Guide to the Papers of Robyn Archer

MS 7692

National Library of Australia

Date completed: May 1989
Last updated: September 2000

Collection Summary

Creator: Archer Robyn
Title: Papers of Robyn Archer
Date Range: 1973-1995
Collection Number: MS 07692
Extent: 11.65m (79 boxes) + 3 folios


Scope and Content

Archer's papers comprise draft scripts, notes, business and personal correspondence, fan mail, photographs, theatre programs, posters, music scores and clippings documenting her musical shows, plays, songs and publications. Part of the 1992 consignment includes the papers of Diana Manson, former partner and personal manager of Archer. These papers mostly relate to Archer's career, but also document the activities of Manson's management companies Black and Blue Inc. and Diehard Productions, including contract negotiation and publicity. Papers relating to Manson's professional association with performers Meryl Tankard, Jeannie Lewis, Jane Clifton and Noni Hazelhurst and with Hessian Records, are also filed in this part of the collection.


The collection is partly available for reference and partly closed. Closed folders are indicated as such throughout the guide.


The collection was donated under the Cultural Gifts Program by Robyn Archer in four instalments received in 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2000.

Copying and Publishing

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Related Material

A gouache portrait of Archer by Joan Herlinger is housed in the Pictorial Collection of the National Library, together with a folder of posters advertising Archer's shows.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Robyn Archer, National Library of Australia, MS 7692, [box and folder number]'.

Biographical Note

Date Event
1948 Born Robyn Smith in Adelaide
c1961-1965 Educated at Enfield High School and began singing and playing guitar
1964-1965 Contracted to the television pop music show Bandstand
c1970-1972 Graduated Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and Diploma of Education from University of Adelaide
1973-1974 Taught English in secondary schools and part-time singer in clubs and bars
1974 Sang the part of Annie I in South Australian Opera production The seven deadly sins
1975 Wrote first theatre piece Live-could-possibly-be-true-one-day adventures of Superwoman
1976 Brecht & Co recitals in Sydney and Hong Kong
1977 The ladies' choice national concert tour
1977 Performed in To those born later at the National Theatre, London
1978 Kold Komfort Kafe
1979 One woman show Tonight Lola Blau
1980 Release of Tonight: Lola Blau on RCA label
1980 Songs of Sideshow Alley
1980 One woman show A star is torn opened at the Universal Theatre, Melbourne and toured nationally
1980 Rough as guts national concert tour and recording on RCA label
1980 Publication of the Robyn Archer songbook
1980 Publication of Mrs Bottle's burp
1980 The Sydney Critics' Circle Award
1980 Henry Lawson Award
1981 The Pack of Women
1982 Robyn Archer sings Brecht/Robyn Archer at large national concert tour
1982 London opening of A star is torn
1983 Release of EMI recording Robyn Archer sings Brecht, volumes I-II
1983 Cabaret Passé, Cut and Thrust
1983 Assistant writer for Songs for bad times, Channel 4 (United Kingdom)
1984 The conquest of Carmen Miranda, Il Magnifico and The three legends of Kra
1985 Scandals
1985 Robyn Archer national tour
1985 SBS-TV production of The Conquest of Carmen Miranda
1985 One hour TV special for Channel 4 (United Kingdom) Songs for Bad Times
1986- Artistic Counsel, Belvoir Street Theatre, Sydney
1986 ABC-TV production of The pack of women and recording on Festival label
1986 ARIA Award for Best Soundtrack (The pack of women)
1987 Akwanso Fly South
1988-1989 Robyn Archer and the Mambologists national concert tour
1989 Co-wrote Poor Johanna and The Hanging of Minnie Thwaites with Judith Rodriguez
1989 International concert tours to Southeast Asia, Vienna, Holland, Mexico and London
1989 ARIA Award for Best Children's Album (Mrs Bottle's burp)
1990 Cafe Fledermaus
1990 Performed in Pierrot Lunaire with Seymour Group, Sydney
1990 Directed The Women's May Day Project for Northern Territory Trades and Labor Council
1990 Paris debut in Out of the East
1990 Publication of Mrs Bottle's absolutely blurtingly beautiful world-beating burp
1991-1993 Australian Artists' Creative Fellowship
1991 Honorary Doctor of the Flinders University, Adelaide
1991 Le Chat Noir with Seymour Group, Sydney
1991 Canadian debut in An evening of Kurt Weill with Symphony Nova Scotia
1992 The Bridge premiered at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
1992 Appointed Chair of the Australia Council Community Development Board
1993 See ya next century production with Chrissie Parrott Dance Company
1993-1995 Chair of the Community Cultural Development Board of the Australia Council
1993-1995 Artistic Director of the National Festival of Australian Theatre, Canberra
1994 Commonwealth appointee to the Centenary of Federation Advisory Committee
1998 Australian Women's Network Executive Woman of the Year
1998 and 2000 Artistic Director of the Adelaide Arts Festival
2000 Advisor on the Australian cultural content for Expo 2OOO in Hanover
2000 Appointed an Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia
2000 Appointed Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France
2003 Artistic Director, Melbourne International Arts Festival
2001, 2003 and 2005 Director, Ten Days on the Island, Biennial Festival, Hobart
2004 Appointed Artistic Director for Liverpool's (UK) year as European Capital of Culture in 2008

