In memory of Stephen

14 April 2019

Pat Wolfe commemorates the life of Stephen Jeffreys, NSDF selector and Noises Off editor

Stephen Jeffreys was an eminent and influential playwright who died of a brain tumour in September 2018. He was editor of Noises Off and a literary associate at the Royal Court Theatre for ten years where he nurtured the talent of many young writers.

Stephen first popped up at the festival when it was in Southampton in 1971. He quickly resurrected the daily festival newspaper Noises Off, which had been dormant for some time. It was merely one sheet of A4 paper but was full of incisive comment and, memorably, packed with humour. Under his leadership it started to metamorphose into the more professionally produced paper we have now – but he never forgot the all important jokes.

From then on Stephen continued to be an influential presence at NSDF but his own play, Like Dolls or Angels, about stunt performers, did not appear until NSDF ‘77, held in St Andrews, where it won the hastily invented Best New Play award. The two student actors served the play perfectly but were replaced by professionals when it went on to be successfully produced at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington.

Stephen became one of the festival’s most valued friends. Over the years he served his time as selector, workshop leader, judge, Noff editor, board member and one of the writers of the Festival’s history, Raw Talent. Much of the festival’s development and success can undoubtedly be attributed to Stephen. His vision, wisdom, wit, laughter and ability to calm sometimes tempestuous situations were all pervasive in making NSDF what it is today.

Many of today’s established writers owe a debt to the totally unselfish support he gave them in their early days. Those of us who like to think of ourselves as his friends miss him hugely.

Stephen Jeffreys, 22 April 1950 17 September 2018

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