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.
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.
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.
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).
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.