Stephen Joseph: New WritingStephen Joseph was a passionate advocate of new playwriting and encouraging new writers. Among the many playwrights he encouraged are notably Alan Ayckbourn, Harold Pinter, Peter Terson and David Campton amongst many others.
The Library Theatre, Scarborough, was essentially created to promote two of Stephen's passions: theatre-in-the-round and new playwriting. He would often rail against the lack of new writing in the commercial theatre in London - or the poor quality of the new writing that he perceived was presented in the West End at the time.
In this extract by Stephen Joseph from his book Theatre In The Round, he touches on why he believes new writing was both important and exciting.
"In our day and age the play is the beginning of each theatrical venture, and to start off with something new rather than something second-hand is obviously more exciting. Now many managers and directors want to find good new plays, and are prepared to present them when they find them; this seems to me to be needle in the hay-stack philosophy, for good new plays are just about this rare. I like to find a new play of promise merely, in the hope that the playwright will develop and write good plays eventually. Playwriting is a difficult job, and it is wrong to expect a first play to be good; if it is, the playwright will probably be a one-off merchant who will never write a better. It may seem a bit heartless to present an audience with a new play that I know is not good, is no more than promising merely.
It would be so if most of the secondhand plays that have already been done in London were better. They are not. Most of the plays that are staged in London’s West End are poor stuff, and many of the new plays that I put on are nothing like so poor. This is, of course, one man’s judgement. But who else’s judgement has one got? A critic who had given a series of very harsh reviews to our new plays was asked if he really thought they were all that bad; and he replied that they couldn’t be any good as they hadn’t been done in London! I asked how many plays he had seen in London, and he replied: none. So I’ll trust my judgement.
It is not just the director who is excited about a new play. Certainly the author is; and he may even get so excited as to be a nuisance at rehearsals; as is usually expected of him. But I have seldom found him so. His excitement helps the actors, who usually enjoy creating roles that are quite new."