The theatrical archive of Billie Whitelaw, relating to her work with Samuel Beckett

Item author: Billie Whitelaw
Item date: 1973-1991
Grant Value: £9,100
Item cost: £45,500
Item date acquired: 2014
Item institution: Reading University, Library
Town/City: Reading
County: Berkshire

The archive of the actress Billie Whitelaw relates to her work with Irish writer and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett. Billie Whitelaw was Beckett's favourite actress. He directed her in several theatrical productions and revivals of his plays. The collection includes correspondence, annotated playscripts and rehearsal notes for some of Beckett's most famous works, including Play, Not I, Happy Days, Rockaby, Eh Joe, Embers and Footfalls, as well costumes worn by Billie during those performances. The annotated playscripts and rehearsal notes complement our existing holdings on those plays, as we already hold Beckett’s own directorial notes as well as most of the relevant draft manuscripts and typescripts.

The items join the rest of the University's Beckett Collection, which is the world's largest collection of manuscript materials relating to Beckett.

The collection is open to public access, and currently accounts for nearly 20% of reading room use. It also enhances our academic and public outreach programmes: we have put on three exhibitions, a manuscript workshop, a public lecture, and an interview with the theatre director Ian Rickson. The Billie Whitelaw archive will feature in public events (such as exhibitions) and in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching programmes. Our collections are also available for UK and international loans, and we have an online catalogue which enables worldwide dissemination of knowledge of our holdings.