Following his retirement, Lloyd Newson, Artistic Director of DV8 Physical Theatre, took the decision to donate the company’s archive to the University of Bristol Theatre Collection. This blog post will give you an idea of who the company were, the contents of the archive, and the process by which we went about ensuring that this collection will be maintained safely and intelligibly for anyone who wishes to view it in the future.
DV8 Physical Theatre (London, United Kingdom) was officially founded in 1986 by Lloyd Newson (1986-2015), Michelle Richecoeur (1986-88) and Nigel Charnock (1986-1989, 1992). Newson led the company as choreographer and artistic director since its inception, apart from My Sex, Our Dance (1986), which was co-created and performed with Charnock.
Newson, Charnock and Richecoeur had become disillusioned with what they saw as the preoccupations of most contemporary dance, considering it disconnected from the real world. The term ‘Physical Theatre’ was chosen due to the looser restrictions that come with that description, allowing them to incorporate whatever they felt necessary to say what they wanted to say. This included, but was not limited to film, dance, circus skills and text. DV8’s work sought to take risks, aesthetically and physically, and, above all, tried to communicate ideas and feelings clearly and unpretentiously.
Since receiving the collection in the spring of 2022, the Theatre Collection have been working on preparing the records of DV8 for long-term preservation and access to the public. The collection includes material from all DV8’s stage and film productions, consisting of photographs, film, stage plans and technical information, programmes, press and other documentation.
Archiving is a team effort. As the collection is made up of physical and digital material, the work to process this collection has been undertaken by several of us here at the Theatre Collection including our Audiovisual and Photography Digitisation officers Nigel Bryant and Sarah Bustamante-Brauning, Archive Assistant Laura Dow, Digital Archive Assistant Sam Brenton, as well as myself as Project Archivist. The work has included safely storing physical items using specialist, inert archival packaging to enable the preservation of material over the long-term, creating accessible copies of digital files whilst ensuring that a set of digital preservation copies can be maintained, and creating catalogue records describing the items within the collection. There are almost two thousand items listed on the online catalogue which are available to view at the Theatre Collection.
Notably, the collection includes full recordings of several stage productions including The Cost of Living, Enter Achilles, To Be Straight With You, Can We Talk About This? and JOHN, as well as copies of the films My Sex, Our Dance, Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men, Strange Fish, Enter Achilles and The Cost of Living. All of these are available to watch at the Theatre Collection (Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to publish these online, but four of the films produced by DV8 can be viewed online, via Digital Theatre and some clips are also available to watch on DV8’s YouTube channel.
DV8/1/20/4/3, promotional photograph for Enter Achilles (2020) Copyright – Hugo Glendinning
The collection also contains documents and diagrams relating to design, such as lighting plans and stage designs for productions including Strange Fish and Enter Achilles, and items such as projector slides, used as part of DV8’s performance piece at the Tate Modern London, Living Costs.
The DV8 archive contains a wealth of material of interest to researchers, students, educators, and those generally interested in live art, dance and/or theatre. DV8 was a radically innovative company reflected in the critical recognition the company received during its lifetime and the recognition given to choreographer and Artistic Director Lloyd Newson, who was cited by the Critics Circle in 2013 as being one of the hundred most influential artists working in Britain during the last hundred years. In that same year, Newson was awarded an OBE for services to contemporary dance and prior to this received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Roehampton (2011). DV8 garnered over 50 national and international awards during its existence.
The collection is ready to view in our reading rooms, and a detailed catalogue of its contents can be viewed here (clicking on the underlined RefNo ‘DV8’ will begin to open up the directory, or ‘hierarchy’ of the archive catalogue). Please get in touch with us if you would like more information.