Stephen Joseph Theatre
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Built for the Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain operated by Oscar Deutsch. Designed by architect John Cecil Clavering, of the Harry Weedon practice with Robert Bullivant assisting, the Scarborough Odeon was one of the finest of the excellent designs Clavering produced for the circuit (Harrogate, Sutton Coldfield & Kingstanding survive, Colwyn Bay has been demolished).
It opened on 28th March 1936 with a total seating capacity of 1,711 (stalls-946, circle-765) and had unusually elaborate plasterwork for an Odeon which was by noted interior designers Mollo & Egan. Provision was made for an organ but none was ever installed. There was no stage.
The opening film was Robert Donat in “The Ghost Goes West” and the opening ceremony was attended by Charles Laughton who was born in the town.
After a fairly uneventful life it closed, unaltered, in October 1988 and lay derelict for 5 years.
It was then acquired for use as a two auditoria theatre. This required extensive alterations to the Grade II Listed building.
The compromise being that the exterior, foyers and cafe have been restored to the original. ‘Some’ of the plasterwork was rescued and has been relocated to the McCarthy Theatre (the former circle area) which still shows films projected from the original projection suite. The original seats were re-upholstered and new carpet was especially woven to the original ‘Odeon’ design.
The screen end of the building was virtually demolished to provide a purpose built state-of-the-art theatre-in-the-round. This opened in April 1996 with the premiere of ‘By Jeeves’ a collaboration by Sir Alan Ayckbourn and Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber – which played to packed houses for its entire run. (Broadway had to wait until 2001 to see the show!)
The architect for the conversion was Harry Osborne of Osborne Christmas Associates and the scheme cost about £5 million.
It incorporates some leading new technology such as the stage lift and the wire mesh ceiling allowing lighting techies complete access in complete safety. It was the first such use in a U.K. theatre.
It is now a thriving theatre which premieres the plays of its Artistic Director and Playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn.
The smaller 165 seat McCarthy Theatre still shows films regularly whilst the The Round (404 seats) is exclusively used for theatre and the occasional concert.
Recently (2001) the faiance tiles were given a clean and the exterior neon lighting restored – it looks magnificent by night now!
It is open almost throughout the year and is well worth a visit!
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