Theatre In The Round

by Stephen Joseph, published in Theatre Industry, April 1957

Many of us who have seen the théâtre en rond de Paris, the teatro Sant’ Erasmo in Milan, or any of the numerous arena theatres in the United States, have wanted to start a theatre in the round in the west-end of London. There are a number of obstacles. Firstly, there are already a large number of theatres in this country and many of them, for one reason or another, are closing down. So that opening a new theatre seems a risky business. In London, sites are difficult to obtain, rents high, labour expensive, and capital by no means easy to muster. Further, it is doubtful if the LCC would license a theatre in the round - not, at any rate, until after one or without the critics’ support. So the circle is somewhat vicious.

The Studio Theatre Club, which has put on Sunday shows once a month, chooses its programme from new plays, classics and foreign plays in translation.
Without further capital, however, the Studio Theatre company cannot plan a London theatre club to run continuously in its own premises, nor start seasons in provincial towns other than Scarborough. And expansion is clearly necessary. lt is particularly important to have a small theatre club, seating about 250 people, to put on theatre in the round somewhere near the centre of London. This will serve as final testing ground for a fully-fledged theatre in the round in the West End.

Surely it cannot be long before this exciting form of theatre finds itself flourishing in London and all over the provinces - particularly in otherwise theatreless towns.
Meanwhile, we have discovered that there is no limit to the sort of play that can be staged. We know a good deal about the various arrangements of seating round the acting area, how to light the actors, how to use props and manage stage-business in general. Actors and producers are coming to grips with new problems and new opportunities. Writers are beginning to see fresh conventions, and managers are beginning to realise that the little theatre can survive on a tiny budget. It is perhaps the greatest sign of strength that the artists enjoy working in theatre in the round, and that this enjoyment is shared by growing audiences - in London and in Scarborough.

Copyright of Studio Theatre Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission. Transcribed by Simon Murgatroyd.