Advocates: Trevor Griffiths

Oscar-nominated for the 1981 film Reds (co-written with Warren Beatty), writer and director Trevor Griffiths - perhaps best known for plays including Comedians, The Party and Occupations, and for provocative TV work - considers Stephen Joseph to have been one of "the two most important people in my life, as far as theatre’s concerned. He showed me that theatre was a life and death activity. It wasn’t trivial. It really meant something much more important than changing your frock, you know, and becoming some other person."

In my 2008 interview with him, Griffiths recalls Stephen Joseph’s impact as a theatre design consultant, helping him to turn a college gymnasium into a theatre space (Griffiths was at the time a lecturer at Stockport College). At this point Griffiths "had very little understanding of theatre, very little experience of theatre and very little interest in it to be honest." Griffiths recalls that "we hung out for two hours and wandered the space… I was learning on the job, and he was teaching on the job." He remembers how Joseph "began to design all kinds of little curves that would begin some kind of circle that wasn’t ever going to be completed, but nevertheless, it was there. And I got it, you know, and I could see what he was after." Griffiths recalls Joseph’s approach to theatre as "completely unpompous, completely practical, and he loved talking in practical details… It took me a whole decade to get anywhere near Stephen Joseph’s grasp of space and time inside these structures we call theatres."

Griffiths reflects that how working in the college’s Joseph-designed adaptable space taught him "more about theatre in those eighteen months, than I’d learned in the whole of my life." He "began to think now about theatres as open spaces"; and his professional work was soon being performed in such spaces. Griffiths considers that Joseph’s essential lesson to him was that a theatre space "can be yours, you can make it yours, in no time at all. These look like simple things to people who are… doing a drama course. But to me it was extraordinary that these things could happen."

Copyright: Dr Paul Elsam.