Thank you for visiting the Unfinished Histories web site. This web site has been constructed to give information on our interviews and their content, advising as to where they can be viewed in full, and information on the alternative theatre movement in general – its companies, venues, individuals, organisations and events. When referring to people, companies, venues and their work, we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible with accreditations. We apologise for any inaccuracies and encourage you to contact us so that we can make corrections and additions where necessary. The website is still in its early stages and will be added to more comprehensively over the ensuing years.If you are interested in the work we are doing and would like to assist in speeding up its progress through practical or financial help please refer to Contributing to the Site, Donations or Volunteering for further information.
We send a big thank you to those who have most generously contributed their memories, material and time to Unfinished Histories and the creation of the website thus far.
Enjoy the rest of your viewing!
Susan Croft and Jessica Higgs
Heritage Lottery Fund success!
We have been successful in an application made to the Heritage Lottery Fund to begin developing the Companies list on our web site and mount a related touring exhibition. The project, now underway, focuses on the London boroughs of Lambeth and Camden, the site of so much innovative theatre work in the 1960s to 1980s, developed through venues like Oval House in Lambeth and the Arts Lab, Drury Lane, Action Space Drill Hall, Open Space and Roundhouse in Camden. The boroughs were also the home of many pioneering arts projects and companies from the Brixton Faeries, Lumiere and Son and Black Theatre of Brixton in the South of the city, to Spare Tyre, Recreation Ground, and Inter-Action and its many offshoots in the North. Oval House in particular also became the London venue for numerous companies touring from elsewhere in Britain including Avon Touring, Forkbeard Fantasy, Kaboodle, Natural Theatre and Yorkshire Theatre Company. This year is Oval House’s 50th anniversary year and it will be the venue for the opening of the exhibition in November, where we will also launch the new web pages. The exhibition will then, in 2014, go to Kentish Town Community Centre and Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre – and perhaps beyond.
How to Get involved
The project will be achieved through the work of two groups:
While this project has now appointed its full team of volunteers Unfinished Histories is always pleased to hear from those interested in participating and supporting the work, so please do get in touch.
Originators is the name we are using for founders or early members of theatre companies. Each Volunteer will be teamed with a series of individual Originators to gather and compile detailed information on their Company, its work and work processes. They will also draw together archive material, posters, photos, scripts etc, digitising selected items for the web site, borrowing other items for exhibition display.
If you were active in a company that performed or was based in Lambeth or Camden from 1968 to 1988 and would like to see a web page recording the work, please link here for further details. Examples of existing pages are to be found at
Foco Novo and Les Oeufs Malades. We are also keen that the exhibition examines the theatre work in the context of the culture and society from which it emerged and which helped support it in the two boroughs such as housing co-ops, squats and communes, food co-ops, print collectives and would be interested in hearing from those who have knowledge of these. See volunteering.
Please pass information on to anyone else who might be interested.
Franca Rama. Franca Rama, Italian performer, playwright and activist, wife of Dario Fo died of May 29th, 2013. Please see her Guardian obituary for more details.
Theatre Centre – amazingly this key Theatre-in-Education company are celebrating their 60th anniversary. For more details on the year’s activities see:
Re-creating the Fun Art Bus
ED Berman, Professor, MBE and founder of the legendary Inter-Action recreated a new Fun Art Bus in 2012, 40 years after the original bus was launched in 1972. It made its first outings to Kentish Town Community Centre and Cody Dock, Canning Town, E16 last year. Click here for further details and plans for 2013.
