Taking Steps (1979)
It is one of the great fallacies relating to Alan Ayckbourn that he is a farceur. Officially the playwright considers he has only ever written a single true farce in 80 full-length plays.
Taking Steps is actually the third of three farces written by the playwright, but given the other two are his first two plays (The Square Cat and Relatively Speaking) and not available to produce or ever been published, Taking Steps is in all respects his only farce.
Dedicated to the master farceur Ben Travers - who came to see the original Scarborough production - Taking Steps was created partly in answer to a conundrum. Can you do a farce in the round given you can't have the doors which are the prerequisite of so many classic farces?
Alan's solution was to present a farce without doors but with floors in which three storeys of the same house are overlaid on top of each other with action simultaneously taking place on the different 'floors' at the same time.
As well as being the only play he considers to be a farce, it is one of only a handful of plays the playwright wrote specifically for the round and which he believes cannot be performed satisfactorily in the pros arch or end-stage spaces.
|Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn|
This very rough sketch shows the idea of the 'flat' stairs to each floor at the eve of the stage as well as showing the mix of various room props such as the bed, seats and sofa.
Alan particularly enjoyed the fact that as audiences exited the theatre via the stage at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, many people would walk up and down the 'stairs'.
The second piece from the archive is a bit of history with a visit to the London production from a well-known couple.
As far as records show, this was the first visit to a West End production of an Ayckbourn play by the Prince Of Wales and his fiancee just two weeks after their engagement was announced on 24 February 1981.
As reported in the Archiving Ayckbourn's previous blog on Relatively Speaking, it was not unusual for members of the Royal family to visit Ayckbourn productions during the '60 through the '80s.
Their reaction to the production was unrecorded, but this was the final West End premiere not to be directed by Alan Ayckbourn and, sadly, a production that proved to be very disappointing for the playwright himself.
Taking Steps opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, on 28 September 1979 and was directed by Alan Ayckbourn. More details about the play can be found here.