Why 1955 to 2009?

By Simon Murgatroyd M.A.

Theatre in the Round is undoubtedly one of the most important cultural contributors to Scarborough in the latter half of the 20th century.

While it still operates today and premieres work by
Alan Ayckbourn, there is no doubt its most significant years - from a historical perspective - are the first five decades when it was overseen by its founder, Stephen Joseph, and later Alan Ayckbourn.

As a result, A Round Town celebrates the first 55 years of theatre in the round in Scarborough concentrating on the period 1955 to 2009 which encompasses the complete tenures of Stephen Joseph and Alan Ayckbourn as Artistic Directors of the company. The reasons for this are three-fold.

Firstly, the key figures in the history of theatre in the round in Scarborough are, inarguably, Stephen Joseph and Alan Ayckbourn. The founder of the company and his prot
égé who then ensured the company, theatre and his mentor's legacy survived and thrived.

Theatre in the round has been active in Scarborough since 1955 and the first 55 years of that time is dominated by Stephen and Alan at
Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre (1955 - 1976) and then the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round (1976 - 1995). Their achievements, aspirations and accomplishments should be explored and examined particularly given what they created in Scarborough and, certainly in Alan's case, his complete commitment to the town. He arrived here in 1957 at the age of 18 and has been associated with the town ever since.

Secondly, I'm Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist and my specialities lie in both Alan Ayckbourn and Stephen Joseph, so it makes sense to concentrate on the period I am most interested in and which I have intimate knowledge of. This is also a subsidiary site to the playwright's official website
www.alanayckbourn.net, so it makes sense to focus on this period when Alan Ayckbourn was most active, given his relationship with the SJT since 2009 has been far less active and his professional role limited entirely to that of guest director. Arguably, the place of Stephen and Alan within the company's history have also increasingly been played down and diminished.

Finally, Alan Ayckbourn stepped down in 2009 as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Since then there have been two Artistic Directors and an interim director. Their contribution to the legacy of the company is either still taking place or is too close to appreciate its wider impact, if any. Those stories are still being written and perhaps other historians will tell them in the future.

This website is about the stories I would like to tell and with more than five decades of material to draw from, there's a lot of them to tell. I hope you enjoy this celebration of this extraordinary part of Scarborough's culture heritage.

Simon Murgatroyd, June 2023