Stephen Joseph Theatre: Timeline

The timeline offers an at-a-glance guide to significant events at the Scarborough theatre-in-the-round venues since the Library Theatre opened in the town in 1955. This page looks at the Stephen Joseph Theatre period between 1996 and the present day.


Stephen Joseph Theatre officially opens with Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical By Jeeves on 30 April; the theatre's conversion final cost is £5.2m; the BBC record an episode of Mastermind at the new venue; Osborne Christmas Associates win the Empty Space Peter Brooke Theatre award for the conversion; first financial crisis hits the venue culminating in a threat to close the theatre; Stephen Wood appointed General Administrator.
Notable world premieres: All Things Considered (Ben Brown); By Jeeves (Alan Ayckbourn / Andrew Lloyd Webber)

The SJT and Paines Plough collaborate for the first time in a co-production of Ged McKenna's
The Farmer's Bride; the theatre received unwanted national publicity in what is dubbed 'Luvvies vs Lavvies' in which it is - incorrectly - asserted the council's support of the theatre could result in the closure of public lavatories.
Notable world premieres: Things We Do For Love (Alan Ayckbourn); The Edge (Steve Carley); The Farmer's Bride (Ged McKenna)

As a response to the various funding crisis, Alan Ayckbourn plans the SJT's most ambitious season yet 10x10 - 10 world or British premieres with a company of 10 actors; the season is led by new plays by Ayckbourn, John Godber and Tim Firth; Steve Carley's Contacting Laura becomes the 200th new play to premiere since 1955.
Notable world premieres: Comic Potential (Alan Ayckbourn); Perfect Pitch (John Godber); Figuring Things (Michael Fosbrook); About Colin (Robert Shearman); Bolt From The Blue (Neil Monaghan)


Alan Ayckbourn marks his 60th birthday with
House & Garden - an ambitious production in which two inter-related plays are performed simultaneously in The Round and The McCarthy sharing the same cast; the Stephen Joseph Theatre - now licensed as a marriage venue - sees its third marriage with a couple who fly specially over from Australia; audio-described and signed-performances become a regular part of the venue's programming; Ben Brown premieres the highly acclaimed play Larkin With Women starring Oliver Ford Davies as the poet Philip Larkin.
Notable world premieres: House & Garden (Alan Ayckbourn); A Listening Heaven (Torben Betts); Larkin With Women (Ben Brown); Designs On His Body (Helen Kelly)

Stephen Joseph Theatre is nominated for Theatre Of The Year at the Barclays Theatre Awards and
Larkin With Women wins Best New Play at same awards; Alan Ayckbourn writes his second trilogy Damsels In Distress designed to introduce a repertory company back into the theatre.

The first
Ayckbourn And The Round event is launched, a fund-raising event in which delegates spend the week behind-the-scenes at the Stephen Joseph Theatre with workshops and discussions by Alan Ayckbourn and other key figures;
Notable world premieres: Damsels In Distress (Alan Ayckbourn); Clockwatching (Torben Betts); Amaretti Angels (Sarah Phelps)

Alan Ayckbourn's
Damsels in Distress trilogy becomes the first SJT production to transfer directly to the West End with the original Scarborough company; Tim Firth's The Safari Party premieres at the Stephen Joseph Theatre - the final play Alan Ayckbourn will direct which is not written by himself.
Notable world premieres: The Safari Party (Tim Firth); Man For Hire (Meredith Oakes); Red Roses (Eric Prince)

The SJT teams up with the National Youth Music Theatre to stage the venue's largest ever production with the world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's
Orvin - The Champion Of Champions with a cast of more than 40 people; a platform talk with Harold Pinter and Alan Ayckbourn takes place; a visiting production of John Godber's Screaming Blue Murder is delayed when The Round's stage-lift jams - the production moves to Yorkshire Coast College, former home of the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, and the night's show is produced there with just a 30 minute delay!
Notable world premieres: How To Tell The Truth (Chris Dunkley); Making Waves (Stephen Clarke); Bedtime Stories (Lesley Bruce)

