Archival collections inspire the creation of drama

I've just learnt that there's to be a one-day conference for all those working with community archives in London next Tuesday. This year's theme is Creativity, so I very much wish I could be there. The key note speaker is award-winning artist Mohammed Ali, who will talk about how archives provide communities with opportunities to explore their sense of place and identity. You can find out more about his work on the Strong Rooms project in one of our earlier blog posts.

One of the other speakers is Jefny Ashcroft, a drama specialist who will talk about about the Arts Friendly Archives project, which has been funded by the Arts Council. Over the past year, he has put on three tailor-made plays inspired by collections held  by archives in Wolverhampton, Dudley and Stratford upon Avon. The most recent of these was Bram and the Guv'nor, which imagines Bram Stoker debating with Ellen Terry how leading Shakespearean actor Sir Henry Irving might be persuaded to accept a proposal  that he play the Count in a future production of Dracula at the Lyceum Theatre. The audience was immediately drawn in to the question of whether Irving would agree, but he kept them in suspense until the very end. The question on the lips of many visitors was whether he ever did go on to play the Count.

Ellen Terry and Bram Stoker discuss Stoker's plans to produce Dracula at the Lyceum during performance of Bram and the Guv'nor, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 16 May 2017. Photo credit: David Ashworth.

Ellen Terry and Bram Stoker discuss Stoker's plans to produce Dracula at the Lyceum during performance of Bram and the Guv'nor, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 16 May 2017. Photo credit: David Ashworth.

The play drew on material in the Bram Stoker Collection, which is owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and held at Stratford upon Avon archives. Exhibitions of material from the collection were shown alongside the play when it was performed at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in May.  

If you're a creative writer, have you ever thought of using archives for inspiration?