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Summer at Scarborough: Stephen Joseph Theatre season preview

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Even though Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s 37-year tenure of the post of Artistic Director ended in 2009, the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough remains a place to see the work of top writer-directors. As always the Summer season is extremely strong and varied, with five world premieres between now and September, three of them directed by the writers themselves.

Already running and shortly to be reviewed on this site, Fiona EvansGeordie Sinatra, a co-production with Live Theatre, Newcastle, is a dark comedy about an ex-club singer and his dementia-induced hallucinations. Fortunately for us these hallucinations include many choice selections from the Sinatra songbook performed with a live jazz trio in a special three-sided format including cabaret seating.

Artistic Director Chris Monks directs Geordie Sinatra, but that is followed by the first of the writer-directed productions, the only non-premiere. Since his departure as administrator Alan Ayckbourn has remained highly active in the theatre as writer-director. This year the Ayckbourn productions are the 1972 classic, Absurd Person Singular (from June 8th) and the premiere of his 76th play, Surprises, a comedy about love in a future full of surprises (from 12 July). Both the Ayckbourn plays will spend high summer at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, as part of the Chichester Festival Theatre’s 50th anniversary, before returning to Scarborough in September.

The only writer-director to come remotely near Alan Ayckbourn’s record of plays written for, and performed by, his own company is John Godber who, since leaving Hull Truck, has operated the John Godber Company at Wakefield Theatre Royal. Lost and Found are two plays about couples set in Scarborough, Lost by Jane Thornton, Mrs. Godber, and directed by Chris Monks, and Found written and directed by John Godber. These run from 29 June in the McCarthy Theatre, both singly and as a double-bill.

Chris Monks’ own speciality is wittily re-created operas: who can forget The Mikado played out at Titipu Cricket Club? Soul Man (from 3 August) sounds like his most ambitious yet, Rigoletto set in Yorkshire in 1974 with a stand-up comedian in the central role and the provocative tag-line, “Soaring Italian Opera meets Smooth Seventies Soul”!

And, to put smiles firmly on faces at the Stephen Joseph, on the afternoon of the season launch, came the news that the theatre has been awarded £210,000 from the Arts Council’s new strategic fund, Catalyst, aimed to improve arts organisations’ fund raising.


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