Stephen Joseph Theatre News

Details of current and forthcoming Stephen Joseph Theatre productions can be found here.

Record-breaking SJT chief moves on

The Chief Executive of Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre is moving on to a major new job.
Stephen Freeman will leave the SJT at the end of 2018 to take up a new post as Executive Director of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre in the new year.
Stephen joined the SJT in the summer of 2016. Since then, in partnership with Artistic Director Paul Robinson who joined at the same time, he has overseen one of the busiest periods in the theatre’s 63-year history, including record-breaking audiences and, earlier this year, a major refurbishment of some of the theatre’s public spaces funded by Arts Council England and public subscriptions.
Stephen says: “I shall be very sad to leave the SJT and Scarborough, both of which I have grown to love over the last couple of years. This role at the Royal Exchange is probably the only thing that could have tempted me to go!
“I’m confident that I shall be leaving the SJT in very capable hands, with a remarkably talented Artistic Director, a strong and committed team, and a positive and forward-looking board.”
Paul Robinson, Artistic Director at the SJT, says: “I’ve hugely enjoyed working with Steve and although we’re all very sorry to see him go, we’re all committed to continuing along the successful path that we started two years ago, delivering an artistic vision that has proved so popular with our audiences so far.”
Helen Boaden, the chair of Scarborough Theatre Trust, which runs the SJT, said: “It’s a real feather in our cap that a big city theatre wants our Chief Executive but we shall certainly miss him.
“Steve has worked tirelessly with Artistic Director Paul Robinson to ensure the SJT remains a vital part of the town and gives all our audiences the very best in high quality entertainment in our refurbished landmark building. Our record audiences show how well they have succeeded.
“Steve has also built great relationships across the town, working with all those organisations and individuals keen to see Scarborough flourish.
“We wish him well in his new role and look forward to finding an equally brilliant successor”.
Prior to joining the SJT, Stephen was at Arts Council England, where he was Relationship Manager Theatre from 2011 to 2016. Before that, he was General Manager at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre, Festival Director of Pulse Festival, producer at Stafford Festival Shakespeare and Artistic Programme Manager at the Gatehouse Theatre in Stafford.

The Stephen Joseph Theatre’s Build a Rocket opens new Caledonian Express festival

The Stephen Joseph Theatre’s Build a Rocket has been chosen to open the brand new Caledonian Express festival, which sees the most exciting work from the Edinburgh Fringe transfer to London.
The show can be seen at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington from Tuesday 18 to Sunday 23 September; the festival runs until December.
Build a Rocket received four-star reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe in August, and was named as this year’s Holden Street Theatres’ Edinburgh Fringe Award winner, giving it the opportunity to take part in the prestigious Adelaide Fringe festival in Australia next spring.
Hard-hitting yet uplifting, it is written by Scarborough-born Christopher York and directed by Paul Robinson. It tells the story of teenage single mum Yasmin, played by Serena Manteghi.
Paul Robinson says: “I couldn’t be more excited about this play, a stunning debut about a teenager from Scarborough who gets pregnant decides to keep her baby.
“It doesn’t flinch from the issues. Scarborough is the teenage pregnancy capital of North Yorkshire, accounting for more than a third of all such pregnancies in the county last year. There’s a proven relationship between teenage pregnancy and deprivation. But a record number of young women in this town are stepping up to take on the role of parent. Young people should never face stigma or judgment and deserve to get the support they need to make informed choices about their lives.
“But this isn’t a play that deals in statistics or overt politics. Instead, it’s like a rocket itself, an explosive and passionate portrait of a young heroine of our times.”
Christopher York was born and brought up in Scarborough. His short plays
Jimbob, Seven People, A Million Little Hands and Jesus is a Rochdale Girl have been performed at venues such as The Arcola, Southwark Playhouse and The Arts Theatre. Build a Rocket is his first full-length play.
He is a recipient of the High Tide First Commissions Award as well as being shortlisted for the Old Vic 12.
Serena Manteghi played Rosie in
My Mother Said I Never Should at St James Theatre, and was Bobbie in the Olivier-Award-winning York Theatre Royal production of The Railway Children at King’s Cross Theatre. Last year she was LV in the SJT’s production of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.
The new Caledonian Express crosses genre and form to stage the most innovative pieces fresh from the Fringe. From solo performances to ensemble physical theatre, from immersive installations to surreal two-handers, the Pleasance continues to programme bold work making it the place for incredible stories.
Build a Rocket can be seen at the Pleasance Theatre (Carpenters Mews, London, N7 9EF), at 7.30pm on 18, 20, and 21 September; at 2.30pm on 19 September; at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on 22 September, and at 5.30pm on 23 September.

