PREVIEW: The National Joke

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While it’s all change at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough, with the arrival of new artistic director Paul Robinson, there is a lot that’s familiar about the coming months.

Although named after his mentor, the Stephen Joseph Theatre is known – and has been for decades now – as Alan Ayckbourn’s theatre. A stroke a few years back has done nothing to Ayckbourn’s output with a new play arriving this summer, along with two revivals.

The other familiar face in Scarborough this summer is Torben Betts. The former actor-turned-writer was taken under the wing of the master when Ayckbourn invited him to stage his professional debut in Scarborough back in 1999. Since that first play, Betts has gone great guns, adapting Chekhov for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and he was responsible for the stage adaptation of Get Carter staged by Live Theatre in Newcastle. Now he returns to Scarborough with the premiere of his new play The National Joke. which tells the story of Rupert St John-Green MP and three generations of women, relatives of the MP, who all gather in the family garden to watch a solar eclipse. Betts says: “I read a book a few years ago all about the history and science of the solar eclipse, and thought it would be a great way to frame a play – it gives a reason for a family to come together and also provides an interesting theatrical device.”

The National Joke is in rep to August 20. Betts is in conversation on June 23.