The Royal Court Bookshop – In the Bookshop With
After closing its bookshop on Fitzroy Street, Samuel French has found a new home at the Royal Court. The publisher and play text licensing company has opened a shop in the theatre’s Balcony Bar, which opens Monday to Saturday and offers a smaller bookshop stall on nights when the theatre is showing performances.
Samuel French Bookshop
Samuel French Bookshop has been making iconic acting edition play scripts and musical libretti available to actors and other lovers of the theatre for over a hundred years. They also have a huge archive of theatre related photographs, costume design illustrations and other theatrical ephemera.
The company’s roots go back to 1830 when Samuel French began publishing plays for amateur theatre groups. By promoting amateur interest in theatre, the company helped to grow the number of small local drama groups, which were known as Little Theatres. They also played an important role in developing international copyright laws and establishing the modern theatrical publishing industry.
The company has now moved away from its Fitzroy Street home to a new space inside the Royal Court theatre. The new shop is a friendly place where people can browse and read plays, enjoy a coffee and take part in events with playwrights. It is open Monday to Saturday and a smaller bookstall is open on nights when the theatre has performances.
In the 1980s, Max Stafford-Clark nurtured a group of new playwrights and brought the Royal Court out of its crisis. Its productions of the time were known as ‘in yer face theatre’ as they took gut-wrenching, political issues and rammed them down the audience’s throats.
Today, the theatre has an even more impressive reputation, with its productions being deemed as some of the best in the country. The Royal Court continues to produce innovative work from new writers, and its International Programme finds new voices across the world and brings them back to London.
Giving Samuel French a home in the building is not just an act of benevolence, it’s a canny move that aligns them with an institution that has been trading for over 190 years. Taking over a defunct balcony area and celebrating a publication that has long been synonymous with theatre, it’s a logical, organic pairing of two significant histories.
The Royal Court Theatre in collaboration with Concord Theatricals have launched the first video in a new series called In the Bookshop with. The ongoing series will see a Royal Court Theatre programmed playwright talk through the books that have inspired their work and helped shape their own writing. The first episode features Alistair McDowall, writer of current Jerwood Theatre Downstairs production The Glow.
Book-buying may have largely moved online, but there are still some great London bookshops with sizeable theatre and plays sections. Here are five of our favourites:
In the first instalment of this new video series, filmed inside the Samuel French Bookshop at The Royal Court Theatre, we hear from some of the theatre’s programmed playwrights as they pick out and discuss the books that inspire them. Watch here.
The bookshop opened in the theatre’s Balcony Bar on 5 March, 11 months after rent hikes forced it to close its London premises in Fitzroy Street after 187 years. Its return is a ‘wonderful coincidence and beautiful thing’, says its managing director Simon Ellison.
Whether it’s the secrets of the royal family or the scandalous lives of kings and queens, there’s a long history of conspiracy theories and titillating revelations that have been written about the British Royal Monarchy. Some of the most notable include The Secret History of the Court by Olivia Serres and the sensational ‘Who Was Killed in Cold Blood?’ by Alistair McDowall. The Royal Court continues to champion playwrights who challenge and confront, including Caryl Churchill, Peter Gill, Athol Fugard and Howard Brenton.