People Show Archive
A Brief History
The People Show began in 1966 when John Darling, Laura Gilbert, Mark Long, Jeff Nuttall and Sid Palmer performed a piece entitled People Show in the basement of Better Books in Charing Cross Road. The group assumed the name for themselves, and Britain’s first experimental theatre company was born.
The work was initially tightly scripted with room for improvisation, visually shot through with bizarre imagery, and with prominent use of sound tapes. The space was of paramount importance to the creation of the show; the show came from the space. After the first year, abandoning scripts, the group started to improvise shows – image-based, visually structured shows – establishing a riskier, more dangerous relationship between performers and audience, and each other.
In 1970 the People Show were invited by William Gaskill at the Royal Court to take part in ‘Come Together’, a festival of the most interesting, avant-garde companies around at the time. By 1980 the People Show had developed a huge depth of talent in the creation of shows; most importantly, a knowledge of the communication of the performers’ self in relationship to their art. There was also a clear love of visual spectacle, music, sound and light.
It was People Show Cabaret in 1980 that really put the company on the map; Mark Long, Chahine Yavroyan, George Khan and Emil Wolk toured it to over 50 venues around the world, and it was hugely successful.
Hard to define in conventional theatrical terms, the People Show has taken years, with mixed success, to be understood by traditional theatre critics, and our strength remains in our ability to defy definition and challenge the audience. The company’s first major award was the London Carling Fringe Festival Best Design Prize in 1998-9, followed by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe First Award in 2005. People Show company members are recognised throughout the industry as among the best in their various fields – Chahine Yavroyan was even given Freedom of the City of Bologna, Italy, in honour of his contributions to Italian culture via years of touring People Shows there.
In recent years the company has continued to conceive, produce and perform shows without external writers or directors, sustained by its own energy.
The company is now headed up by a group of six artists: Gareth Brierley, Sadie Cook, Fiona Creese, George Khan, Mark Long, and Jessica Worrall who work closely with other People Show artists to create each show.
We have been creating devised performances in theatres, in fields, in telephone boxes, on streets, even on water, for over four decades. The last few years have been testimony to our ability to re-generate, yet retain a unique ethos and identity.
We have always numbered our shows, starting from no. 1 in 1966 to no. 138 in 2020 Click on the links below to find out more about any of your favourite past People Shows. You can also see a chronological show list here:
People Show's unique archive contains a record of every show from the company's formation in 1966. These records include rare early scripts, notebooks, photos, sketch books, posters, press cuttings , numerous articles, sound and video recordings amongst many other things.
Please contact us direct if you wish to arrange a personal visit to the archive.