Friday, May 20, 2016

Archiving Ayckbourn: The Revengers' Comedies

Archiving Ayckbourn is a regular feature presenting a look at every Alan Ayckbourn play through an object held in the Ayckbourn Archive. Each week, the feature will chronologically move through the play canon highlighting an object, article, photograph or other archival object offering an insight into the play, the playwright or moments of significance.

The Revengers' Comedies (1989)
In 1989 Alan Ayckbourn celebrated his 50th birthday with his epic two-part play The Revengers' Comedies. He dubbed it as a birthday present, whilst later admitting he didn't know who to as it was such a technical nightmare to stage!
The play generated much interest in the press and this week's delve into the archive takes a look at some of the press coverage the play generated.
Copyright: Scarborough Evening News
The first article (click on image to enlarge) sees Alan celebrating his 50th birthday with this picture story in the Scarborough Evening News. The photo accompanies an article announcing the world premiere of The Revengers' Comedies in Scarborough - which was a notable moment in the playwright's history - as well as the hugely disappointing Michael Winner film adaptation of his play A Chorus Of Disapproval - a less than notable moment; whoever thought that Michael Winner and Alan Ayckbourn were a good fit?
Copyright: Northern Echo
The second article is taken from the Northern Echo (click image to enlarge) and picks up on the response to a remarkable review of The Revengers' Comedies published in the New York Times. At the time Frank Rich was, arguably, the most well-known and influential critic in the western world and his visit to Scarborough was an unexpected surprise.
Even more so was the review which praised the play, the company, the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round as well as Alan Ayckbourn's achievements (it's worth noting that The Revengers' Comedies marked the point Alan had written the same number of plays as Shakespeare).
One of the apparent unexpected benefits of the review was an upsurge in visitors from North America to the theatre. Who must have very much appreciated one of the most pointless additions to the story with the note of the "tiny but air-conditioned" theatre. As a former journalist, I'm not sure what the relevance of air-conditioning to the story is!
Copyright: The Stage
Finally, we have a cutting from The Stage & Television Today newspaper (click on image to enlarge) which looks at the splendidly grotesque character of Bruce Tick in The Revengers' Comedies.
Tick is the triumphant culmination of Karen Knightly's desire to rise in the company Lembridge Tennit as she murders her way to the top. The belching, groping and 'repellent' manager driven to a heart-attack by Karen's machinations.
The character is so vividly drawn, several newspapers picked up the story of whether he was based on someone specific - one would hope not given his very dubious character! Whilst Alan has admitted several characters during his writing career have been influenced and possibly inspired by actual encounters, none - as far as this author is aware - is specifically based on a single person.
However, this did not stop The Stage getting a good story from it regarding the theatre's press officer Russ Allen, who had left the company in December 1988 (and it must be pointed out did not have quite so much experience with Alan as the report suggests, as his tenure coincided with Alan's being on a two year sabbatical from Scarborough at the National Theatre starting just prior to Alan's departure and leaving soon after his return to Scarborough).
The Revengers' Comedies opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round on 13 June 1989 and was directed by Alan Ayckbourn. More details about the play can be found here.

If you'd like to meet Alan Ayckbourn, join him in rehearsals for his latest play and get the chance to put your own questions to him, click here to find out about the Premier Patrons week at the Stephen Joseph Theatre from 27 June to 2 July.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A chance to meet Alan Ayckbourn & see rehearsals for his new play

There's still time to sign up for a chance to meet Alan Ayckbourn and attend rehearsals for his latest play - as well as spend a week behind the scenes at his home theatre in Scarborough.
The Premiere Patrons week is taking place at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from 27 June - 2 July 2016 and allows participants to see how new writing is developed and nurtured at the Stephen Joseph Theatre from commissioning to rehearsals to production.
The week offers exclusive access to Alan Ayckbourn as well as offering a chance to invest in and support new writing at the SJT - from Alan Ayckbourn  to emerging talent - and to celebrate the SJT's history of supporting new work during an exciting event.

Premiere Patrons Week
A week-long behind the scenes experience will take from 27 June – 2nd July 2016

During the week there will be the chance to:
> Visit Alan Ayckbourn’s rehearsal room and join the playwright in two afternoons of interactive audience rehearsals for his latest work with The Karaoke Theatre Company.
> Meet Alan Ayckbourn at an evening meal and for a Question & Answer session.
> See two world premiere productions with Torben Betts’ The National Joke and Vicky Ireland’s Just So Stories.
> Meet the new Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Paul Robinson, and enjoy a welcome meal and reception with some of the SJT’s company.
> A chance to hear plays in progress and meet emerging writers
> Meet the directors of some of the world premiere at the SJT during the Summer Festival.
> Hear and learn about some of the new writing commissions for the future.
> Learn about the rich history of new writing at the SJT with Alan Ayckbourn’s Archivist Simon Murgatroyd and a special one-off exhibition.
> Meet the company and creative teams and gain an insight into the creative process behind our world premieres.
>Attend technical rehearsals and gain insights into the technical challenges of staging Just So Stories.
> Hear about the technical challenges of lighting, sound set and costume design
> And more!

A provisional schedule for the week can be found by clicking here.

Plus throughout the rest of the summer festival season you can:
> Join us at opening nights.
> Stay for the traditional “hanging of the programme” ceremony and after show celebration.

