Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round: Timeline (1976 - 1995)

The timeline offers an at-a-glance guide to significant events at Theatre in the Round at Westwood (later renamed the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round) from its opening in 1976 to the company's move to its third home, the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1996.

Click on a highlighted year below or button to the right to read more in-depth details about the year's events.
Theatre In The Round At Westwood (a conversion of the former Westwood County Modern School) opens with a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's Mr Whatnot on 26 October; Scarborough Town Council proposes this will be a temporary home whilst a purpose-built theatre-in-the-round venue will be built on Vernon Road, Scarborough, at a cost of £500,000; the Scarborough Supporters's Club (later the Friends of the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round) is formed; Robin Herford joins the company.

Scarborough Town Council announces plans for a purpose-built theatre-in-the-round venue in Vernon Road, Scarborough, are no longer viable due to the proposed cost having increased to £1m; exhibitions are displayed within the theatre for the first time; Sunday night jazz sessions launched; the lease on Westwood is extended until 1989; first lunchtime performances in the studio space with an emphasis on new writing.

Theatre In The Round At Westwood is officially renamed the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round in memory of its founder on 1 April; Monday lunchtime concerts are launched; the studio space is made permanent; the youth drama group Rounders is formed; Sunday night concerts in the Studio take place for the first time.
Notable world premieres: Travelling Hopefully (Ken Whitmore); Patriotic Bunting (Brian Thompson)

A £105,000 grant allows significant alterations including a purpose-built on-site rehearsal room, extra office space, a costume store and air-conditioning in the main auditoria; BBC1 screens Alan Ayckbourn and Paul Todd's revue
Men On Women On Men featuring the Scarborough company; Tishoo by Brian Thompson becomes the 100th play to be premiered at the theatre since 1955; burglars are caught by the police in the act when they are discovered in wardrobe drinking stolen liqueur whilst dressed as Santa Claus and a judge from the current production of The Crucible.
Notable world premieres: Tishoo (Brian Thompson); Taking Steps (Alan Ayckbourn)

A plaque dedicated to Stephen Joseph is unveiled by Tom Laughton in the theatre; Robin Herford is appointed Associate Director; the company tours Alan Ayckbourn's
Season's Greetings to The Round House, London, for a month-long residency.
Notable world premieres: Season's Greetings (Alan Ayckbourn); Trailer (Paul Copley)

The company's first resident band -
Our Band - is formed; unreserved seating is stopped at the theatre having been running to some extent since 1955; World premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's river-set play Way Upstream in which the auditoria is flooded and a moving cabin cruiser installed - the play is later toured in 1982 without incident to the Alley Theatre, Houston, again flooding the stage; the company stages its first Shakespeare play with Twelfth Night.
Notable world premieres: You Should See Us Now (Peter Tinniswood)

The theatre alongside Oldham Coliseum are announced as producing more new work than any other regional UK venue; with most of the repertory company moving on, Alan Ayckbourn writes the epic Intimate Exchanges for Robin Herford and Lavinia Bertram; a play for two actors playing ten roles with sixteen possible permutations and more than 30 hours of dialogue.
Notable world premieres: Intimate Exchanges (Alan Ayckbourn)

Alan Ayckbourn and Paul Todd's musical Making Tracks tours to the Greenwich Theatre, London, for a month-long residency; the Alley Theatre, Houston, has a month long residency at the theatre.
Notable world premieres: Before Your Very Eyes (Michael Cashman)

The Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round makes a loss for the first time since opening in 1976; Tom Laughton steps down as chairman of Scarborough Theatre Trust and dies later that year; BBC1 screens Alan Ayckbourn and Paul Todd's revue
Deadly Virtues recorded at the theatre with the original company; the Westwood lease is extended again by another 10 years; Alan Ayckbourn's Intimate Exchanges becomes the first production to transfer (rather than tour) to London (the Greenwich Theatre) with the original Scarborough company - it later transfers to the West End with the same cast; the theatre's restaurant after several names (such as Doreen's Pantry and Woody's) finally settles on The Square Cat to mark the 25th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn's first play; the Arts Council threatens to cut the theatre's budget and North Yorkshire County Council considers not extending the company's lease for the building - it is later extended by 10 years following a public outcry.
Notable world premieres: A Chorus Of Disapproval (Alan Ayckbourn)

Funding cuts from the Arts Council lead to a planned show being dropped and the summer season being shortened by four weeks; Ken Boden retires as Theatre Manager of the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round and Ian Watson is appointed Administrator of the building.
Notable world premieres: Woman In Mind (Alan Ayckbourn); Imaginary Lines (R.R. Oliver)

Alan Ayckbourn begins a two-year sabbatical from the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round to become a Company Director at the National Theatre, London; Robin Herford is appointed Artistic Director / Director Of Productions of the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round - a position he will share with Alan Ayckbourn for two years. He is responsible for the day-to-day running of the theatre between 1986 to 1988; Sunday night concerts are relaunched as
Scarborough Rock.

