The home of truly great theatre – Scarborough just wouldn’t be the same without it!
We offer a unique, intimate experience in our renowned theatre-in-the-round as well as the more traditional end-on McCarthy theatre and cinema. We are home to first-class drama, music, films, comedy and live streaming and are known for our commitment to new writing, including Alan Ayckbourn’s 80+ world premieres.
We have an extensive and cross generational programme of OutReach work - with, in and for the local community, encouraging everyone to engage with the SJT through projects, courses, classes and work experience.
"Have you ever asked yourself what the theatre can do that the cinema and the TV cannot? Work it out. In the end you'll remember that the theatre has live actors who are responsive to a live audience and vice versa. You can eat fish and chips through a TV show. You can switch off. They go on acting just the same. You can cuddle your girl friend at the flicks. They go on acting. In the theatre, actors feel the response of the audience. Every performance is a unique work of creation, a work of art made by that audience and those actors at this moment of time. So to hell with the scenery that the films can do so much better! To hell with the frame that protects the cathode ray tube! Let’s have the actors in the same room as the audience, let’s have four front rows, let’s get really excited about this acting business!"
Stephen Joseph, 1959
In 1955 theatrical pioneer Stephen Joseph established the country's first theatre-in-the-round company on the first floor of Scarborough Library. Stephen's protégé Alan Ayckbourn was appointed Artistic Director in 1972 and encouraged his legacy of new writing with the world premiere of 239 plays by 87 writers during his tenure. In 2018, Alan accepted the title of Director Emeritus of the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
The theatre continued to flourish and in 1976 moved to a supposedly temporary home in the former Scarborough Boys' High School. However, a permanent home proved difficult to find and it wasn't until 1988 and the closure of the local Odeon cinema that a suitable venue was found. The new theatre opened on 30 April 1996 and boasted two technical innovations: the stage lift, facilitating speedy set changes and the ‘trampoline’ mesh above the stage which allows technicians easy access to the lighting grid.
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SJT Artistic Director Paul Robinson says:
“Moving forward we will make a programme of work which is of the highest quality and which appeals to the widest, most diverse, audience; one which future-proofs the theatre: popular, yes; human, certainly; often innovative, visually daring, funny, surprising, always relatable and definitely with lots and lots of heart.”
“As always, I can’t fault Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre. Its staff are some of the most helpful I have come across and the venue is beautiful – a real jewel in the Scarborough crown.“
Wendy Pratt (Northern Soul)
“Such a perfect, electric space”
Mike Tweddle (AD, Tobacco Factory Theatres)
“Our trips to Scarborough are built round what’s on at the theatre. It’s not the icing on the cake. It IS the cake.“
2017 audience member
“SJT has totally captured the ‘in it together’ vibe of Scarborough... massive credit must go to all involved in the running, of this incredible institution.”
2017 audience member
“Fish and chips by the sea followed by world class theatre? It doesn't get much better."
Nick Ahad, Yorkshire Post
“The Stephen Joseph Theatre is a thriving focus for the local community, and a splendid amenity that's a pleasure to visit”
Mark Shenton, The Stage
“A mecca for admirers of first-rate, frill-free acting. I'm ready to make a pilgrimage”
Charles Isherwood , New York Times