Laurie Sansom is appointed Associate Director; Bob Watson, founder member of the Friends and theatre archivist, dies in March - the
theatre's archive is later named after him.
Notable world premieres: Private Fears In Public Places (Alan Ayckbourn); For Starters (Nick Warburton); Her Slightest Touch (Torben Betts); The Ugly Duckling (Vicky Ireland)

The Stephen Joseph Theatre celebrates the 50th anniversary of Stephen Joseph opening the Library Theatre in Scarborough - a blue plaque marking the anniversary is installed outside Scarborough Library; the company's first tour to the 59E59 Theaters'
Brits Off Broadway festival in New York with Alan Ayckbourn's Private Fears In Public Places; the SJT first co-production with Frantic Assembly to produce Lisa Evans' Villette.
Notable world premieres: Spittin' Distance (Toby Davis / Grant Olding); Caution! Trousers (Kerry Hood); Playing God (Laurence Marks / Maurice Gran); Villette (Lisa Evans)

Alan Ayckbourn suffers a stroke on 21 February - he will spend six months rehabilitating before returning to the theatre to direct the world premiere of his play
If I Were You in September; Laurie Sansom leaves the SJT to become Artistic Director of the Royal & Derngate, Northampton, later becoming Artistic Director of National Theatre of Scotland in 2013; Alan Ayckbourn's If I Were You is the 100th new produced commission at the SJT since it opened in 1996.
Notable world premieres: If I Were You (Alan Ayckbourn); Absolutely Frank (Tim Firth)

The theatre trust board announces Alan Ayckbourn will retire as Artistic Director on 31 March 2009
Notable world premieres: Touch Wood (Nick Warburton)

The SJT OutReach department is launched - an ambitious extension of the theatre's former education department.

Alan Ayckbourn steps down as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre on 31 March; Chris Monks becomes the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre on 1 April.
Notable world premieres: My Wonderful Day (Alan Ayckbourn)

Notable world premieres: Twenty: 20 (James Quinn); The Hunt For The Scroobious Pip (Andrew Pollard); The Price Of Everything (Fiona Evans)

World premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's Dear Uncle, an adaptation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya; Alan Ayckbourn's new play Neighbourhood Watch premieres before touring with its Scarborough company for month-long residencies in both New York (59E59 Theaters) and London (Tricycle Theatre) - this is also the 300th new play to premiere at the Stephen Joseph Theatre since the Library Theatre opened in 1955.
Notable world premieres: Dear Uncle (Alan Ayckbourn adapted from Chekhov); Neighbourhood Watch (Alan Ayckbourn)

Playwright John Godber and his wife Jane Thornton write two inter-related Scarborough-set plays Lost & Found; Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular and Surprises are presented as part of the 2012 Festival celebrating the London 2012 Olympics.
Notable world premieres: Lost (Jane Thornton); Found (John Godber)

Artistic Director Chris Monks announces he will be taking time away from the theatre to develop 'exciting new projects' - none are ever reported as coming to fruition; Henry Bell is appointed Associate Director and the Literary Department is relaunched following an eight year sabbatical.
Notable world premieres: The Hoarder (devised); Arrivals & Departures (Alan Ayckbourn)

Ayckbourn Ensemble (Arrivals & Departures, Time Of My Life, Farcicals) tours to the Brits Off Broadway festival for a month; the Arts Council award capital funding for a multi-functional studio space to be used for OutReach community projects, rehearsal space and storage facilities; premiere of Chris Monks' The Last Train To Scarborough - in association with the National Railway Museum - as part of the Yorkshire Festival, celebrating the inclusion of the county in the Tour de France.
Notable world premieres: Roundelay (Alan Ayckbourn)

