Half Moon goes full circle in Limehouse putting its theatre archive online

PUBLISHED: 14:05 18 August 2016 | UPDATED: 14:05 18 August 2016

East London's Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse

East London's Half Moon Theatre in Limehouse

Half Moon

The full history of the famous Half Moon theatre from its launch more than 40 years ago in London’s East End has now gone online for researchers and theatre buffs to plough through.

Launch of 'Stages of Half Moon' archive by the theatre's Youth groupLaunch of 'Stages of Half Moon' archive by the theatre's Youth group

Its new Heritage website has gone live after 10 months of research, archiving and digitalising documents, to provide public access to theatre records for the first time since 1972.

Researchers now have access to 44 years of photographs, programmes, news stories, videos and filmed interviews.

“Past members have shared their incredible stories with us,” director Chris Elwell said.

“The public has also brought in posters and programmes from the past—we couldn’t have done it without them.

Half Moon's toddlers' groupHalf Moon's toddlers' group

“But the work hasn’t finished and we’re still looking for artefacts from the 1970s.”

Half Moon needs missing photographs, reviews, design sketches, programmes and other artefacts of the 1970s from its original premises in Whitechapel’s former Alie Street Synagogue and its later venue at Stepney Green in the Mile End Road. An arson in 1981 destroyed its archives.

The company almost began as the Alie Street Theatre, but the name ‘Half Moon’ was suggested in 1972 in a local press preview by East London Express journalist Mike Brooke (now Advertiser), taken from an alley at the side of the original building—and the title stuck.

The archive project includes oral history and memories on film of 100 people who have been involved with the company over the years. Among those sharing their memories were the theatre’s two surviving co-founders and artistic directors, Guy Sprung and Michael Irving.

A Stages of Half Moon exhibition of 56 posters and photographs of the entire history of the theatre is on display at Gallery @ Half Moon until September 1, before going on tour to Whitechapel Idea Store (Oct 6-Nov 5), Royal Holloway University (Nov 8-Dec 19) and Tower Hamlets Local History Archives at Mile End in the New Year (Jan 9-Mar 30).

Half Moon was known for bold work, such as Steven Berkoff’s Sink the Belgrano!, Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! and Frances de la Tour as a female Hamlet.

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