Stephen Joseph Theatre Significant Dates: December

A month-by-month guide to significant events and dates at the Stephen Joseph Theatre from 1955 to the present day.

1 December:
On 1 December 1981, the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round premiered The Vanishing by Polly Warren; a family play for Christmas. The production was significant as it marked the first time young people from the Scarborough area appeared in a production by the company. Pupils from Graham School and St Augustine's RC School appeared in the play.

2 December: Another family play opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round with Old King Cole by Ken Campbell in 1987. The production was notable as when Ellen Sheean had to drop out of the play for 'personal reasons' for a number of performances, her role of Old Queen Cole was taken by the director Stephen Mallatratt; as a Christmas show in the UK, this would barely have lifted an eye-lid given the propensity for pantomime dames!

4 December: The Stephen Joseph Theatre celebrated the National Year Of Reading with the world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's The Boy Who Fell Into A Book. This play was written to coincide with the National Year Of Reading and sees the young hero, Kevin, fall into the pages of the books in his bedroom. Alongside a hard-boiled detective Rockfist Slim, he has to work his way through the different books on his shelf to find a way home. The play was later adapted into a musical by Paul James, Cathy Shotak and Eric Angus which received its world premiere at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2014.

5 December: The time-travelling musical Whenever opened on 5 December 2000 and marked the first full-length collaboration between Alan Ayckbourn and the composer Denis King. Together they would also write Orvin - Champion Of Champions and Awaking Beauty.

7 December: In 1989, it was reported in the media that Malcolm Hebden would be returning to the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round as the company's Associate Director; Malcolm had previously both acted and directed for the company. He would hold the position between 1990 and 1996 during the period when the conversion of Scarborough's former Odeon cinema into a £5.2m new home for the company were realised.

8 December: The world premiere in 1982 of Alan Ayckbourn's A Trip To Scarborough, adapted from R.B. Sheridan's play of the same name (itself an adaptation of an earlier play). Alan Ayckbourn decided it was too good an opportunity not to stage the play but adapted it to include two additional plots running alongside Sheridan's original with additional material set during World War II and the present day all within the foyer of the town's Royal Hotel. This marked the first of several adaptations by the playwright and A Trip To Scarborough was also revived at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2007.

9 December: The first production of a J.B. Priestley play by the company opened on 9 December 1957 at the Library Theatre with I Have Been Here Before. Priestley was a keen advocate of theatre-in-the-round and Stephen Joseph was in contact with the playwright during the early years of the Library Theatre. Other plays by J.B. Priestley produced by the company include Eden End (1967), Time And The Conways (1980) and The Linden Tree (1984).

10 December: The company's first winter season was launched at the Library Theatre in 1957. This was the company's third year since being formed by Stephen Joseph in 1955 and the winter season was launched following a poll held during the summer to ascertain support for an expanded programme. The season began with J.B. Priestley's I have Been Here Before which although advertised as opening on the 10 December actually had an invited audience performance on 9 December.

11 December: Chris Monks stepped down as the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2015, having succeeded Alan Ayckbourn on 1 April 2009. His most significant achievement was overseeing the opening of the SJT's OutReach; the SJT's largest capital project since it moved to its new home in 1996.

12 December: The Seen Unseen exhibition opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2008 to mark the 70th birthday of Alan Ayckbourn in 2009. Curated by his archivist Simon Murgatroyd, it offered a glimpse into often rarely seen photographs from the playwright's life. The exhibition took place in The Gallery at the Stephen Joseph Theatre which has held exhibitions within the space since the opening the building in 1996.

14 December: One of the company's more unusual playwright debuts came in 1959 when the world premiere of Colin Wilson's one act play Viennese Interlude opened at the Library Theatre. Colin Wilson was - at the time - a noted author due to the success of his philosophical book, The Outsider. Although he had written several plays prior to Viennese Interlude, this was his first to be produced. The company's Artistic Director Stephen Joseph believed an association with Wilson would provide good publicity and a higher profile for the company, particularly if presented in London. It did neither and Wilson - despite being commissioned to write a full-length play Necessary Doubt - did not work with the company again.

