Pike Theatre Papers

Repository: Trinity College Dublin

Identity Statement

TitlePike Theatre Papers
Archive ReferenceIE TCD MS/10813
Web Link to this Entryhttps://iar.ie/archive/pike-there-papers
Creation Dates1953-1977
Extent Medium13 boxes and 50 outsize items


Creator(s): Simpson, Alan, 1920-1980, theatre director Swift, Carolyn, 1923-2002, writer

  • Administrative History ↴

    Alan Patrick Simpson (1920-80), theatre director, was born in Dublin, son of Walter Simpson, a Church of Ireland clergyman. He was educated at Campbell College, Belfast and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin as a BA (1941) and as an engineer (1942). He had been a member of the Dublin University Players and his interest in theatre continued after he was called-up to the army in 1941. In 1945 Simpson transferred onto the army reserve and joined the Gate Theatre, Dublin as stage manager. Carolyn Swift (1923-2002), writer, broadcaster, journalist, critic and actress was born Carol Samuel in London, elder of two children of businessman Captain Cecil Samuel and Enid (née Van den Bergh). She was educated at Camden House School, London; Battle Abbey and Moira House Schools, Sussex; and Kerr-Sanders Secretarial College, London. She worked at the British Council in London (1941-46) before moving to Ireland in 1947 to work for Anew McMaster at the Gate Theatre, Dublin where she met Alan Simpson. They married in 1947 and went on to have three daughters. After a brief stint in London the couple returned to Dublin in 1948 when Simpson was appointed first Lieutenant in the Second Field Engineers. The Pike Theatre, founded by Alan Simpson and Carolyn Swift in a mews at 18a Herbert Lane, opened its doors on 15 September 1953. This intimate theatre, with seating for 55 patrons, presented late-night revues, Pike Follies, as well as avant-garde plays by Samuel Beckett, Ionescu, Sartre and others. It staged the world premiere of Brendan Behan's The Quare Fellow opening on 19 November 1954. The first unabridged English-language production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot was staged at the Pike on 28 October 1955. This successful production transferred to the Gate Theatre and subsequently embarked on an Irish tour that lasted until June 1956. In 1957 the Pike was embroiled in controversy when their production of Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo resulted in the arrest of Alan Simpson on a charge of producing an indecent and profane performance for gain. Simpson was briefly imprisoned and a year of costly court battles ensued. All charges were dismissed against Simpson in the Supreme Court on 9 June 1958 but the Pike Theatre never recovered from this episode. The theatre closed in 1961 and the building was eventually sold to an engineering company in 1964. By 1961, their marriage broken down, Carolyn Swift joined the drama department of Telefís Éireann, and Alan Simpson moved to London to direct James McKenna's The Scatterin'. Swift's varied career in the following years combined television and radio work, journalism, dance correspondent for the Irish Times and writing children's books. Simpson continued to work in theatre in Ireland and England. He also conducted academic research and lectured in 1978 at New York State University. In 1968 Simpson married the Abbey Theatre actress Eileen Colgan. He died suddenly on 15 May 1980 after directing the opening night of the musical 'McCormack'.
  • Archival History ↴

    The collection was presented to Trinity College Library Dublin in 1995.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴


Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Simpson, Alan, 1920-1980, theatre director Swift, Carolyn, 1923-2002, writer ↴

    This collection includes playscripts and related papers for Pike Theatre productions of the works of Brendan Behan, Dominic Behan, Eugene Ionesco, James Mc Kenna and Jean-Paul Sartre among others; programmes, posters and handbills; photographs of Pike Theatre productions; photographs and studio portraits of individuals and groups; publications relating to the Pike Theatre; presscuttings. The correspondence files relate to the general administration of the Pike Theatre; scripts, rights and royalties; broadcasts, tours and agents; touring productions including Waiting for Godot, The Rose Tattoo, Dublin Pike Follies, Posterity be Damned and The Scatterin’. Legal papers, related correspondence and appeal fund relating to The Rose Tattoo case.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    The collection is arranged as follows:
    Playscripts and related papers.
    Programmes, posters and handbills.
    Stage plans.
    Photographs of Pike productions.
    Photographs of non Pike productions.
    Photographs and studio portraits of individuals.
    Group photographs.
    Pike Theatre manifesto, newsletters, yearbook.
    Publications and broadcasts.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions Please contact mscripts@tcd.ie in advance of your visit
Conditions Governing ReproductionPlease contact mscripts@tcd.ie for guidance.
Creation Dates1953-1977
Extent Medium13 boxes and 50 outsize items
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids An item level description is available online along with an index to the correspondence Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

Related MaterialSamuel Beckett and the Pike Theatre, Dublin, IE TCD MSS 10730, 10730a, 10731
Publication NoteAlan Simpson, 'Beckett and Behan and a theatre in Dublin' (London 1962) Carolyn Swift, 'Stage by stage' (Dublin 1985) Carolyn Swift and Gerald Whelan, 'Spiked: church-state intrigues and 'The Rose Tattoo'' (Dublin 2002)

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteAdapted by Natalie Milne, February 2014.
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottowa: International Council on Archives, 2000. National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997.
Date of Descriptions41671