The 39 Steps (22 June 2018)

The Olivier award-winning thriller The 39 Steps receives its in-the-round UK premiere at the SJT this month.
Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of the legendary book and movie played for nine years in London’s West End before two years on Broadway and then in over 39 countries. It is a brilliant, fast-moving spoof including legendary scenes such as the chase on the Flying Scotsman, the escape from the Forth Bridge, the first ever theatrical bi-plane crash and a death-defying (well nearly) finale.
Paul Robinson says: “This gripping and hilarious four-person whodunit was an original idea of North Country Theatre before being adapted by Patrick Barlow who turned it into a global smash. Now,
The 39 Steps makes its return to North Yorkshire after an absence of over 20 years - and we can’t wait to share it with our audience.”
The central character of Richard Hannay is played by Sam Jenkins-Shaw, a co-founder of Out of the Forest theatre company, and a co-creator of their show
Bury the Hatchet, which has just returned from a US tour. He has also been seen in Future Conditional at the Old Vic and The Bashful Lover at the Globe.
Playing no less than 138 other characters between them are:
Amelia Donkor, who was in James Graham’s
The Culture - A Farce in Two Acts at Hull Truck Theatre earlier this year. She has also been seen in What Shadows at Birmingham Rep, Lyceum Edinburgh and The Park Theatre and Villette at West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Laura Kirman is an associate artist of Mischief Theatre Company and has appeared in their Olivier Award-winning
The Play That Goes Wrong, and in Peter Pan Goes Wrong. She has also been seen in Vice Versa and Dido, Queen of Carthage at the RSC.
Niall Ransome is a member of Mischief Theatre Company, and has also appeared in
The Play That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong plus, on BBC radio, The Christmas That Goes Wrong. Other work includes The Comedy about a Bank Robbery (Criterion) and Romeo and Juliet (The Rose Playhouse).
Director Paul Robinson trained at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He then received an Arts Council Directing Bursary at The Manchester Royal Exchange. He was selected to attend the National Theatre's Advanced Directors' Course and was then Staff Director at the National Theatre for three years.
Paul was Joint Artistic Director of Theatre503 from 2007 to 2012, when the theatre was turned into a multi-award-winning new writing powerhouse. He took on sole leadership of Theatre503 from 2012, introducing the Trafalgar Transfer season and the Theatre503 International Playwriting Award. He has been twice nominated for Best Artistic Director at the Off West End Awards. Paul's productions of
And Then Come the Nightjars, A Handful of Stars and Land of Our Fathers all received huge critical acclaim and a total of 12 Off West End Award nominations, including Best Director. The latter was made into a feature-length film.
Paul joined the SJT as Artistic Director in the summer of 2016, since when he has directed
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Goth Weekend, and two Christmas shows - Pinocchio and A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol.
Paul’s creative team comprises designer Helen Coyston, who also designed the recent
A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol and Goth Weekend at the SJT; lighting designer Jason Taylor, who has worked on many productions at the SJT; and Simon Slater, who was Olivier-nominated for Constellations and was Musical Director on the National Theatre’s highly acclaimed recent production of Amadeus.
The 39 Steps can be seen in the Round at the SJT, in rep, until Saturday 23 August. Tickets, priced from £10, are available from the box office on 01723 370541 and online at
It then tours to Theatr Clywd, where it can be seen from 11 to 22 September.

Alan Ayckbourn’s A Brief History of Women triumphs in New York (1 June 2018)

Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre company has returned from New York after a triumphant and record-breaking run with Alan Ayckbourn’s A Brief History of Women, which wowed audiences and critics alike.
The show, which was first seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre during summer 2017, was part of the annual
Brits Off Broadway festival organised by 59e59 Theaters. It was seen at the theatre - located at 59 East 59th Street - throughout May, attracting nearly 6,300 theatre-goers, a record for an SJT production in New York: the company has been part of the prestigious festival on six previous occasions since 2005.
And the show was a hit with the reviewers, too, taking the prestigious ‘Critics’ Pick’ slot in The New York Times, and receiving praise from leading critic Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal, who said: “The play contains a brief speech so charged with the truth of a lifetime’s experience that it took my breath away… beautifully wrought and unexpectedly poignant… It’s by turns madly funny and touching enough to draw tears.”
Brian Beirne, Managing Director of 59E59 Theaters, said: “59E59 Theaters has had the pleasure of hosting the Stephen Joseph Theatre on multiple occasions during its annual celebration of the best of contemporary British theater in New York City,
Brits Off Broadway. Their productions are often the highlight of the season and the members of their acting ensemble are beloved by our audiences.”
Stephen Freeman, Chief Executive of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, said: “I’m delighted that
A Brief History of Women has done so well in New York - in fact we smashed our box office targets! Taking a play to New York enables us to fly the flag for Scarborough stateside. People are often surprised when they hear about us transferring a show for a month’s run off Broadway and there aren’t many other theatres across the North doing the same. Taking a production there not only makes a financial contribution to the theatre, but it also raises the profile of our work internationally. The success of this latest show builds on strong links with our New York partners and we are already in discussion with them about a return visit. Each year we receive many international visitors to the SJT and that benefits the tourist economy of Scarborough. This latest venture has strengthened our reputation and international relationships which demonstrates the vital role we play in showcasing the region and as a key player in the local economy.”
Alan Ayckbourn’s long association with the Stephen Joseph Theatre continues this summer with a revival of his 1978 hit
Joking Apart (26 July to 4 October) and the world premiere of his 82nd play, Better Off Dead (6 September to 6 October). He will direct both productions, which are part of a season that also includes The 39 Steps, adapted from John Buchan’s novel and the Alfred Hitchcock film by Patrick Barlow, from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon, and Build A Rocket by Christopher York, both directed by Paul Robinson.
American audiences saw the original Scarborough production of
A Brief History of Women with cast members Russell Dixon, Antony Eden, Frances Marshall, Laura Matthews, Laurence Pears and Louise Shuttleworth. The show was written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, with set and costume design by Kevin Jenkins and lighting design by Jason Taylor.
Four of the actors are returning to Scarborough this summer - Frances Marshall and Louise Shuttleworth will be seen in
Joking Apart, Russell Dixon in Better Off Dead, whilst Laurence Pears will be in both shows.

