Scarborough Does the Dream, & A Cricketer's MikadoDate: 17 May 2010
At a lively press launch complete with cameos from a Scottish maidservant and a stray cricketer, Stephen Joseph Theatre announced its packed Summer Season last Tuesday.
Stood amidst the chintz-laden set of the SJT’s current production, Boston Marriage, (David Mamet’s biting 1999 all-female comedy set in the nineteenth century), artistic director Chris Monks introduced a programme he hoped would represent "balance, warmth, versatility and excellence" at the Scarborough theatre.
The broad range of theatre in store for audiences begins with Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to be directed by Chris Monks, 4 June to 31 July; the artistic director spoke with anticipation of the production, as realising a lifelong ambition of "doing the Dream". His version will feature a fresh injection of life in the form of the Tango, which Monks called "the social dance of love." Beverley Norris-Edmunds, who recently brought Scarborough a sax-wielding Sergeant in The Pirates of Penzance, and worked on Willy Russell’s Our Day Out at Liverpool’s Royal Court in 2009, will bring her trademark ingenuity to the choreography.
Adam Sunderland directs an exciting double-bill of hour-long dramas as part of Scarborough’s Off-Peak Season. Caryl Churchill’s A Number (2 July - 11 September), and Twenty20, a new play by James Quinn, that looks set to bring the world of cricket into the twenty-first century with a hilarious spin (13 July – 11 September). Sunderland is the freelance director who acted with the Northern Broadsides for at least a decade, before taking the directorial plunge four year ago, and is responsible for shows like The Water Babies at the SJT last year.
Cricket was clearly on the brain for the SJT team, as it resurfaces in another of their productions this year, The Mikado, with Chris Monks’ adaptation setting Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera in Titipu Cricket Club (8 July – 4 September).
The busy season continues in August, which brings the return of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1994 comedy thriller Communicating Doors, which he will direct (5 August – 8 October). On its revival this season, Ayckbourn remarked with humour at the press launch, "It’s a warm play. In these troubled times for the audience... it’s a cuppa soup kind of play."
Drawing the season to a close in September is Ayckbourn’s new play Life of Riley, which he has finished writing, but chose to keep the full details a surprise. The playwright compared it to his 1974 play Absent Friends, as one in which all expectations are reversed (16 September – 16 October).
The exciting selection of Summer theatre will surely be the perfect challenge to those select members of the Scarborough community who, in a recent local poll which Chris Monks referred to with a smile, recently said they would prefer "more efficient public lavatories than a theatre."
At the launch, Alan Ayckbourn touched on the subject of Chris Monks’ new appointment as artistic director at the theatre, taking over last year from Ayckbourn after his thirty-seven-year stint at the helm of Stephen Joseph Theatre, saying, "After laying down the baton, I’m cheering you from the sidelines."
Chris Monks’ own speech was marked with a moment’s pause, to reflect on the passing of Peter Cheeseman the previous week, aged 78. Cheeseman was artistic director of the Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent, and following that at the New Vic in Newcastle-upon-Lyme until retiring in 1998. He had a number of close connections with the Stephen Joseph Theatre, and Chris Monks spoke of how his "legacy" will remain, both personally, and within the wider theatre world.
- Vicky Ellis