The company tours Alan Ayckbourn's
Time & Time Again to Canada; world premiere of The Woman In Black, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the novel by Susan Hill and directed by Robin Herford - the play goes on to become the second longest-running play non the west End after Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap; Stephen Mallatratt is appointed Assistant Director (position replaces Associate Director); Keith McFarlane is appointed the company's first Financial Administrator.
Notable world premieres: The Woman In Black (Stephen Mallatratt); Henceforward... (Alan Ayckbourn)

Alan Ayckbourn returns as full-time Artistic Director to the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round; Robin Herford leaves the theatre; Ian Watson leaves later leading to acrimonious correspondence in the local and national press about the way the theatre is being run, in particular alleged mistakes by press officer Russ Allen who leaves in December; all the venue's seats are replaced with seats from the recently closed Floral Hall; Gordon Townsend is appointed Script Reader - essentially the company's first Literary Manager; the Odeon cinema in Scarborough is closed by the Rank organisation.
Notable world premieres: The Parasol (Frank Dunai); Man Of The Moment (Alan Ayckbourn)

Alan Ayckbourn meets the French film auteur Alain Resnais at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round - he has been visiting the venue for several years as a fan of the playwright's work; John Pattison is appointed Musical Director of the company.
Notable world premieres: Invisible Friends (Alan Ayckbourn)

Alan Ayckbourn announces plans to convert Scarborough's former
Odeon cinema into a purpose-built home for the company; The ADMirable Partnership is formed to secure the lease of the Odeon and raise funds for its conversion - initially estimated at £3.5m; Malcolm Hebden is appointed Associate Director; the National Student Drama Festival visits Scarborough for the first time; Malcolm Gambon stars in Othello, Alan Ayckbourn's first production of a Shakespeare play.
Notable world premieres: Three Men In A Boat (Blake Heathcote)

Ken Boden dies in February; the National Student Drama Festival adopts Scarborough as its permanent home - 35 years after being formed - in association with the town's North Riding College and the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round.
Notable world premieres: The Village Fete (Peter Tinniswood); A Man Of Letters (Tim Firth)

Tim Firth's first full-length play,
Neville's Island, is premiered at the theatre, it goes onto the West End, is adapted for television and helps launch the award-winning stage and screen-writing career of Tim Firth; Teen tickets - sponsored by McCain Foods - are launched; Monday and Friday lunchtime concerts have a short-lived revival.
Notable world premieres: Neville's Island (Tim Firth); One Over The Eight (Peter Robert Scott); Time Of My Life (Alan Ayckbourn)

Fund-raising appeal for the new theatre is launched with the opening planned for autumn 1994 but later amended to 1995 to mark the company's 40th anniversary (it actually opens in 1996); work begins on Stage 1 of the new theatre conversion.

The theatre co-produces an acclaimed adaptation of Mary Morris's children's book
Two Weeks With The Queen with the National Theatre; Comedienne Victoria Wood holds a fund-raising concert for the new theatre fund.
Notable world premieres: Penny Blue (Vanessa Brooks); Two Weeks With The Queen (Morris Gleitzman); White Lies (Robert Shearman)

The cost of the new theatre building is announced to have risen to £4.57m with the intention of it opening by the end of 1995; Maureen Lipman performs her show
Re: Joyce for a week in Scarborough to raise funds for the new theatre fund; lunchtime productions are dropped in preparation for the company's move to its new home; the National Lottery announces a £1.5m grant to the New Theatre Fund in a live broadcast from Scarborough; the actress Sophie Winter dies prior to the final performance of Alan Ayckbourn's A Word From Our Sponsor.

The Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round closes with a performance of a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's
Just Between Ourselves on 3 February; Malcolm Hebden steps down as Associate Director; Stephen Wood becomes General Administrator (later Executive Director) of the company; the Stephen Joseph Theatre opens in April.

Between opening in 1976 and closing in 1996, the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round staged 233 productions of which 106 plays were world premieres.

Article by and copyright of Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the copyright holder.

The History section of A Round Town is dedicated to the memory of Stephen Wood, Executive Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre from 1996 to 2015 and Press Officer of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round from 1976 to 1982.