Container List

ORIGINAL INSTALMENT, 10 May 1988 (folders 1-191)

Box 1

Folder 1 Music scores, newspaper cuttings, sketches, 1977
Folder 2 Incomplete draft, some correspondence, 1977
Folder 3 Drafts and notes
Folder 4 Notes, newspaper cuttings, synopsis
Folder 5 Correspondence regarding production of play, 1978-1980
Folder 6-9 Typescripts, 1977-1979

Box 2

Folder 10-13 Typescript and production notes, 1982
Folder 14 Programs and newspaper cuttings, 1984
Folder 15-18 Lyrics, scores and notes for stage performance, 1978

Box 3

Folder 19 Lyrics, scores and notes, 1978
Folder 20 Programs and press reviews of show, April 1978
A STAR IS TORN - theatre productions
Folder 21 Australian performance, photocopies of reviews, 1979
Folder 22 Typescript for Australian tour, 1980
Folder 23 Photocopies of press reviews and articles of show, 1980-1981
Folder 24 Working copy, July 1982
Folder 25-26 Photocopies of press reviews, 1982
Folder 27 Photocopies of press reviews of London performance, 1982-1983

Box 4

A STAR IS TORN - book edition
Folder 28 Incomplete draft, 1984
Folder 29-31 Undated typescript
Folder 32-34 Complete typescript, April 1984

Box 5

Folder 35-37 Copy of 3rd draft typescript and two letters, 1985
Folder 38 Correspondence, notes and bibliographies for book, 1985-1986
Folder 39-40 Photocopies of photographs proposed for publication in book and some correspondence, including with Virago Press, 1985-1986
Folder 41-43 Galley proofs , 1986
Folder 50 Cuttings of book reviews, 1986

Box 6

A STAR IS TORN - miscellaneous papers
Folder 51-52 Programs, publication, A star is torn record cover, 1980
Folder 53 English version script, 1974
Folder 54 Script, lyrics with annotations
Folder 55 Programs for Adelaide performance, 1979
Folder 56 Photocopies of reviews, 1979

Box 8

Folder 57 Complete working draft and notes, 1979
Folder 58-59 Notes and script with annotations and one letter
Folder 60 Correspondence, maps and plans for Adelaide Festival, 1980
Folder 61 Photocopies of press reviews and other publicity material, 1980
Folder 62 Correspondence, notes and script, 1980-1981

Box 9

Folder 63-64 Complete typescript, 1981
Folder 65-66 Photocopies of press reviews, press releases, programs and photographs from the London performance, 1981
Folder 67 Ouline of ideas for a cabaret, May 1981
Folder 68 Notes towards a first draft, 1982
Folder 69-70 Typescript, notes, lyrics, 1983

Box 10

Folder 71-72 First draft and complete script for Australian tour, 1983, together with some lyrics, music and notes
Folder 73 Lyrics
Folder 74-76 Notes relating to Australian tour, including correspondence and photograps recieved whilst on the road, 1983
Folder 77-78 Photocopies of press reviews, newspaper cuttings, programs and photographs, 1983

Box 11

Folder 78a Video script, 1983
Folder 79-82 Drafts, notes and some correspondence relating to publication of book, 1985
Folder 83 Television script, 2nd rough draft, 1985
Folder 84-85 Draft, notes, recording schedule for television play
Folder 86 Newspaper cuttings of book reviews and one record

Box 12

Folder 87 Typescript, notes and some correspondence, 1983-1985
Folder 88 Second draft, 1983
Folder 89 Programs, poster and press clippings of reviews, 1984
Folder 90 Complete typescript, 1983
Folder 91-94 Incomplete typescript, notes and lyrics

