Stephen Joseph: Obituaries

Stephen Joseph: An Address By Hugh Hunt
8 October 1967

This is not an occasion for sorrow, but rather one of joy. Joy that a man has passed through our midst, touching our lives at various points, leaving each one of us the richer for his passage .

Stephen has given us so much from the wealth that he discovered in life that there can be no-one who came into contact with him who did not receive some fresh revelation, some surprising insight, some flash of inspiration which will have thrown a new light on their problems, their work, their hobbies, or on the humblest of their daily tasks. l suppose that each one of us has tried to discover the particular secret that made Stephen so different from the majority of the men we meet. What was The key To his unbounded enthusiasm?

What made us so anxious to share his company, and to share his views even when we disagreed with him? l believe that it was a very simple secret - it was his ability to look on the world and all that happens in it as something that is happening for the first time, as a discovery that must be made by each one of us, as if it had never been seen or felt before, as a challenge which demands the full use of the faculties which God has given us. Not that he denied the wisdom and experience of others, but that he believed in man's right to question, to probe for the truth, to discover for himself. Life was for Stephen an adventure, a challenge, a question and an endless wonder. He met it with the eyes of a child and the mind of a man. Eyes that saw everything as if for the first time, unblurred by the preconceptions of tradition and a mind that he had trained to distinguish between truth and falsehood, emotion and sentiment and, above all, between beauty and its many imitations.

For Stephen, beauty lay in the way a man works, as well as in the completed work itself. He taught us to endow each work we undertake - however humble - with the care and love of a craftsmen. If is as a craftsman that many of us will remember him - as a man who worked with his hands as well as his head.

For him there was no such thing as a menial task - the skill of the stagehand was equal to the skill of the playwright. Workmanship was the basic of all art. If he was a perfectionist it was as a lover of a simple task well done, rather than an ambition to create a masterpiece or become a public figure. For Stephen, beauty was to be found in all humble things - even more perhaps than in the complexities of creation. The beauty of a leaf, of a kitten at play, the beauty of carpentry, the beauty of an old-world melodrama or an early film. It was, I think, this love of simple craftsmanship that led him to champion the course that will ever be associated with his name - theatre-in-the-round. He was drawn to this form of theatre - not that he despised other more elaborate forms - for a variety of reasons. He saw it as a challenge to the outworn conventions of a theatre that was rapidly losing touch with humanity. He saw it as a stimulus to a new approach by actors and playwrights as an opportunity to create more vital relationships between actors and audience, but above all he saw in theatre-in-the-round the simplest form of dramatic performance, springing from the earliest days of man's history when poet, actor, and artist were united as craftsmen. This unity of man's God-given faculties - the unity of head, heart and hands - is the quality that Stephen championed, it is the challenge that he holds out to those of us who loved and admired him.

This love of simple things, this pride in our work however humble, this perpetual discovery of life for ourselves, this never-ending search for truth - these are the secrets Stephen discovered, the riches that he leaves behind.

Stephen is not dead as long as we preserve these things. He lives on, in us and with us.

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