In His Own Words: The Stephen Joseph Theatre

This page contains quotes (listed by year) by Alan Ayckbourn with regard to his home theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. He has been associated with this company since 1959 and further details can be found here. The quotes are drawn from a variety of sources and it should always be borne in mind these quotes may not necessarily reflect Alan Ayckbourn's current thoughts on a subject.
"I think I enjoy writing to certain limitations and restrictions. I've always written for this little theatre [the Library Theatre in Scarborough], so all my plays are two-door plays, though other doors may get added in the West End. They never have more than eight people, because we can't afford more than eight actors." (1973)

"I rather liked the idea of theatre-in-the-round because there wouldn't be any scenery to lug about." (1982)

"It sounds ridiculous now, but there wasn't another theatre like it [The Library Theatre in 1955]. British theatre was all proscenium arch, full stop. No fringe. The audience assumed we couldn't afford a curtain." (1988)

"People think it's wonderful that I happen to have Scarborough, but the fact is that I got the theatre because the man I most admired, Stephen Joseph, died and it was going to close until I was asked to take over." (1988)

never regard the Scarborough production as a trial run. To my mind, it is the production and, looking back, in some instances, they have been the definitive productions." (1991)

"It [theatre in the round] brings us back to the basic building blocks of theatre, just actors and audience without anything getting in between. It is electrifying: you get so close to the actors. Every time I work on a proscenium arch stage, I come back here saying, 'Now I see why the round is the only way." (1992)

"I drifted up here [Scarborough] in 1957 to stage manage for Stephen Joseph's company and never expected to come back. Then after Stephen's death in 1967 and after I had a play on in the West End, I was asked to try to get this theatre going again. I took over Stephen's house in the old town and I found myself running his theatre and even sitting in his study. I thought, this is eerie, I must get out, but something held me - not just the people, but mainly the freedom of being a writer-director with a theatre to play with." (1992)

"Stephen Joseph would tell you that it (theatre in the round) was the original theatre form - ever since the Greeks staged plays. The conventional proscenium that we now know so well is an invention of the Victorian age. When theatre in the round was first done here it was so exhilarating to have the actors so close that they could spit on you." (2005)

"When I saw a production in the round I was delighted at the simplicity of the lighting and staging... clearly many tiresome conventions might be abandoned and new ones seized to advantage." (2005)

“Back in the 1980s somebody was asked why they’d come up here to work with me and he replied, ‘you go to the house of the boy with the best toys’ and I’ve been very lucky because I’ve had the best toys and a theatre where I was allowed to exercise almost total freedom. I did forays to the south because a lot of my shows went to the West End and I directed quite a lot of them, but I never enjoyed that half as much as coming back here.” (2013)

"I like to think the Stephen Joseph Theatre has done quite a lot to mark Scarborough on the world map. It’s an inspiring place too. I must say I’m a small town boy and I came up here and it’s another town and yet it’s not another town because once the season starts, it throws opens its doors to thousands of people and sort of becomes less parochial. It's strange, because once I developed here and began to get a little bit more fame and fortune from London with
The Norman Conquests and those string of plays that went on, Scarborough still really had this strange attitude towards us. I remember this guy saying to me: 'If you're that good, what yer doing here?' He thought it was most extraordinary. I said: 'I don’t know what it says about you. I know what it says about me!' (2016)

"Is there any doubt where my heart lies? The Stephen Joseph Theatre is for me the perfect round space which we, the company, virtually had built to order for us utilising the best of all we'd learned from our previous buildings. Not too big, not too small and with the audience sitting all round in the same room sharing the same performance with performers and each other. A truly magical space." (2019)
All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd. All quotes are copyright of Haydonning Ltd and credit should be given to 'Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website' if reproduced.