View all news

New exhibition celebrates the life and work of Noël Coward

Noël Coward as Garry Essendine in Present Laughter; Photograph by Angus McBean; © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University

Noël Coward as Garry Essendine in Present Laughter; photograph by Angus McBean © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University

Press release issued: 14 May 2014

Noël Coward, one of the most significant figures in British theatre in the twentieth century, is the subject of the latest exhibition at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection. The Master: Noël Coward 1899-1973 features rare and personal material relating to Coward, including photographs, letters and even one of his famous silk dressing gowns.

Playwright, director, actor, singer and composer of popular songs and stage music, Coward was equally well known as a raconteur and for his wit and flamboyance.

The exhibition charts his life and a selection of his major productions such as Cavalcade and Blithe Spirit as well as some of his lesser known work such as his satirical poetry and his controversial play The Vortex.   It explores both the West End triumphs and amateur wartime productions; the glamorous co-stars and other people he worked with, notably the designer Gladys Calthrop; and the achievements of an extraordinary life.

The exhibition draws on ephemera from the Theatre Collection archive relating to Coward.  Much of this material was given by Coward to his great friends, the collectors, Ray Mander and Joe Mitchenson, who amassed a vast collection of theatre-related material during their lifetime.  

Theatre Collection Director, Jo Elsworth said: "This exhibition provides a fascinating glimpse into the public and private lives of Noel Coward as told through his personal and professional memorabilia.  More importantly, it gives us an opportunity to put such items on public display for the first time."

The exhibition marks the culmination of a larger project which catalogued more than 4,500 items relating to Coward’s life and work.  All these items are held by the Theatre Collection and can be made available for consultation in the Theatre Collection by request.

The cataloguing project and associated exhibition have been generously supported by the Noël Coward Foundation.  

The exhibition is open Mondays 12pm-4pm; Tuesdays  – Fridays 10am-4pm until Tuesday 15 July at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, 21 Park Row, Bristol BS1 5LT.   Admission free.

There is an additional evening opening on Thursday 15 May until 7pm to coincide with Museums at Night

University of Bristol Theatre Collection

The University of Bristol Theatre Collection contains one of the largest archives relating to British theatre history in the world.  It is also an accredited museum and a research facility open to all.  Its Collections cover all aspects of theatre history up to the present day and include original documents, photographs, artwork and artefacts.  Significant archive collections include London Old Vic, Bristol Old Vic and the world renowned Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson Collection.  Research visitors include a wide range of people from local students to international academic scholars and from family historians to the public who come to see the small, regularly changing exhibitions.  For further information contact Jo Elsworth 0117 3315086

The Noël Coward Foundation

The Noël Coward Foundation was set up as a charitable Trust in 2000 by Graham Payn and Dany Dasto to promote the education of students and others in the arts of drama and the theatre, and for other charitable purposes in connection with drama and the theatre.  The Noel Coward Foundation has generously funded the cataloguing of all Noel Coward material held in the Mander & Mitchenson Collection at the Theatre Collection and The Master exhibition.

Edit this page