Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round: 1996

This page contains a more detailed guide to significant events concerning Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round in 1996.


  • Early 1996: It is confirmed the new theatre at the site of Scarborough's former Odeon cinema will be called the Stephen Joseph Theatre after Alan Ayckbourn pays £400,000 for the right to name the building, which is named after his most influential mentor and the founder of the UK's first professional theatre in the round company in Scarborough.
  • Early 1996: Stephen Wood is appointed General Administrator of the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
  • 5 January: Opening night of Just Between Ourselves by Alan Ayckbourn and directed by Robin Herford. This will be the final production to be staged at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round.
  • 31 January: Scarborough Evening News journalist Simon Murgatroyd reports the new Stephen Joseph Theatre will open on 24 April 1996 with By Jeeves, a revised version of Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Jeeves.
  • 17 January: It is reported in the Scarborough Evening News that Scarborough magistrates have refused to grant a bar extension from 11pm to 1am for a party following the final performance at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round on 3 February.
  • 3 February: Final night of Just Between Ourselves and the final performance at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round; the evening ends with the actor Malcolm Hebden reprising the role of Mr Whatnot from the play which opened the venue in 1976, turning off the stage-lights off at the venue.
  • March: Associate Director Malcolm Hebden steps down having been offered a full-time part on the television soap opera Coronation Street; he had been appearing irregularly as the character Norris Cole before the role became permanent.
  • Early Spring: The decision is made to install an electronic ticket system at the Stephen Joseph Theatre; previously, a non-electronic ticketing system was utilised at the SJT and it is seriously considered to be continued at the SJT.
  • Early spring: The key staff at the SJT are confirmed as iAlan Ayckbourn (Artistic Director), Stephen Wood (General Administrator), Keith McFarlane (Financial Administrator), Ian Wainwright (Education Officer), Mo McLeod (Theatre Manager), Zoe Naylor (Film / Theatre Manager), Connal Orton (Literary Manager), John Pattison (Musical Director), James Mackenzie (Senior Chef).
  • Early Spring: Full details of The SJT facilities are revealed with two auditoria, The Round and The McCarthy (which doubles as both stage and cinema), a conference and meeting space The Boden Room, a restaurant, bar and wine bar, a shop, two rehearsal rooms, a workshop and paint room, green room, administration offices
  • 18 April: The Scarborough Evening News publishes Stephen Joseph Theatre: Opening Night supplement, which is given away to every visitor to the SJT during its opening week. The supplement is compiled by Simon Murgatroyd who would later become Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist.
  • 24 April: The Stephen Joseph Theatre opens with the premiere of the musical By Jeeves by Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
  • 24 April: The Marion & Harrison McCain Gallery opens with New Beginnings, Fresh Starts, an exhibition by artists born, trained or living in Yorkshire.
  • 24 April: The Theatre Shop opens purportedly offering the largest collection of 20th century playtexts in the north of England.
  • 24 April: The Restaurant opens for daily service with Head Chef James Mackenzie.
  • 25 April: Andrew Lloyd Webber gives the first platform talk at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
  • April: The Literary Department and Education Departments are established and launched.
  • April: Funding for the new theatre continued to be a three-way-parity agreement between Scarborough Council, North Yorkshire County Council and Yorkshire and Humberside Arts. The latter two providing a subsidy of £622,700 with Scarborough providing £141,000. Alan Ayckbourn at the time notes this is a recipe for disaster given the subsidy is the same as for the previous home of the company despite the SJT being twice as big and employing twice as many staff.
  • 10 May: The end-stage McCarthy auditorium opens with a production of Alan Bennett's Forty Years On.
  • 11 May; Alan Bennett gives the second platform talk at the SJT
  • 19 May: Gala opening of cinema in The McCarthy by French film auteur Alain Resnais and his wife, the actress Sabine Azema. The opening film is Resnais's two part adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's Intimate Exchanges, Smoking / No Smoking. The projector breaks down during the first performance - a regular issue during the cinema's first few months.
  • 26 May: First musical performance at the SJT with a performance by Kammerspiel.
  • 29 June: Platform talk with Michael Frayn
  • 5 September: The SJT is reported to be facing a budget crisis by The Stage with annual running costs having risen by £100,000 to £440,000. At the same time it is reported, budgetary issues means Scarborough Council is trying to save £566,000, which might mean the closure of 22 public lavatories. The two issues are conflated with reports incorrectly stating money to one will mean the loss of the other.
  • Mid-September: The BBC current affairs programme Newsnight covers the financial issues at the SJT and coins the phrase 'Luvvies Vs Lavvies', which is then reported nationally.
  • 14 September: Platform talk with the actor Robert Powell.
  • 18 September: The first world premiere at the SJT opens with Vanessa Brooks's play Love Me Slender (whilst By Jeeves is considered a world premiere, it is actually a revision of an earlier work whilst Love Me Slender was the first entirety new work at the SJT).
  • September: The first tour from the SJT visits The Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-on-Windermere, and Chichester Festival Theatre with Alan Ayckbourn's revised revival of It Could Be Any One Of Us.
  • Autumn: The first writer-in-residence at the SJT is named as Vanessa Brooks from 1996 - 1997.
  • 18 November: First visit to the SJT by the Northern Broadsides with Antony and Cleopatra and Romeo and Juliet.
  • 29 November: Alan Ayckbourn's first entirely new play for the SJT opens with The Champion of Paribanou.
  • 3 - 7 December: First visit to the SJT from Polka Theatre for Children with Stardog's Winter Adventure.
  • Osborne Christmas Associates wins the Empty Space Peter Brooke Theatre award for the conversion of Scarborough's former Odeon cinema to the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
Article by and copyright of Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the copyright holder.