The E. Martin Browne Archive

E. Martin Browne (19001980) directed and taught modern and medieval religious drama, most notably T. S. Eliot's plays and the revived medieval York Cycle, which was the centrepiece of York's contribution to the 1951 Festival of Britain. He was able to obtain official goodwill and permission for a production of the York Cycle which was public, prominent and on a grand scale, at a time when the dramatic presentation of Biblical material was still controversial.

The E. Martin Browne archive contains a substantial amount of his material on medieval religious theatre. It includes scrap-books, prompt copies, notes, programmes, correspondence, photographs, teaching materials, research notes and books, most importantly of the 1950s and 1960s York productions, but also of his other productions of medieval religious theatre in Britain and in the USA.

It also contains some vintage audio material, including eleven minutes of unique sound-recording of the 1951 production (including some lines from Doomsday). This has been lodged with the National Sound Archive, who have supplied us with a CD of the retrieved audio. Other audio material is still being processed by them.

E. Martin Browne (right) and Keith Thomson, Festival Director (left)
in a posed newspaper photograph from 1951.
The archive was given by Martin Browne just before his death to Medieval English Theatre, and is housed at Lancaster. The Project decided that an electronic archive should be made of this material as a matter of urgency, starting with the 1951 Festival of Britain revival. This has now been scanned and recorded on CD.

Work on various aspects of the archive is in progress.
  • Dr Margaret Rogerson (University of Sydney) is using material from it for her forthocming book on the productions of the York Mystery Plays.
  • Mrs Olga Horner is writing an article, entitled 'The Law that Never Was' on the history of the legal implications of playing God onstage
An on-line catalogue is in process. It currently contains material on the books in the Archive.

Norah Lambourne, who designed the set and costumes from 1951-1957, has very kindly deposited her material with us. It has been scanned and added to the electronic archive. A detailed electronic catalogue of these scans with thumbnails, full-size scans, and other material was presented by Helen Bennett as her MA dissertation.

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© Meg Twycross 2001.