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Marking the centenary of theatre-in-the-round pioneer Stephen Joseph’s birth

Marking the centenary of theatre-in-the-round pioneer Stephen Joseph’s birth

11th June 2021

This Sunday (13 June 2021) marks the centenary of theatre-in-the-round pioneer, director, actor, designer, lecturer, writer, and originator of The Victoria Theatre Company, Stephen Joseph’s birth.

In the 1950s, concerned by the decline in theatre audiences in the face of competition from television and other mass entertainment, Stephen Joseph felt that theatre-in-the-round could re-vitalise theatre and attract new audiences.

In 1955 Stephen Joseph formed the Studio Theatre Company, the first in the country to work in-the-round. Their home was the Library Theatre in Scarborough, but they toured to other towns including Newcastle-under-Lyme where in 1962, a converted cinema opened its doors as the Victoria Theatre.

After 25 years’ work dedicated to the people of North Staffordshire, founding director Peter Cheeseman’s passion and determination achieved the realisation of Stephen Joseph’s vision – the first purpose-built theatre-in-the-round in Europe – with the opening of the New Vic in 1986.

Stephen Joseph’s influence on British theatre has been profound. Not only are the two theatres he founded (us and the Stephen Joseph Theatre) still flourishing today, other in-the-round theatres were established including the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, Orange Tree Theatre in London, and Octagon Theatre in Bolton.

“Theatre-in-the-round demands fast action, movement and sincere performances from the actors. It is exciting and real. It is theatre in 3D.” – Stephen Joseph

Picture credit/copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust.

Article by Becky Loton

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