New home fits the bill for one of the most important private theatre collections in the world
Friday 17 June 2011
One of the most important private theatre collections in the world, that of the actors and historians Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchenson, has at last found an ideal home at Bristol University, where it will be preserved as an educational and research facility within the university's theatre library.
Mander and Mitchenson, whom Noël Coward dubbed "Gog and Magog", met while playing small parts in a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor in the late 1950s and formed a professional and personal partnership in their large house in Sydenham, south-east London. There, they amassed an unparalleled collection of programmes, photographs, memorabilia and paintings, supplying priceless information to journalists and historians, as well as producing their own books.
A charitable trust was formed under the presidency of Laurence Olivier to ensure the collection's long-term future. After Mander's death in 1983, the collection moved to a Georgian mansion in Beckenham Place Park, then to the City, then on to Greenwich, before arriving in Bristol.
One of my favourite items, a painting by June Mendoza, shows the boys clutching mementoes in a hall of mirrors with a further, interior portrait of Ray leaning over Joe with the latest tittle-tattle. I think he's now whispering, "Well, here we are then, all ship-shape and Bristol fashion."
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