Howard, Pamela (8 of 11)  An Oral History of Theatre Design

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  • Recording date

    2006-06-26, 2006-07-13, 2006-08-09, 2006-08-14

  • Recording locations

    Various locations, London

  • Interviewees

    Howard, Pamela 1939- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 8: Continuation of story about arrival in Paris and visit to expensive restaurant. Story about Arianne’s parents, their recognition of a talent in PH; the tasks set by them to encourage PH’s learning of French; working at clinic; visits to market; their influence in terms of culture; art; exhibitions. Description of Arianne’s return visits to England. The benefits of having fluency in a language. Remark about art as a form of escapism. [0:10:52] First day at SSA; the clothes worn by Judith Wood, NG and Peter Snow [PS]. The contrast between PH’s living arrangements whilst at SSA compared to the atmosphere there; first project at SSA: ‘Orphée’ by Cocteau. Reactions of NG and PS to PH’s first project; later relationship with NG. Story about NG attending PH’s exhibition. Contrast between approaches to design of NG and PH. NG’s relationship with other students on the course. PP’s aesthetic approach to design. NG’s approach to theatre, tradition of working. Differences between teaching today and in the days of PH’s training. Brief description of PS’s career. PS’s approach to design. PS’s influence on PH. [0:27:22] Comment about what PH learnt at SSA; teaching methods there. Mention of E. H. Gombrich [EHG]; PH’s attendance at lectures by EHG; attending different departments of the university; self-motivation. [0:34:26] Qualification from Birmingham School of Art. Story about the fire in a building where work for PH’s graduation exhibition was; her solution to the loss of her work; prolific approach to work. [0:38:22] Story about finding first job after leaving SSA at the old Lyric Hammersmith [LH]; ‘The Idiot’ by Dostoevsky; ‘The Misanthrope’ by Moliere. Story about starting a theatre prop making company, Theatre Arts [TA]; borrowing the campervan of John Crockett [JC], director at LH. Serious road accident in Switzerland; hospital in Switzerland; opportunity to re-think life; decision to have hysterectomy; type of work PH wanted to do. Remark about life before and after this point; what PH learnt during ten years of work at TNP. [0:50:25] Story about Peter Hall [PHa] at the National Theatre [NT]; going wherever there is interesting work. Further comments about TA; letting projects go; European Scenography Centres [ESC] at CS. [0:55:58] Being in hospital for six months; Lily the physiotherapist; plaster cast; visits in hospital. [1:00:27] Story about public collection in Switzerland to cover the costs of PH’s accident; Swiss hospitals. End of period of work with JC; comment about reflecting on life; life changing effects of the accident. [1:06:36] Influence of World Theatre Season organised by Peter Daubeny; seeing performances by the Theatre National Populaire [TNP] directed by Roger Planchon; feelings about this work; arriving at the Gare du Lyon in Paris in 1971. Story about travelling to TNP in Lyon; watching a rehearsal; meeting RP; relocation of the TNP to Lyon following 1968 Paris riots; RP’s political beliefs; his work with BB; sense of joining the end of a line in history; working with the TNP through the 1970s; democratic nature of the company. Designing only productions of RP’s plays outside France at BR, New York and Sheffield. Reflections on art and theatre education; work with RP as a period of learning. Mention of work following this period: NT, Nottingham Playhouse, Richard Eyre [RiE]; most recent phase in PH’s career creating own work; periods in PH’s life. [1:17:44] Living in a flat off Baker Street; having a husband not in the theatre; adopting children now aged 40 and 36. Lack of memory about initial journey to Lyon; length of stay; blanks in memory; looking at archive of own work. Life of family in Birmingham during the 1970s; sisters’ wedding in about 1977; feelings about family during the 1980s and 90s. [1:23:17] Story about selling a drawing from ‘The Ghost Sonata’ by Strindberg to Dick Linklater [DL] during time at SSA; his role as Director General of the Arts Council [AC]; ongoing interest in PH’s work. PH’s trip to research theatre in Poland; mention of meeting Grotowski amongst other Polish theatre practitioners; DL’s role in creating this opportunity; trips to the Soviet Union; AC support for PH to work in France; selling drawings to DL; seeing pictures at his house; repaying DL’s support through own work with students. [1:31:34] PH’s support for theatre design students; creating opportunities for young theatre designers; encouraging Royal Opera House [ROH] to start three month theatre design bursary scheme; work with the Linbury Prize [LP]; involvement in initial idea for LP; mention of LP winners Vicki Mortimer and Tim Hatley. PH’s advice to young theatre designers; the need for a positive outlook; rigour; understanding the context for the performance including the audience; Ralph Koltai’s comments about reading plays. [1:39:57] Designing AYLI in 1965 at BR directed by Peter Dews [PD]; concept for the piece; mention that Brian Cox played Orlando; revival in the West End; description of the scenery; Polish and psychedelic influences. Working as a theatre designer at BR having previously worked there as a bucket cleaner; mention that mother looked after daughter at this time; lack of sentiment looking back; changes at the BR since PH first worked there; health and safety; union rules; production managers. Later work with PD at Chichester Festival Theatre; mention of designing ‘Terra Nova’. [1:49:12] New BR building; mention of working with Michael Simpson instead of PD on Pinero; mention that old building in Station Street became a drama school; talk of reviving it as a theatre. Comments about new BR building; cost of cleaning windows; Role of Minister for Arts, Jenny Lee [JL] in new theatre buildings. Mention of: Nottingham Playhouse; Crucible Theatre; Northcott Theatre; JL’s influence on structure of theatre buildings in Britain; lack of money to maintain new theatres or produce plays; studio and main house theatres. AC New Writing Fund; PH’s role as an advisor on the AC Drama Panel; Director General of AC Sir William Rees-Mogg [WRG]; his dress sense; ‘The Glory of the Garden’ [GOG] report named after a poem by Rudyard Kipling; cuts in funding as a result of this GOG; lack of funding to produce plays; signing Official Secrets Act [OSA]; list of other members of Drama Panel: Brian Cox, Nicholas Kent, Olwen Wymark, Guy Slater; decision to make public aware about cuts in funding contrary to OSA; informing The Times newspaper; blacklisting as a result of this action. Comment about bringing back memories. Using position to speak out on behalf of others.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Pamela Howard (1939-), theatre designer.

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