Studio Theatre Ltd & Theatre In The Round Ltd

Studio Theatre Ltd was the company originally created by Stephen Joseph to run the Library Theatre. It was briefly superseded by Theatre In The Round Ltd between 1963 and 1964 before Scarborough Theatre Trust was formed in 1964, which continues to run the company to this day. A timeline for the various Trusts and charities associated with the SJT since 1955 can be found here.

Studio Theatre Ltd (occasionally referred to as the Studio Theatre Company by Stephen Joseph in his writing and correspondence) was formed in 1955 in order for Stephen to realise his plan of forming a theatre company which could champion both new writing and new theatre forms. In his book,
Theatre In The Round, Stephen describes it as: "An educational and charitable company for the purpose of presenting new plays."

An early flyer for the inaugural season at the Library Theatre elucidates further: "Studio Theatre Limited is a non-profit distributing company founded in consultation with the Arts Council of Great Britain to present theatre-in-the-round."

Although it is not known precisely when Studio Theatre Ltd was launched as a company, it seems likely it was 1955 at the point in which Stephen began negotiations to produce a theatre season in Scarborough on the first floor of the Public Library; there is little evidence to suggest it existed before 1955. Once launched,
shares were available in the company to the value of £1,000. The company offered 50 'A' shares at a value of £10 each and 500 'B' shares at a value of one pound each.

Interestingly, although Stephen mentions it was a charitable company, there is no record of a company with the name Studio Theatre Ltd being registered as a charity until 17 January 1964.

Studio Theatre Ltd ran the summer and winter seasons at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, and was responsible for the winter tours held between 1958 and 1962. It also operated the
Studio Theatre Club, which ran between 1958 and 1961 presenting plays in London (predominantly with the Scarborough company) with the hope of securing interest in theatre-in-the-round in the capital. A list of the Studio Theatre Club productions can be found here.

In 1962, having secured a permanent home for theatre-in-the-round at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent (in a converted former cinema), Studio Theatre Ltd transferred to Stoke-on-Trent with the majority of the Scarborough acting company, its assets and funding; although a blow was struck when Studio Theatre Ltd's funding was halved by the Arts Council. This marked the end of the company's association with Scarborough and the Library Theatre.

Theatre In The Round Ltd

The Library Theatre in Scarborough had become well established by this point and Stephen Joseph was reluctant to let go of all his work. Although it cannot be said with certainty, existing correspondence from Stephen Joseph intimates that ideally the Library Theatre would have continued to be run by Studio Theatre Ltd even after the company had moved to Newcastle-under-Lyme.

However, when the Arts Council halved the annual subsidy to Studio Theatre Ltd, the choice was a stark one of closing the company - and with it both the Victoria Theatre and the Library Theatre - or to carry on at the Victoria with a much reduced programme. Stephen reported the directors of the company chose the latter:

"As far as Scarborough is concerned you will see that the Studio Theatre company has decided to withdraw entirely rather than carry on without the necessary help from subsidy."
(Stephen Joseph, 24 April 1963)

In order to keep professional theatre at the Library Theatre, Stephen set up a new company - Theatre In The Round Ltd - of which he and David Campton were the directors and to which Studio Theatre Ltd agreed to cede control of the Library Theatre to. It is not known precisely when Stephen set up the company, but correspondence indicates it was probably early 1963 (it can be no earlier than mid-October 1962 and has to be prior to April 1963).

As a result, Theatre In The Round Ltd was set up on a shoe-string budget and ran the 1963 and 1964 professional summer seasons (lack of funding had led to the end of both the Scarborough winter seasons and touring programme). Sadly, no other details are known about the company (its existence was only verified in 2015 by Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd) or when it was specifically incorporated.

In 1964, a new company was formed and on 18 July, a meeting of subscribers to Scarborough Theatre Trust Ltd "Resolved that the Scarborough Theatre Trust Ltd., be incorporated as a company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital."

Although it is not known in what capacity it operated after this, Theatre In The Round Ltd continued to be run by Stephen as occasional mentions are made of the company in Scarborough Theatre Trust correspondence and minutes; in fact when Stephen Joseph stepped down as chairman of Scarborough Theatre Trust in 1966, it was revealed the only debt the trust had was £50 owed to Theatre In The Round Ltd for hire of the company's van.

All research by Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the author.