By becoming a Premier Patron, you are:
> Investing in the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
> Providing opportunities for new writers.
> Helping to produce a major new piece by Alan Ayckbourn.
> Recognised in the SJT Programmes.
> Able to take part in the Premier Patrons week from 27 June – 2 July 2016.
> Invited to SJT summer festival press nights and post show celebrations.
> Gaining insight and access into the making of future SJT productions.

1 year Support Package 2016 (including Premiere Patrons week)
Single Ticket: £1000
Double Ticket: £1500

3 Year Support Package 2016 (including Premiere Patrons week 2016 - 2018)
Single Ticket - £2500
Double Ticket - £3500

To book a place, download the booking form here. Alternatively to book or find out more information, speak to Rebecca Winder by calling 01723 356645 or email her at rebecca.winder@sjt.uk.com.

Monday, May 16, 2016

This Week: 16 May 2016

Ayckbourn Plays This Week & Coming Soon
Until 25 June: How The Other Half Loves at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London.
26 May - 3 July: Hero's Welcome & Confusions at 59E59 Theaters, New York (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)18
27 June - 2 July: Premiere Patrons event at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, featuring Alan Ayckbourn and access to rehearsals to his latest play.
8 July - 7 October (in repertory): The Karaoke Theatre Company (world premiere and directed by Alan Ayckbourn) at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
5 August - 8 October (in repertory): Consuming Passions (world premiere and directed by Alan Ayckbourn) at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
8 September - 8 October: Henceforward... (directed by Alan Ayckbourn) at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

News Round Up:
> Alan Ayckbourn has two new works opening at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, this summer. The Karaoke Theatre Company and Consuming Passions (which consists of two one act plays which can either be seen separately or together). Booking is now open from the plays and The Karaoke Theatre Company can be seen in repertory between 8 July and 7 October. Consuming Passions is running from 5 August - 8 October and further details vat both plays can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.
> Alan Ayckbourn's latest play will receive its New York premiere at the 59E59 Theaters later this month as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival. Hero's Welcome will be performed in repertory with Alan Ayckbourn's own revival of his classic play Confusions at the theatre from 26 May - 3 July. Further details can be found at www.britsoffbroadway.com.
> You can meet Alan Ayckbourn and join him for rehearsals of his latest work in an exciting new event at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Premiere Patrons is a week-long event from 27 June - 2 July dedicated to exploring new writing at the SJT which includes the chance to participate in rehearsals for Alan's The Karaoke Theatre Company as well as a Q&A and dinner with Alan Ayckbourn. Click here to find out more.

Event Of The Week
A weekly feature highlights an event in Alan Ayckbourn's life pertinent to the week in question.
Screenplay: Unusually for a successful playwright today, Alan Ayckbourn's career has predominantly been devoted to theatre. He has made just one excursion into screenplays - and that as a favour to a friend - with Service Not Included. This was a half-hour piece written specifically for the BBC series Masquerade and directed by Herbert Wise, who also directed the television adaptation of The Norman Conquests. The short play was set during a post conference party at a hotel and essentially follows what a barman hears during the course of an evening; it provided a template for the one act play Between Mouthfuls as featured in Confusions. The piece has rarely been screened since it first showing on 20 May 1974. Subsequently Alan has written no specific screenplays and had little or no involvement in any of the screen adaptations of his work.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Archiving Ayckbourn: Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays

Archiving Ayckbourn is a regular feature presenting a look at every Alan Ayckbourn play through an object held in the Ayckbourn Archive. Each week, the feature will chronologically move through the play canon highlighting an object, article, photograph or other archival object offering an insight into the play, the playwright or moments of significance.

Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays (1988)
In 1988, Alan Ayckbourn wrote the first of what are now termed his family plays with Mr A's Amazing Plays.
The playwright had become increasingly unsatisfied by what he perceived as the provision of drama for young people whilst noticing that young audiences seemed to be enjoying his plays.
His solution was to write his own play which would not patronise young audiences, would draw from his own acting company, be performed in the main space at the theatre and have a main house budget; as such giving equal weight to plays for families as any other of his plays.
His first play did all these things whilst emphasising the excitement of live theatre by introducing an element of interactivity. During the second act, the young heroine Suzy must find her way through a creepy old house and her path is decided entirely by the audience.
To give an idea of the challenge of the task Alan was presenting himself in writing this, in the Ayckbourn Archive at the University of York is his first concept sketch of how the play's second act would work.

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn
This strange drawing (click on image to enlarge - it's worth it!) features Alan's plans for the possible routes and rooms through Mr Acousticus's house. Note the references to the page numbers of the rehearsal manuscripts.
Messy as it is, as this was presumably created in conjunction with the play, it is accurate to the options offered within the play. Just a bit difficult to make sense of!
For comparison, this is the final map as created by Alan Ayckbourn for the world premiere production with the help of his word processor.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn
Somewhat easier to read and understand, the diagram with its various paths offers a reminder of plays such as Intimate Exchanges with its perpetually branching structure.
Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays proved to be a huge hit - transferring to the National Theatre in 1993 - and inspired Alan Ayckbourn to write many more family plays, many of which became increasingly sophisticated and in several cases are regarded as companion plays to his 'adult' work by the playwright.
Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round on 30 November 1988 and was directed by Alan Ayckbourn. More details about the play can be found here.

If you'd like to meet Alan Ayckbourn, join him in rehearsals for his latest play and get the chance to put your own questions to him, click here to find out about the Premier Patrons week at the Stephen Joseph Theatre from 27 June to 2 July.