Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre: 1955

This page contains a more detailed guide to significant events concerning Scarborough's Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre in 1955.


  • Whilst leading a weekend acting course at Wrea Head, John Wood - Education Officer for the North Riding Education Committee - brings Stephen Joseph to Scarborough to view a possible home for theatre in the round at the Concert Room at Scarborough Library (Conjecture - this may have happened in 1954 or not at all).
  • 17 February: Stephen Joseph contacts William Smettem, director of Scarborough Public Library, about the possibility of hiring the Concert Room (formerly the Harrison Room) at the Library for a summer season of plays presented in-the-round.
  • Stephen Joseph forms the Studio Theatre Ltd company.
  • William Smettem agrees to let the Studio Theatre Ltd company use the Concert Room for £10 a week rent.
  • Stephen Joseph meets William Smettem, possibly after visiting the Town Hall first and being re-directed to Scarborough Library (oral account), to see the Concert Room and discuss theatre in the round (Conjecture - this may have happened in 1954).
  • Stephen Joseph meets Ken Boden, a leading figure in Scarborough's amateur community, who commits to helping the the new theatre project. He will play a pivotal role in the company for the next 30 years (Conjecture - this may have happened in 1954).
  • 11 July: The company arrives in Scarborough for final rehearsals for the summer season at what will be called Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre.*
  • The company wages are recorded as £10 per actor per week (the Equity minimum was £7 but Stephen Joseph reasoned most of the company had residences in London to also pay for).
  • 14 July: Studio Theatre Ltd opening night begins performances at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, with the world premiere of Eleanor D Glaser's Circle Of Love.
  • July: During the early part of the season, a prompt is used for the only time in the theatre's history. The prompt is placed in the front row but is quickly dispensed with due to "killing some of the magic."
  • The company offers a Wednesday matinee throughout the summer season, it is reported in 1964 that this ongoing tradition is unique among Scarborough theatres with no other venues in the town offering matinee performances.
  • 21 July: World premiere of Ruth Dixon's 'Prentice Pillar. The Arts Council refused to financially support the production describing it as 'too obscure.' Stephen Joseph later suggests the main reason Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre made a loss in its first season was the lack of a guarantee against loss for the production of this play.
  • 25 July: The Scarborough Evening News announces Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre will close in two weeks unless audience figures improve; the hottest summer for 50 years is blamed.
  • 28 July: World premiere of David Campton's Dragons Are Dangerous; David Campton will become the company's first resident writer and the first writer at the Library Theatre to achieve long-term success as a playwright.
  • 29 July: The Scarborough Evening News announces Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre is safe for another three weeks at least, thanks to improved audience figures.
  • 2 August: First ever full-house at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre. This coincides with the heat-wave breaking and the first major rainfall of the summer on the same day.
  • 16 August: In a letter to the Chief Librarian, Mervyn Edwards - who succeeded William Smettem during the summer - Stephen Joseph asks to book the Concert Room for a second season for Studio Theatre Ltd from 9 July - 7 September 1956; Stephen having judged the first season had been successful enough to warrant continuing.
  • 10 September: The season ends with the final performance of Jurneman (Joan) Winch's Turn Right At The Crossroads.
  • Remarkably, the first season of Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre consists entirely of four new plays, three of which are written by women. In comparison, the Royal Court - often cited as the UK's first major writers' theatre - did not open until 1956 and could not boast of such a forward-looking, gender-blind writer's policy for many years.
  • 11 September: The Studio Theatre Club hosts its first weekly performance in London with a performance of Jurneman (Joan) Winch's Turn Right At The Crossroads. Performances take place at the Mahatma Gandhi Hall, which is in premises below the YMCA at 51 Fitzroy Street, London.
  • 11 November: Mervyn Edwards is informed by Stephen Joseph that Studio Theatre Ltd made an acceptable loss on the season of £513 (not including theatre hire). In 1957, the total loss will be reported by the Leicester Mercury as £750.
* The Library Theatre and Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre are frequently and incorrectly amalgamated. The Library Theatre was the name Scarborough Library used for the Concert Room space for performances from the 1950s through to the 1980s. Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre merely utilised the space on a seasonal basis from 1955 to 1975; as can be ascertained from the title, it was a company using that space. When 'The Library Theatre' is specifically referred to in these pages, it is specifically to productions not part of the professional Theatre in the Round seasons organised by Stephen Joseph.
Article by and copyright of Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the copyright holder.