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 2009 when Alan Ayckbourn stepped down as Artistic Director of the company.

NOTE: This page only covers Alan Ayckbourn's tenure as Artistic Director at the SJT until 2009. Further details about the SJT can be found at


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.
Notable world premiere: Jack Lear (Ben Benison); Cover Her Feet / Fly in the Ointment (Nick Warburton); Awaking Beauty (Alan Ayckbourn)

Alan Ayckbourn steps down as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre on 31 March.

2009 - Present
For details of the SJT from 2009 to the present, visit the theatre's website

Between opening in 1996 and Alan Ayckbourn stepping down as Artistic Director on 31 March 2009, the Stephen Joseph Theatre staged 158 plays of which 100 plays were world premieres.

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