View our recent video, an Omnibus, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original Fun Art Bus with material drawn from our interviews and existing photos (courtesy of ED Berman and Inter-Action):
New Interviewee web pages have recently gone up for:
Michael Almaz (Artaud Company, Cafe Theatre)
Ros Asquith (Inter-Action, City Limits)
ED Berman (Inter-Action)
Sarah Evans (Theatrescope)
Julie Holledge (Broadside Mobile Workers’ Theatre, Women’s Theatre Group, Mrs Worthington’s Daughters)
Annabel Leventon (La MaMa, Freehold)
Libby Mason (Red Ladder, Theatre Centre)
Mary Moore (designer – Women’s Theatre Group, Mrs Worthington’s Daughters, Low Moan Spectacular)
Beth Porter (Wherehouse La MaMa)
Gavin Richards (Ken Campbell Roadshow, Belt and Braces)
Jan Dungey (Cunning Stunts)
Patrick Barlow (Inter-Action, National Theatre of Brent)
Jane Boston, Tasha Fairbanks, Deb Trethewey, Jude Winter (Siren Theatre Company)
The Palatine Project
Unfinished Histories in conjunction with University of Sheffield received funding from Palatine to begin to create a learning resource on alternative theatre: n online index, with selected full text versions, of articles, books, chapters, reviews etc on the alternative theatre movement in the 1960s to 80s. This project is currently in progress. For more information or if you would like to contribute go to: Palatine project.
Jenny Harris (1944 – 2012)
Jenny Harris died on 6th November, 2012. Jenny was a co-founder of The Brighton Combination in the late 1960s with Noel Greig and Ruth Marks. When the company moved to London and the Albany, Jenny eventually became the Director of what was known as the Albany Empire. In the early 1990’s she was appointed Producer and Director of Education and Training at the National Theatre. Please see Jenny Harris’ own website for information on her life and work, www.jennyharris.org
Michael Almaz (d 2012)
Michael Almaz died on Tuesday, 16th October, 2012. Michael was one of our interviewees, Michael Almaz, and was already struggling with his health when we met him in 2010. An influential writer and director he will be best remembered for his work at the London Cafe Theatre, Leicester Square where he presented amongst other pieces, Intimacy based on a story by Satre which became the Fringe’s longest running play, The Artaud Theatre Company and The Rasputin Play produced by the Brighton Combination.
Peter Shorey (1949 – 2011)
Peter Shorey died on December 7th, 2011. Peter was very active in alternative theatre in the 1970s and early 1980s working with Cleveland Theatre Company, Avon Touring and Gay Sweatshop amongst others. He had an extensive and varied acting career working in Rep up and down the country, and more recently, seasons with the RSC, and Shakespeare’s Globe in London and on tour in the States. Peter was much loved for his appearances as Pantomime Dame, writing scripts for the pantos he appeared in at Colchester and Northampton.
Sheila Allen (1932-2011)
Sheila Allen died on 11th October, 2011. Sheila was one of our first interviewees and we greatly treasure the memories she shared with us of her life and career, in particular those relating to her work on Jane Arden’s groundbreaking play Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven, first produced in 1969 at the Drury Lane Arts Lab alongside Victor Spinetti, directed by Jack Bond. In 2009 Unfinished Histories arranged a reading of the play, directed by Jessica Higgs, which was attended by Sheila, Victor and Jack. The second half of the event was a live interview with them chaired by Susan Croft. A recording of this was made by the British Library Sound Archive and is available for viewing. Please click here to link to Sheila’s Unfinished Histories web page, and look at Past Events for further information on Jane Arden and Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven. For obituary by Michael Billington in The Guardian click here.
Photo: Susan Croft
Sheila Allen and Victor Spinetti at the 40th anniversary reading of Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven.
Victor Spinetti sadly died on the 18th June, 2012. Obituary: www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/jun/19/victor-spinetti
Dorothy Heathcote (1926-2011)
Heathcote was an enormously important individual through both her practice and her writings on the development of drama-in-education and improvisation and on the growth of the Theatre-in-Education movement in the 1960s and 70s in Britain. An inspirational teacher both of teachers and of students her work in the classroom developed concepts such a the ‘Mantle of the Expert’ where children, asked to take on the role of expert in classroom improvisations, stepped into the role, demonstrating new capacities for decision-making and responsibility. Through her writing –Drama as Context (1980), Collected Writings 1984 and that of others with her (Gavin Bolton) and about her, and her practice, her work became hugely influential around the world from Soweto to Japan to New Zealand.For Guardian obituary see here or National Drama here
To search for obituaries and information on deceased alternative theatre practitioners please go to our Individuals Page.