Box 13

Folder 95 Incomplete typescript, notes and lyrics
Folder 96-99 Typescript, notes, lyrics, scores
Folder 100 Correspondence, rehearsal schedule and notes
Folder 101 Incomplete typescript and press cuttings of reviews, September 1983
Folder 102 CLOSED
Folder 103 CLOSED
Folder 104 Plan for record of Brecht songs in English, 1982
Folder 105 Newspaper cuttings of record reviews, 1982

Box 14

Folder 106-108 Correspondence, lyrics, scores for songbook, together with three copies of the book, 1980
Folder 109 How to write lyrics
Folder 110-111 Poems and songs from students

Box 15

Folder 112-115 Poems and songs from students
Folder 116 Lyrics, scores, photocopies of photographs, 1977-1978
Folder 117 A selection of lyrics written by students at Elizabeth, 1977
Folder 118 'Voyages to the Hemispheres', a play for children by Robin Smith, 1973

Box 16

Folder 119 'The Magic Mirrorman'
Folder 120 'Stairway to the Stars', Robyn Archer's actors notes, 1975-1977
Folder 121 Floating Theatre Troupe scores, lyrics, notes, 1976-1977
Folder 122 'The Dole Show' script, notes, some correspondence, 1978
Folder 123-125 Itinerary, correspondence, tour programs, music scores, reports

Box 17

Folder 126-127 CLOSED
Folder 128 CLOSED
Folder 129 'Captain Lazar' script, notes, and programs, 1980
Folder 130-132 CLOSED
Folder 133 Poor Johanna synopsis, 1981
Folder 134 'Strike Bound' correspondence, background material for proposed film production, 1982
Folder 135-136 Sexuality script and correspondence, 1982
Folder 137-138 Mrs Bottle's Burp, 1983

Box 18

Folder 139 'Beauty and the Beast' - complete script
Folder 140-142 'ABC of Nicaragua', a play about the literacy campaign in Nicaragua, 1986
Folder 143-144 'Brecht and Company,' Hong Kong Festival, 1986
Folder 145-146 'On Parliament Hill', a play in one act, 1987

Box 19

Folder 147-149 Miscellaneous songs and lyrics
Folder 150 Songs and notes
Folder 151-176 CLOSED
Folder 177-178 Articles, critics' views, photographs

Box 20

Folder 179 Album of programs and magazines with articles about Archer
Folder 180-181 Clippings, 1974-1978
Folder 182 Clippings of Australian tour, 1985
Folder 183 Clippings of Youth Festival, 1985

Box 21

Folder 184-188 Clippings and photocopies of press reviews
Folder 189-190 Miscellaneous newspaper cuttings and photocopies of reviews

Box 22

Folder 191 Miscellaneous newspaper cuttings and photocopies of reviews; copies of publications

Folio Box 1

Folio 1 Programs and three posters

INSTALMENT, 25 MARCH 1992 (folders 1-276)

Folder 1-43 CLOSED

Box 23

Folder 44-45 Source material
Folder 46-47 Draft script, 1977
Folder 48-49 Annotated script and notes
Folder 50 Rehearsal script, 1983
Folder 51 Script, 1984
Folder 42 Prompt script, 1984

Box 24

Folder 53 Script alterations, production notes and State Theatre Company of South Australia rehearsal schedules
Folder 54 Correspondence and contracts
Folder 55 Draft script extracts
Folder 56-57 Second working draft, 1979
Folder 58-60 Draft scripts

Box 25

Folder 61-64 Draft scripts
Folder 65-67 Detailed script for film adaptation

Box 26

Folder 77 Research notes and draft script
Folder 71 First draft, 1980
Folder 72-73 First half of first draft
Folder 74-76 Notes, costume sketches, correspondence and press clippings

Box 27

A STAR IS TORN - theatre productions, 1980-1983
Folder 77 General notes and production schedule, Seymour Centre; music extracts; lighting design plan, Princess Theatre, Melbourne
Folder 78 Script notes and research material
Folder 79 Script and production notes, 1978
Folder 80-81 Annotated script and production notes
Folder 82 Norwegian script
A STAR IS TORN - sound recording, 1980-1983
Folder 83-84 Notes, recording schedules, lyrics and correspondence

Box 28

Folder 85 Time sheets, costings
A STAR IS TORN - book edition
Folder 86-88 First draft, 1984
THE PACK OF WOMEN - theatre production, 1981-1986
Folder 89 UK prompt copy, 1981
Folder 90 Australian prompt copy, 1983
Folder 91 Press clippings, reviews
Folder 92 Slides
Folder 93 Videorecording of understudies

