 1968 with Janet Suzman as Rosalind. In 1967 Touchstone was played by Roy Kinnear. It might have seemed unlikely casting but he was superb. Also, I’m not sure why Trevor Nunn should have been involved as the production was directed by David Jones.

    • You’re absolutely right! Thanks for catching that. As for Trevor Nunn, I don’t know how his name crept into the caption (the print itself is only labeled “As You Like It Rehearsal, 1967″). That being said, I don’t recognize the man on the right, in the flat cap. Any ideas out there?

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