The Stephen Joseph Theatre celebrates its 60th anniversary on 14 July; Stephen Wood announces his retirement as Executive Director after 19 years in the role and leaves on 11 June followed by Artistic Director Chris Monks leaving on 11 December; Mathew Russell is appointed as interim Chief Executive; three celebrated plays are revived for the anniversary with Stephen Mallatratt's
The Woman In Black, Tim Firth's Neville's Island & Alan Ayckbourn's Confusions; the OutReach Rooms are opened on 17 May; Alan Ayckbourn's five hour narrative The Divide is exclusively premiered in a special gala event.
Notable world premieres: Hero's Welcome (Alan Ayckbourn)

The SJT announces Paul Robinson as the new Artistic Director of the SJT with Stephen Freeman as the new Chief Executive; Alan Ayckbourn's
Hero's Welcome & Confusions tour to the Brits Off Broadway festival in New York; Torben Betts returns to the SJT with the world premiere of The National Joke; Premier Patrons scheme is launched; play readings of commissioned work introduced; Paul Robinson's directorial debut at the SJT with Pinocchio.
Notable world premieres: The National Joke (Torben Betts); Just So Stories (Vicky Ireland); Consuming Passions (Alan Ayckbourn)

The SJT recommits itself to championing new work with The McCarthy theatre dedicated as a new writing space; first professional production in Scarborough of Jim Cartwright's The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice; Alan Ayckbourn marks his 60th anniversary with the SJT with two Gala events, A Brief History of Plays; the 50th anniversary of the death of the company's founder, Stephen Joseph, is marked with an exhibition and a day of talks; the SJT successfully retains NPO status; the theatre's first Pride film season is held; the SJT reports its most successful summer season since Alan Ayckbourn stepped down as Artistic Director in Spring 2009.
Notable world premieres: A Brief History of Women (Alan Ayckbourn); Goth Weekend (Ali Taylor); A Scarborough Christmas Carol (Nick Lane)

A major capitol project begins the year with refurbishment of the front of house areas, essential maintenance to the building and the conversion of The Round entirely to an LED lighting grid; Alan Ayckbourn appointed Director Emeritus; Alan Ayckbourn's A Brief History of Women tours to the Brits Off Broadway festival at the 59E59 Theaters, New York; Executive Producer Amanda Saunders retires after 22 years in the role; Lotte Wakeham joins as the company as Associate Artistic Director; first production at Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Build A Rocket - which is subsequently chosen to open the Caledonian Express Festival in London and wins the Holden Street Theatre's Edinburgh Fringe Award; Rounders youth theatre celebrates its 40th anniversary with a specially commissioned play, All Delighted People, by Chris York. Steve Freeman announces he is to leave as Executive Director of the SJT to join the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.
Notable world premieres: Better Off Dead (Alan Ayckbourn); Build A Rocket (Chris York); Alice In Wonderland (Nick Lane)

Caroline Routh is appointed the new Executive Director of the SJT; Alan Ayckbourn celebrates his 80th birthday and the 60th anniversary of his playwriting debut at the Library Theatre, Scarborough; Build A Rocket transfers to the Holden Street Theatre, Adelaide; the SJT announces its first Associate Companies collaborating with Box Of Tricks and The Faction; the exterior lighting of the SJT is restored thanks to funding from the Arts Council and the Coastal Revival Fund; Chelsey Gillard is appointed Associate Director for a year thanks to funding from the Carne Trust; McCain Foods announces support for SJT OutReach projects.
Notable world premieres: Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present (Alan Ayckbourn); The Monstrous Heart (Oliver Emanuel); Treasure Island (Nick Lane)

Concern about the spread of the Covid-19 virus closes the SJT on 17 March alongside the majority of British theatre venues. On 23 March, the entire 'produced' summer season at the venue is cancelled. Alan Ayckbourn's new play, Anno Domino, is premiered as an online audio-stream due to Covid-19; announces partnership with Sphinx Theatre to provide support and development for female playwrights.
Notable world premieres: Anno Domino (Alan Ayckbourn)

Since opening in 1996, the Stephen Joseph Theatre has staged 247 productions of which 149 plays are world premieres as of December 2019.

Since the Library Theatre opened in 1955, the Stephen Joseph company has staged 649 plays of which 332 were world premieres as of December 2019.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the copyright holder.