Box 29

THE PACK OF WOMEN - television production, 1981-1986
Folder 94 Drafts, 1983-1985
Folder 95 Stage plans
Folder 96 Graphics
Folder 97 Fan mail and quiz
THE PACK OF WOMEN - sound recording, 1981-1986
Folder 98 Draft running order and lyrics
THE PACK OF WOMEN - book edition, 1981-1986
Folder 99-101 Galley proofs, Chapters 1-18
Folder 102 Illustrations

Box 30

MRS BOTTLE'S BURP - theatre production, 1982-1990
Folder 103-105 Notes and correspondence, including second draft script and photographs
MRS BOTTLE'S BURP - book edition, 1982-1990
Folder 106-107 Notes and correspondence
Folder 108 A copy of Mrs Bottle's Absolutely Blurtingly Beautiful World Beating Burp, published by Penguin, Melbourne 1990
MRS BOTTLE'S BURP - sound recording, 1982-1990
Folder 109-110 Notes and correspondence

Box 31

MRS BOTTLE'S BURP - video production, 1982-1990
Folder 111 Notes and filming schedule for 'Eating on the Plane'
Folder 112 Research material and notes
Folder 113 Outline and first rough draft, 1983
Folder 114 Lyrics and related correspondence
Folder 115 First draft
Folder 116 Second draft
Folder 117 Script
POOR JOHANNA, 1984-1991
Folder 118 Outline (1984) and first draft (1987)

Box 32

Folder 119 Draft script and notes
Folder 120 Annotated first draft (1987); correspondence with Dale Spender and galleys of Penguin publication Heroines, edited by Spender (1991)
Folder 121 Draft playbill
Folder 122-127 CLOSED
Folder 128-129 Script notes and research material
Folder 130 Notes and related correspondence, including production meeting minutes, television production call sheet, annotated script extracts, 1988
Folder 131 Production and script notes together with 1988 Adelaide Festival brochures
Folder 132-135 CLOSED

Box 33

Folder 136 Photographic proofs and two sound cassettes containing recordings associated with the show
THE COLONY 1989-1990
Folder 137-138 Notes and correspondence, 1989-1990
Folder 139 Annotated first draft, together with CLOSED papers
Folder 140 Correspondence, playbills and contract
Folder 141-143 CLOSED
Folder 144 Correspondence and notes
Folder 145 Correspondence and notes, including draft contract
Folder 146 Correspondence and notes, including early script notes and commissioning agreements

Box 34

Folder 147 First draft and notebook
Folder 148-149 Second draft
Folder 150 Publicity material
Folder 151 Press clippings
Folder 152-154 Correspondence and notes, together with some photographs

Box 35

Folder 155-156 Correspondence and notes, together with some photographs
Folder 157 Notes and correspondence
Folder 158 World Expo 88 performance, 1988
Folder 159-161 Notes and correspondence relating to XVI Festival Internacional Cervantino, Mexico, 1988
Folder 162 Notes and papers of the Joint Seminar of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and the Office of the Status of Women, 1991

Box 36

Folder 163 Labour Day Picnic, Glenorchy, Tasmania, 1991
Folder 164 Speech notes for the Victorian Women's Trust Fund Raising Dinner, November 1991
Folder 165 CLOSED
Folder 166 Photocopied typescript of 'Tonight : Lola Blau' by Georg Kreisler
Folder 167 'Such is Life' script by Peter Barclay, Stuart McCreery, Ken Moffat
Folder 168 Draft copy of 'Paradise Now and Then' by Noel Greig
Folder 169 'First Ade' recording
Folder 170 Miscellaneous papers:

'Steps in the Sand' (1978)

Lyrics of 'Halleluiah I'm a Bum' (1980)

Music and costume notes for Jack Punt

Speech by Archer to the National Press Club, Canberra (1990)

Folder 171 Writing notes, including 'Pip Pip', 'My Australia', 'Politics of the Musical' and the 'Gentle Art of Paperfolding'
Folder 172 Miscellaneous notes and research material

Box 37

Folder 173 Miscellaneous notes and research material
Folder 174-175 Press clippings
Folder 176-276 CLOSED

Folio Box 2

Folio 2 CLOSED

INSTALMENT 24 APRIL 1996 (folders 1-130)

Folder 1-120 CLOSED

Box 38

Folder 121-122 Printouts of drafts of 'Cafe Fledermaus'
Folder 123 CLOSED
Folder 124-126 Printouts of drafts of 'The Bridge'
Folder 127 CLOSED
Folder 128-129 Printouts of drafts of 'Le Chat Noir'
Folder 130 CLOSED

Folio Box 3

Folio 3 CLOSED