School workshops and visits to the National Theatre over the next two years will include the work of pioneering twentieth century British female Theatre Designer, Jocelyn Herbert (1917-2003), through the research led by Dr Eleanor Margolies recently appointed by University of the Arts London and National Theatre.

Over 6,000 of Jocelyn Herbert’s drawings for set and costume designs will be considered as part of the two-year research fellowship led by Dr Margolies. The collection includes Jocelyn’s student work from the 1930s, photographs, costumes, drawings and correspondence including the diary she was using on the day she died in 2003. Originally donated to the archive of Wimbledon College of Arts, part of the University of the Arts London (UAL), where she had a long connection with the theatre department, the archive is now housed at the National Theatre.

St Joan of the Stockyards (1964)

Jocelyn Herbert sketch for St Joan of the Stockyards (1964),

Among the most important and innovative theatre designers in the UK since the 1960s, Jocelyn Herbert worked with playwrights and directors including Samuel Beckett, John Osborne, Lindsey Anderson and Tony Richardson at the Royal Court with George Devine and then with Sir Lawrence Olivier at the National Theatre.

Photo of Samuel Beckett and Jocelyn Herbert

Photo of Samuel Beckett and Jocelyn Herbert from the archives

The work by Dr Margolies to open up the designer’s archive to schools as well as the wider public, reflects the important role Herbert played in the history of the National Theatre as well as increasing women’s presence in the history of theatre. It also fulfils Jocelyn’s own wish for her archive to be used in a practical way by students and other researchers and made as accessible to them as possible.

Jocelyn Herbert Lecture Series: 3D Imagination

Rae Smith, award-winning designer of wonder.land, This House (currently at the Garrick) and War Horse (NT), spoke on the topic of 3D Imagination for the sixth annual lecture in the Jocelyn Herbert Lecture series held Tuesday 22 November at The National Theatre.

At the event, we spoke to Dr Eleanor Margolies, Post-doctoral research fellow, who said:

Jocelyn Herbert was such an important figure in the transformation of design in British theatre and her archive is a unique resource in the UK. My research will look at the changing role of designers in theatre production and at how today’s theatre-makers can draw inspiration from the past. It’s a great honour to have this opportunity to explore works from Jocelyn’s archive with students, school pupils and the wider public.

In separate interviews, Erin Lee, Archivist at the National Theatre said: “The Jocelyn Herbert Fellowship will allow us to open up the Jocelyn Herbert Archive to those who would otherwise not be able to engage with a designer’s collection.  We hope that the post doctoral research fellowship will increase the opportunities for using the collection with schools, higher education students and theatre audiences not only to bring design and study of it to the fore in academia but also to engage the general public with theatre design.”

Jane Collins, Professor of Theatre and Performance at Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL, who will be working with Dr. Margolies during the fellowship, said: “I think the fellowship comes at a time when there has been a shift in the way these institutions think about how the public access theatre: Recently, I think a real interest has developed in the design and production process; in how productions are made.”