Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Alan Ayckbourn At The BBC

One of the least well known - and documented - aspects of Alan Ayckbourn's life was his work as a Radio Drama Producer for the BBC between 1965 and 1970.
Having experienced terrible reviews for his first West End production of Mr Whatnot, Alan left the theatre - apparently with no intention of writing again - and joined the BBC in Leeds working with the highly respected producer Alfred Bradley, who was key in championing northern writers.
During his time at the BBC, Alan was responsible for directing dozens of radio dramas as well as evaluating new scripts and sending script reports; all skills which proved to be essential when he took over as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round in 1972.
Although basic details about Alan's work at the BBC have been known (and can be found in the BBC pages of the Careers section of, there has been a notable gap in information.
For many years, next to nothing has been known about the many radio dramas Alan produced nor who he worked with during these years. Thanks to the BBC's Project Genome, light has been shed on this area of Alan's career for the first time.
Thanks to the Genome resource, Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website has basic details of more than 70 radio productions directed by Alan whilst at the BBC. At some point, the website will also carry more comprehensive details of all these productions for future research.
To find out more about Alan's productions at the BBC, click here or to find out more in general about Alan's work at the BBC, visit the BBC section of the website.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Roundelay - Statistics

We've had a number of requests in recent weeks concerning Alan Ayckbourn's latest play Roundelay and how probability affected the performances.
Roundelay features five different plays (The Agent, The Judge, The Novelist, The Politician, The Star), the order in which they were performed determined by a random public draw prior to each performance. Theoretically, there are 120 possible permutations of the play affecting not only the order of the inter-linked plays, but also the narrative and how the audience perceives the characters and events.
The Roundelay stage-management team kept a record of all the permutations during the play's initial run at the Stephen Joseph Theatre and its subsequent tour to Newcastle-under-Lyme and Bowness-on-Windemere.
For those interested, the results for the 35 performances at the Stephen Joseph Theatre are produced below. During the initial month-long run, there were just three repeats of previously seen permutations. So 32 of the 120 possible permutations were performed.
Performances with a star indicate a repeated permutation with the number of the original performance in brackets.

Roundelay: Stephen Joseph Theatre permutations
1 Politician; Novelist; Star; Judge; Agent
2 Novelist; Politician; Agent; Judge; Star
3 Politician; Star; Judge; Agent; Novelist
4 Star; Novelist; Politician; Judge; Agent
5 Politician; Star; Novelist; Agent; Judge
6 Judge; Novelist; Politician; Star; Agent
7 Judge; Star; Novelist; Agent; Politician
8 Politician; Novelist; Star; Agent; Judge
9 Star; Agent; Politician; Judge; Novelist
10 Agent; Judge; Star; Novelist; Politician
11 Agent; Novelist; Judge; Star; Politician
12 Star; Agent; Politician; Judge; Novelist * (9)
13 Politician; Judge; Star; Novelist; Agent
14 Politician; Agent; Star; Novelist; Judge
15 Judge; Agent; Politician; Star; Novelist
16 Star; Judge; Agent; Politician; Novelist
17 Star; Novelist; Politician; Judge; Agent * (4)
18 Judge; Novelist; Agent; Politician; Star
19 Agent; Novelist; Star; Politician; Judge
20 Novelist; Star; Judge; Politician; Agent
21 Novelist; Judge; Politician; Agent; Star
22 Agent; Politician; Novelist; Star; Judge
23 Judge; Star; Politician; Novelist; Agent
24 Star; Judge; Politician; Agent; Novelist
25 Star; Judge; Agent; Novelist; Politician
26 Novelist; Agent; Judge; Politician; Star
27 Star; Novelist; Agent; Judge; Politician
28 Novelist; Judge; Politician; Agent; Star * (21)
29 Agent; Star; Politician; Novelist; Judge
30 Star; Politician; Agent; Novelist; Judge
31 Judge; Politician; Agent; Novelist; Star
32 Agent; Star; Politician; Judge; Novelist
33 Star; Politician; Novelist; Agent; Judge
34 Star; Politician; Agent; Judge; Novelist
35 Novelist; Agent; Star; Politician; Judge

A complete list of all the permutations performed of Roundelay during 2014 can now be found in the  Roundelay section of

Many thanks to the Stephen Joseph Theatre Roundelay stage management team who kept track of all the permutations and kindly provided the website with the spreadsheet.

