In last week's blog - A Grimey Affair - mention was made about how, following the departure of its two resident companies during the 1960s, Sadler’s Wells became a venue for international and UK based companies wanting to launch their careers. In fact, the archive's largest series relates to these visiting performers and is, therefore, worthy of a dedicated blog post.
Over the past 18-months it's been quite a herculean task to separate, sort and catalogue these visiting companies production files. This particular job is almost completed and so far over 300 files featuring productions performed at Sadler's Wells, and covering four decades (late-1950s to the 1980s), have been catalogued and indexed.
Many companies and their productions have become part of theatre history at Sadler's Wells, whereas others were local or amateur affairs but not without merit. Productions files include shows by Marcel Marceau, the Finnish National Opera, the Iraqi National Dance Company, Moscow Arts Theatre and the National Dance Theatre of Jamaica, as well as performances by Lindsay Kemp and the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. The files are of potential interest to those studying or possessing an interest in theatre management and its history.
A wide range of material reveals a complex 'behind-the-scenes' process from initial contact between theatre and company to post-performance analysis. Information includes correspondence, seating numbers, press releases and cuttings, publicity, and performer and company agreements. These all combine to produce a fascinating insight into what the audience doesn't see with regard to administrative preparation for a performance. Also held are files relating to productions that ended up as 'nearlies' - those that didn't quite reach the stage.
My personal favourites amongst the visiting production files are the national folk music and dance companies from the Far-East performing at the Wells during this period, in many cases bringing their country's culture to these shores for the very first time and often amidst a backdrop of political tension at home.
Below is just a few examples of items from the production files:
1. Letter of thanks from the Mayor of Islington to Sadler's Wells following a premiere (1969)
2. Flyer for Kalakshetra [Indian Dance Theatre]. The production was cancelled at the last moment (1971)
3. Press cutting anticipating the performance of Kalakshetra [Indian Dance Theatre] (1971)
4. Announcement that following cancellation of Kalakshetra, Cliff Richard is to make his stage debut at Sadler's Wells in Graham Greene's The Potting Shed.