A bright new future for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (18 January 2018)

Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre is heading into the new year after a 2017 which saw its most successful summer season in a decade, a sell-out autumn half-term show, and a Christmas show which saw audience figures increase by over 10% on the previous year.
The theatre is also delighted that, throughout the summer, over a third of its audiences were seeing a show at the venue for the first time.
The theatre is flourishing and spreading its wings under the leadership of a new team.
Chief Executive Stephen Freeman and Artistic Director Paul Robinson have both been in post for just over 18 months, and are focused on new horizons for the 63-year-old theatre.
The show that opened the summer season - Jim Cartwright’s
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, directed by Paul Robinson - played to packed houses, getting regular standing ovations.
Later shows in the season - Alan Ayckbourn’s Taking Steps and the world premiere of
A Brief History of Women, both directed by the author, Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose, directed by Lotte Wakeham, and the world premiere of Goth Weekend by Ali Taylor, directed by Paul Robinson (a co-production with Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s Live Theatre) - saw the company go on tour to Newcastle, the New Vic at Newcastle-under-Lyme, and the Old Laundry Theatre at Bowness-on-Windermere. A Brief History of Women will venture further afield this spring when it features in the Brits Off Broadway showcase of new British theatre at New York’s 59E59 Theaters in May.
During the summer season, the theatre increased overall seats sold by 32% on the same period in the previous year.
The introduction of a show for younger audiences at half-term - October’s production of Roald Dahl’s
George’s Marvellous Medicine, adapted by David Wood and directed by Cheryl Govan - saw a complete sell-out, with waiting lists for every performance.
A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol, which ran throughout December and gained four- and five-star reviews, played to more than 10% more people than the 2016 Christmas show, Pinocchio.
The theatre also welcomes in 2018 Lotte Wakeham, who guest directed last summer’s
Di and Viv and Rose. She joins the team as Associate Artistic Director, thanks to funding from Arts Council England and Backstage Trust.
Lotte, who was Associate Director on the RSC’s Matilda, and has worked as Assistant / Associate Director with directors including Richard Eyre and Jeremy Sams, will be learning the skills required to be Artistic Director of a building, including attending board meetings, learning about finance and, of course, directing, in an industry which lacks female leaders.
Scarborough Theatre Trust Ltd, which runs the SJT, has a new chair: Helen Boaden was, until recently, Director of BBC Radio. Helen replaces Richard Grunwell, who stepped down after completing his statutory period in the post.
In the spring of 2017, the SJT retained its status as an Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation - the 663 English organisations which they consider represent some of the best arts practice in the world - which brought with it annual core funding of £637,715 from 2018 to 2022.
Funding of £50,000 from the Backstage Trust will support writing by new and emerging playwrights, provide more showcases for new writing and help initiate talent development programmes focused on actors and directors, as well as providing funding for core development, training and staff development (including Lotte Wakeham).
And the theatre plans a bright new start to 2018 with upgrades around the building part-funded by a recent ACE grant. The SJT is closed until March for developments including improvements to the front of house areas; a new, state-of the-art environmentally friendly LED lighting system in the Round, which will lower energy bills; and various smaller projects.
The SJT’s Chief Executive, Stephen Freeman, says: “This is just the start of our plans for the next five years. We will be absolutely focused on opening up the theatre, and investing in the best possible art - bringing brilliant artists to Scarborough, supporting artists from Scarborough to be brilliant, and building strong, surprising, exciting relationships with audiences.”
Artistic Director Paul Robinson says: “There’s been a real buzz around our productions recently, with our hugely successful summer season, a sell-out half-term production of Roald Dahl’s
George’s Marvellous Medicine, and our popular production of A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol. We’re also commissioning more work from new playwrights and making the SJT a more accessible resource for artists, both locally and across the UK, to develop work and try out new ideas with us.”
All content on this page is official press releases generated by the Stephen Joseph Theatre. For further information, please visit the SJT website at

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