Monday, November 17, 2014

This Week: 17 November 2014

Welcome to This Week, our regular guide to major Ayckbourn productions in the coming seven days, a look back on the Ayckbourn news of the last seven days and a look at some significant Ayckbourn anniversaries from this week in years past.

This Week & Coming Soon
19 - 22 November: Time Of My Life at the New Playhouse Theatre, Deansgate, Manchester

News Round Up:
> As part of the continuing improvements to the Plays section of, Relatively Speaking has been enhanced with new pages including a look at the original final scene of the play, a page of archive material, analysis by various Ayckbourn commentators and the Media page has been updated with the recently discovered material pertaining to the original television broadcasts of the play during the '60s. Visit Relatively Speaking to find out more.
> Anyone interested in the random element of Alan Ayckbourn's latest play Roundelay will want to visit the blog tomorrow. The blog will be looking at what permutations were chosen and when and dicsovering just how many 'original' versus 'repeat performances there were.

21 November: London premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's Henceforward... at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1988.
23 November: World premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's Invisible Friends at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, in 1989.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Relative Mystery Solved

Insight into the earliest television broadcasts of Alan Ayckbourn's plays have been revealed as a result of a major archival project.
The BBC Genome Project is an ambitious project to create a digital archive of every edition of the Radio Times between 1923 and 2009 creating, for the first time, a comprehensive historical record of both the planned output and the BBC services of any given time.
With the help of the Genome website, will be filling in gaps and omissions with regards to television broadcasts about Alan Ayckbourn and his plays. But already one major mystery has been solved.
The TV Times listing and photo
for the 1969 adaptation of
Relatively Speaking; the only
item relating to the production
in the Ayckbourn Archive.
In the Ayckbourn Archive, held at the University of York, there is a single reference to a broadcast - apparently watched in 2.5m homes - of extracts from the original West End production of Relatively Speaking in 1967. There is also a single press cutting relating to a filmed adaptation of Relatively Speaking in 1969 - previously believed to be the first Ayckbourn play transmission.
Sadly, few other details have been found about these broadcasts with neither of the programmes having survived in either the BBC or the BFI archive. However, the Genome Project has shed light on both of these and altered a key understanding of the broadcast history of Alan's plays.
The original 1967 broadcast of the West End production is not - as previously believed - several extracts, possibly shown as part of another programme. It was a 50 minute broadcast, recorded in the Duke of York's Theatre, advertised as Relatively Speaking and containing 'scenes from the successful comedy.'
Given its length and the fact the programme was advertised as Relatively Speaking, this now becomes the earliest TV recording / broadcast of an Ayckbourn play. The only sadness is 50 minutes of Richard Briers, Celia Johnson, Michael Hordern and Jennifer Hilary in action in Alan's first major West End success did once exist but is now lost.
This means the 1969 adaptation of Relatively Speaking is now the second major broadcast of an Ayckbourn play but remains the first television adaptation (i.e. filmed in a studio as opposed to recording an existing production).
History will also shed a kinder light on this adaptation too as it was previously believed from archive research this ran for only 50 minutes (a poor adaptation to lose half a play!). However, Project Genome has revealed it was a 90 minute programme and obviously much of the entire play was shown with no radical edits.
Directed by Herbert Wise - who would go on to direct the television adaptation of The Norman Conquests - this production starred Celia Johnson and Donald Sinden; not as strange a choice as might first appear as Sinden had been responsible for directing the post West End tour of the play.
Sadly. like the original 1967 broadcast, the 1969 version of Relatively Speaking has not survived at either the BBC or the BFI and the only visual material relating to it in the Ayckbourn Archive is the photo which accompanied the TV Times listing of the play.
Further discoveries about the BBC's television and radio programmes will be added to the Recordings section of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website in the coming weeks.