16 December: The Library Theatre's 1974 production of The Breadwinner was broadcast on the BBC Radio Repertory In Britain (Afternoon Theatre) series in 1974 on BBC Radio 4. The production was produced by Alfred Bradley, directed by Alan Ayckbourn and adapted for the radio by Kay Jamieson.

17 December: Ten years after its premiere at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Stephen Mallatratt's adaptation of The Woman In Black was revived at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1997. The play - which went onto West End success after its initial production in Scarborough in 1987 - is one of the most successful plays to have ever been premiered at the SJT. The revival featured Peter Laird and an up-and-coming actor called Martin Freeman; Martin is now a global success known for his award-winning work in Sherlock, Fargo and The Hobbit movies amongst many others.

18 December: Although The Woman In Black is Stephen Mallatratt's most famous play - and ghost story - it wasn't his first foray into the supernatural. That came in 1975 at the Library Theatre with the world premiere of his adaptation of Charles Dickens' The Chimes, directed by Alan Ayckbourn.

19 December: A significant point in the company's history when Scarborough Theatre Trust made the decision in 1965 not to present a summer season at the Library Theatre in 1966. The Artistic Director, Stephen Joseph, had already said the theatre was to close at the end of the 1965 season and this ratified Stephen's decision. Fortunately, the Library Theatre was re-opened as a professional venue in 1967 under the guidance of theatre manager Ken Boden.

20 December: The opening night of a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's classic play Absurd Person Singular in 1989. It's rare in the history of the company for actors to have to be changed during the course of a run, but this production saw three people play Marion! The actress Moira Redmond injured her back early in the play’s run and Heather Stoney was drafted in to read the part while a replacement was found. Lavinia Bertram then took over the role until Moira recovered and rejoined the company. Just to confuse issues, the play then toured before transferring to the West End with Lavinia taking over the role of Eva.

21 December: World premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's second play, Love After All, at the Library Theatre in 1959. Commissioned immediately after the success of his first play, The Square Cat, during the summer season, Love After All was loosely inspired by The Barber of Seville and attributed to Roland Allen; Alan's writing pseudonym consisting of an amalgamation of his name and his wife, Christine Roland. The play was believed lost until 2007 when Alan's Archivist, Simon Murgatroyd, and the British Library discovered the only extant copy of the play.

22 December: Alan Ayckbourn's first play was commissioned on the back of Alan Ayckbourn complaining to the company's Artistic Director, Stephen Joseph, in 1958 about the quality of his acting roles. Stephen called Alan's bluff and challenged him tow write a better play if he thought he could do better, which Alan did with The Square Cat. The play Alan complained about was Ring Of Roses by David Campton which opened on 22 December 1958 at the Library Theatre.

23 December: Alan Ayckbourn was appointed a Freeman of the Borough of Scarborough on 23 December 1986 for his work promoting and supporting theatre in the town.

26 December: The only time the company opened a play on Boxing Day was in 1961 with the world premiere of David Campton's The Boys & The Girls. The production closed the winter season at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, and only ran until 30 December.

27 December: The BBC Radio 4 programme Poetry Please! was broadcast from the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round in 1992 featuring the actors Elizabeth Kelly and David Woodland alongside Deirdre Carney playing the fiddle.

29 December: In 2006, the archive at the Stephen Joseph Theatre was officially renamed The Bob Watson Archive in memory of the theatre's original archivist. Bob had been involved with the theatre since the 1970s and passionately maintained and restored the archive in a voluntary capacity after much of it had been thrown out by a press officer during the 1980s. Bob passed away on the opening night of Alan Ayckbourn's latest play, Drowning On Dry Land, in 2003 and the archive still recognises his work and dedication today.

30 December: The first television adaptation of a play premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre is not, as one might expect, by Alan Ayckbourn but the company's first resident playwright, David Campton. On 30 December 1965, the BBC broadcast Soldier From The Wars Returning, a one-act play by David which had first been staged at the Library Theatre on 4 August 1960.

31 December: Charles 'Mac' McCarthy passed away on 31 December 2012 having been one of the key figures in the conversion of Scarborough's former Odeon cinema into the £5.2m Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1996. Mac was a passionate supporter of the Stephen Joseph Theatre and was chairman of Scarborough Theatre Trust for many years. The end-stage auditorium at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, The McCarthy, is named after him.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. All views expressed on this page are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Stephen Joseph Theatre.