Stephen Joseph: Obituaries

The Guardian
6 October 1967

Stephen Joseph
Mr Stephen Joseph, the pioneer of “Theatre in the Round” in this country, died yesterday, aged 46, at his home in Scarborough. Mr Joseph, who was the son of the actress Hermione Gingold, had been ill and confined to bed for many months. But he continued actively to work on theatre projects and scripts until a few weeks before his death.

Mr Joseph was attracted to the theatre in the round (with the audience entirely surrounding the stage) by the work of Mr Jack Mitcheley with an amateur company in this country, and by the opening in 1947 of the first professional theatre in the round at Dallas, Texas.

He had a chance to try it out on a small scale in Scarborough in 1955. lt took root there, and except for 1966, when the onset of his illness disrupted plans, has been a regular feature of the Scarborough summer.

In 1962 he established the Victoria Theatre at Stoke-on-Trent, conceived originally as the headquarters of a touring company, but soon settling down as a permanent element in the life of the Potteries. The Pembroke Theatre in Croydon was another of his ventures.

He has recorded that, in the first instance, he was drawn to the idea of the theatre in the round by its economy - no expensive stage sets are needed. He soon saw its histrionic possibilities too.

He was a fountain of ideas about the theatre. He was able to embody many of them in his ventures, or to explain them as a lecturer in the Manchester University drama department.

His book,
Theatre in the Round, came out this year. During his last illness he was working out an idea for a reversed theatre in the round-with the audience in the middle and the play going on round it. He was also drawing up more concrete plans for next year’s season at Scarborough, and finishing a book on this new form of the theatre.

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