NEW BIG VOICE AT THE SJT
Anew artistic director, a new vision and a new era – the stage is set for change at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.
Paul Robinson, who took up the reins in June, has unveiled his first programme for the summer season at the theatre – which has a worldwide reputation for being the home of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays.
“I am interested in work which asks big questions and which takes the temperature of the time and what a time to be doing that,” said Paul.
“Don’t be surprised then if there are plays about social and political change; about national identity and populism; about contemporary and diverse ways of living; plays about class; about sexual identity; plays about north versus south; plays about personal communication in a digital age,” he said.
His strapline for the season is: Ordinary lives, extraordinary stories.
To launch his approach Paul has chosen to present and direct Jim Cartwright’s the Rise and Fall of Little Voice.
His opening move to get the the town on side, to break down the barrier that exists between the luvvies in their ‘ivory tower’ at the top of Westborough and the rest of us, is a stroke of genius.
The story’s links with the town are the stuff of legend and there is an immediate affection for it. It was filmed here with Michael Caine, Ewan McGregor, Brenda Blethyn, Jane Horrocks and Jim Broadbent in lead roles.
It has great songs – made famous by Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Shirley Bassey among others – and is an accessible story of a shy young woman trying to break free of her domineering mother and come to terms with her father’s death.
Genius – but obvious – an apple on the head moment – it is such an obvious choice – it’s a wonder no-one has done it before.
“I wanted to make something which directly spoke to Scarborough, to theatre-goers and beyond,” said Paul.
“The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is in turns brutal and tender, terrifying and exhilarating and this production will serve up the perfect cocktail of Hollywood glitz and northern grit. It’s also packed with hilarious characters and hit songs. Bold, brassy and bighearted.
“It’s a choice born of the desire to make sure that the multifarious inhabitants of this beautiful town and region know the theatre is there for them as much as for our summer guests.
“It’s a play about ordinary people who might live somewhere like this. It’s big hearted. It’s theatrically bold. It’s very funny. These are some of the key features of what will qualify as a ‘Round’ play from now on,” he said.
Of course, however it is packaged, at the heart of the season is work by Alan Ayckbourn. As has become customary, there will be a revival of a classic – this year it is Taking Steps, and a new play.
A Brief History of Women is, said Alan, “a comedy in four parts about an unremarkable man and the remarkable women who loved him, left him, or lost him over 60 years”.
It’s also about the equally remarkable old manor house.
Alan, who was artistic director of the Stephen Joseph, for more than 35 years, will be at the centre of two gala evenings celebrating his 60-year association with the venue.
Over the course of the two evenings there will be anecdotes and excerpts from 64 plays including the Norman Conquests, Absent Friends, Way Upstream and A Small Family Business.
Completing the programme in the main house is Di and Viv and Rose by Scott and Bailey actress Amelia Bullmore, who also played Steph Barnes in Coronation Street.
It will be the regional premiere of the award-winning play which celebrates the friendship between three women over 30 years.
In his first programme Paul has also set out a new direction for the McCarthy – the studio space at the Stephen Joseph.
“We are proposing that The MAC becomes a crucible of new writing development at the Stephen Jospeh and that we set a new mandate for the space - in terms of both the produced and presented work – that it will be the home of bold, new, diverse work which is relevant and resonant to the region,” he said.
First in the Mac will be A Goth Weekend by Ali Taylor. The former journalist was inspired by an exhibition of photographs from Whitby’s Goth Weekend. He then visited the event and did interviews to gather material for the play.
“We will also be finding all sorts of future life for our Mac work – proudly taking our new ‘Made in Scarborough’ brand right round the country,” said Paul
He makes it sound, appropriately for a seaside town, like the message running through a stick of rock.
“At the heart of all of this work – and of the new artistic policy – is our belief that every person, regardless of their background, can fulfil their potential if only given the opportunity,” he said.
Little Voice ‘Cocktail of Hollywood glitz and northern grit’ Paul Robinson: ‘Our new brand is ‘Made in Scarborough’
The Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough launches its summer show season at the theatre . Artisticdirector Paul Robinson and playwright and former artistic director Sir Alan Ayckbourn share the stage
1. The Rise and Fall of Little Voice
2. A Goth Weekend
3. A Brief History of Women