Birmingham City Council

Willoughby Gullachsen Photographic Collection

Willoughby Gullachsen was born in Cullercoats, Northumberland in 1921. He worked as a professional photographer from 1936. He started working as a darkroom assistant in Newcastle, before moving to Manchester to study at the Manchester College of Technology. During the Second World War, Willoughby Gullachsen served in the RAF as a war photographer in South Africa, India and Iraq.

In 1949, he opened his own studio in West Bromwich, working for the Midland Chronicle and Free Press Weekly locally and worked regularly as a freelance for the TV Times, ABC Television and ATV.
From 1964, Willoughby Gullachsen worked for the BBC, providing, amongst others, the photography for Four Borchester Echos and worked as unit photographer on Chris Tarrant's Tiswas.

From 1968 until 1984, he was engaged as the Birmingham Repertory Theatre's official photographer, for all 189 productions during this period.

He continued to work as unit photographer for BBC Regional Television Drama on location throughout the UK from 1972 until 1994.

Willoughby Gullachsen's work has been exhibited throughout the Midlands since 1959, including commissions for Birmingham Libraries: The Brummies (1994), Hidden Birmingham (1996), and Senior Citizens (2000).

The negatives of Gullachsen's work at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre 1968 - 1984 were given to the library and are part of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Archive.


Here are some examples from the collection:

Actors performing a scene from Do Not Disturb

"Do Not Disturb" was performed between 25th October and 20th November 1982.
Tony Britton playing the lead role of Jay Spenser, pictured here with Patricia Shakesby, playing Mary.
The story is about a man who occupies a special place in the lives of four women, played by Shakesby, Karen Lewis, Lana Marrist, and Marilyn Galsworthy.

Tony Britton was born in Birmingham and had a succesful career starring in the popular television series Robin's Nest and The Nearly Man as well as his many roles on stage.

The play received disappointing reviews from the critics, but for many in the audience the production was charming and lighthearted.

Actors in a scene from Duchess

This production of The Duchess of Malfi ran from 3rd to the 26th May 1979.
It was a new production of John Webster's famous Jacobean tragedy and was directed by Keith Hack.

Janet Suzman headed the cast. At this time she was most known for her work in films and television and for her portrayal of leading Shakespearean roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
She had previously worked with Keith Hack on Hedda Gabler and The Good Woman of Setzuan.

Ian McDiarmid also starred in the production. He later went on to appear as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine in the three Star Wars prequel films.

Actors in a circle

The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht was performed from 16th May to the 8th June 1974.
Directed by Howard Davies and designed by Christopher Dyer, the play is a mix of colourful action with music and humour.
The plot deals with the troubles of a nation plunged into civil war. The infant son of the deposed tyrant is sheltered and brought up by a maid and the climax comes when she is faced with having to return the child to his mother. Their fates hang on the decision of Judge Azdak.

Actors in a stage presentation

Uncle Vanya was performed in the Brum Studio from 24th March to 24th April in 1976.
It was written by Anton Chekhov in 1897, during the most fruitful period of his career.
John Dove directed this production. Tom Wilkinson played Astrov and David William played Vanya.
Tom Wilkinson has enjoyed a long and varied career in theatre, television and films. Perhaps his most familiar role being Gerald in The Full Monty, 1997.

Actors in a scene from Othello

The Rep's production of Othello, directed by Peter Farago, opened on February 16th 1978 and ran until 4th March 1978. The production suffered from the loss of the lead, Val Pringle, falling ill five days before opening.
His place was taken by Paul Webster, pictured here with Philip Madoc playing Iago.
Despite, the varied and contemporary programme of productions the Rep performed each season, the place of Shakespeare's plays was retained.

An actor in a scene from Iniquity

Iniquity is taken from Tolstoy's novella the Kreutzer Sonata. It was a one-man show starring David Suchet as the Russian Pozdnyshev who is telling his account of the murder of his wife.
Plays and Players, May 1977 said "That David Suchet is able to involve us so closely with so unlovely a character, is an acknowledgement of his very considerable technical skill and a tribute to what must be the actor's humanity."

actors performing a scene from Death Story

From 14th to 25th November and 4th to 9th December 1972, Death Story had it's world premiere at the Rep Studio, following a week of company improvisations on Romeo and Juliet. The resulting play inevitably drew parallels with experiences in contemporary Northern Ireland, of a doomed love within the barriers of a warring community.
The play was challenging in that it depicted physical and sexual violence.
The author, David Edgar, is one of Britain's leading playwrights, born and raised in Birmingham he has worked with the Rep for many years, as well as with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. His biggest popular success to date is The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1982), gaining him a Laurence Olivier/BBC Award for Best New Play and a Tony Award for Best Play (1982).

Actors performing a scene from Equus

Peter Dews returned as guest director to work on the 1975 production of Equus, by Peter Shaffer. Dews had been Artistic Director at the Old Rep between 1966 and 1972.
Equus was written in 1973 and is the story of a psychiatrist who attempts to treat a young man who has a pathological fascination with horses.
Critics found the play, challenging and disturbing but also powerful, moving and gripping. It received the Tony Award in 1975.
In the Rep's production, the horses were portrayed by actors in brown tracksuits, wearing a wire creation of a horse's head, as pictured.

Actors in a scene from Private Lives

In this picture are Simon Cadell as Elyot and Nina Thomas as Sibyl in the 1980 production of Private Lives.
Private Lives is a comedy written by Noel Coward. The show was first produced in 1930 with an impressive cast that consisted of Noel Coward himself with Gertrude Lawrence, Laurence Olivier, Adrienne Allen and Everly Gregg.

The Birmingham Evening Mail described the 1980 production;
'Finlay James with his elegant, decadently-opulent 30's style main set captures the mood and allows us a gasp before we giggle at the antics.'

Four actresses in the back of a vintage car

The concept of Up Spaghetti Junction was to take a light-hearted look at Birmingham past and present.
The Rep has always attempted to depict relevant and meaningful productions to the community that it serves.
The form of this production was as a musical revue and was compiled by the writer Malcolm Totten from work by himself, John Clarke, David Edgar and David Turner.

Toad of Toad Hall ran from 23rd December 1983 to 11 February 1984. It was directed by Clive Perry.
The Rep have provided a family orientated production around the Christmas holiday period for many years.
The programme to accompany the production consisted of cut out drawings to colour in and make into a mobile.

This picture shows Terry Molloy as Toad, Bob Grant as Water Rat and Roger Kemp as Badger.


Sir Barry Jackson and Birmingham Repertory Theatre Archive 1913 - 1970
The Birmingham Repertory Theatre Archive 1971 - present
Birmingham Repertory Theatre Photograph Gallery
Central Library Photographic Collections
Glossary of Photographic Terms

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