On her work experience placement with us, Morag Gillespie took a look back through the archives of Nottingham Playhouse show programmes. Here’s what she found….
When Nottingham Playhouse first opened in 1948, the programmes cost threepence and featured just details of the production, a couple of advertisements and information about upcoming productions. When the theatre staged Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit last September the programme had developed into a 36 page document. It still featured adverts and future productions but now these features were in bright colour, and pictures were included. There were biographies of cast and crew (including the playwright), rehearsal photographs, a history of the play and so much more. The Playhouse programme has undergone a series of changes in the past 60 years to become what it is today.
By 1952, the programme had become more colourful, but essentially retained its existing format, and it remained this way until the end of the decade. The price of a programme had increased to sixpence by the start of the 1960s. By this time it had become more of a booklet. It featured a little colour on the inside along with some black and white pictures, and the number of adverts had greatly increased!
When the current building opened in 1963, the programme for Coriolanus (the first production) had assumed a brand new format. For the first time, detailed actor biographies were included, and so were notes on the production and a history of the Playhouse. At times during the following few years, the programmes began to deviate from having such a regimented structure and layout, leading to more and more creative publications, as seen in ’Owd yer tight and Brassneck.
By the end of the 1970s, programmes were becoming more extravagant. Full pages were occupied by photographs and large colour images were becoming a regular feature. The cover often featured actor photographs as well, as seen on the programme for Antonio with Alan Rickman.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of its new building, Nottingham Playhouse presented a series of celebratory productions. The programmes were now much longer and far more recognisable as the kind of programme we see today. The last 20 years have witnessed a continuing progression in the publication of programmes, becoming bigger, brighter and more adventurous developing into what we know today as a theatre programme.