Monday, April 24, 2017

News: 24 April 2017

News Round Up:
> There's just two weeks left to catch Robin Herford's well-received production of Alan Ayckbourn's Improbable Fiction at the Mill At Sonning. The play can be seen until 6 May and further details can be found at www.millatsonning.com.
> Several performances of the world premiere staging of Alan Ayckbourn's epic two-part The Divide at the Edinburgh International Festival have already sold out. Produced in association with the Old Vic Theatre, The Divide is an epic love story set in a dystopian future where the sexes have been divided following a catastrophic disease which has decimated the male population. The Divide will be performed at King's Theatre, Edinburgh from 8 - 20 August and early booking is advised via the festival website here.
> Book now for Alan Ayckbourn's new play and revival at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, this summer. He is directing the world premiere of A Brief History of Women and a revival of Taking Steps. Further details and bookings can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.
> The blog is celebrating Alan Ayckbourns' 60th anniversary at the Stephen Joseph Theatre throughout the year with an article every Friday taking a year-by-year look at his association with the company.
Unseen Ayckbourn: Illustrated Edition by Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd is now available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Fully updated for 2017, this book explores the unseen, withdrawn and unpublished works of Alan Ayckbourn with illustrations for the first time.

Friday, April 21, 2017

60 Years At The SJT: 1978

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1957. Alan has been indelibly associated with the company since that time as actor, writer, director and Artistic Director.
To mark this anniversary, the blog will be running a weekly feature highlighting each year's significant achievements and events relating to Alan Ayckbourn alongside notable photos.

60 Years At The SJT: 1978
Two years after leaving its original home at the Library Theatre in Scarborough, it became obvious that the 'short-term' venue the company had moved to was to become more permanent than expected.
Acknowledging this on 1 April 1978, the Theatre In The Round At Westwood was renamed the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round to mark the company's 23 year affiliation with its late creator, Stephen Joseph.
Alan Ayckbourn & Ken Boden preparing to mount the new
sign for the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round in 1978.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The decision to sink roots at its new home - for what would turn out to be 20 years - led to a number of changes in both the venue and the company. One of the most significant being the appointment of the company's first Musical Director, Paul Todd.
Joining the company in early 1978, Paul would work extremely closely with Alan Ayckbourn over the next decade bringing more music into productions, forming the company's first house band and encouraging an increasingly ambitious and wide visiting music programme at the theatre.
He was also pivotal in allowing Alan to increasingly explore music within his plays and for him to return to the musical genre in which he had been badly stung by his experiences with the West End mega flop Jeeves in 1975 alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Alan Ayckbourn with Paul Todd.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Alan's first foray into lyric writing with Paul came with the late night revue, Men On Women On Men, in the recently opened Studio space at the theatre. The revue featured 14 songs including Copy Type; a song which has frequently been performed by award-winning actress Janie Dee in her own revues.
The success of the piece would lead to Paul and Alan working on a further nine lunchtime and late night revues together between 1978 and 1986; a couple of which would also be revived by the pair when Alan joined the National Theatre for a two-year sabbatical from 1986 to 1988.
Men On Women On Men would also mark the first time Alan would direct his own work for television as, in 1979, BBC North recorded the piece with much of the original company. Recorded in black and white, running to just half-an-hour and screened only once - and then confined purely to the BBC North area of broadcast - it is a largely unknown and unseen piece of Ayckbourn on television.
Lavinia Bertram, Malcolm Hebden & Fiona Mathieson in
Men On Women On Men.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Even more obscure is the fact that in 1984, BBC North also recorded the Ayckbourn / Todd revue The 7 Deadly Virtues at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough. Reduced to half an hour and renamed Deadly Virtues - by virtue of not covering all seven pieces - there is no known surviving recording of this and shown just once at 10.15pm, it was seen by a very small audience.
It is in fact strange to note that Alan Ayckbourn - who has largely shunned television with just one original screenplay for the format - has directed for television three times, each time a music oriented piece with the last being a television adaptation of By Jeeves.
The success of Men On Women On Men quickly led Alan to work with Paul on his first full-length musical since Jeeves with Suburban Strains in 1980. Alan and Paul would also produce the musical Making Tracks in 1981; the use of music opening up another path for Alan's writing.
Lavinia Bertram & Robin Herford in Suburban Strains.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
“The music actually helps me as a playwright; it's given me that necessary kick beyond naturalism. You have an equivalent of the soliloquy, no need for a boring old drunk scene to make characters say what they feel. If you suddenly bring in a shaft of music from somewhere, they can actually play the subtext. Generally the English prefer to hint round the truth, which is fun and leads to a lot of comedy, but for me it's been very interesting to find this other dimension.”
Paul and Alan worked together until 1987, after which the Musical Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round became John Pattison. During this period, Alan's use of music within his plays - often cinematically with incidental themes became prominent - and he wrote Dreams From A Summer House together with John.
Alan would later go on to work extensively with the composer Denis King and, as of 2017, since his first revue with Paul Todd in 1978, Alan has written seven full-length musicals and eleven revues; it is now considered a major strand of his writing career and yet all began in the Studio at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round with the idea of a late night entertainment to keep audiences in the building.
Paul Todd (right) with the theatre band
performing in Suburban Strains.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust

Friday, April 14, 2017

Take a Chance on Sisterly Feelings

There's a rare opportunity to see Alan Ayckbourn's classic 'chance' play Sisterly Feelings in May.
Dick & Lottie - the UK"s only amateur company dedicated to the works of Alan Ayckbourn is presenting Sisterly Feelings at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, from 31 May to 3 June.
The play, set on Pendon Common, follows the lives and loves of two sisters, Abigail and Dorcas, and the choices they make with regard to their relationships and where these choices lead them.
The play famously features alternative second and third scenes, both decided randomly during the performance with the first choice determined by the flip of a coin.
It is the second of Alan's 'chance' plays to be presented by the company this year following a production of Roundelay in January. The company will also be presenting the random murderer thriller It Could Be Any One Of Us in October.
Sisterly Feelings is directed by John Cotgrave and the company has now performed more than 25 productions of Alan's plays alongside numerous rehearsed readings of his work.
The company received the patronage of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website in 2015 as a mark of both its commitment to the work of Alan Ayckbourn for more than a decade as well as for the quality of its productions.
Sisterly Feelings can be seen at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, from 31 May to 3 June at 7.45pm with a Saturday matinee at 2pm. Tickets are £12 (under 26s £8) and they can be booked via the LBT website here.
You can find out more about Dick & Lottie and Sisterly Feelings at Dick & Lottie's website here.

If you're looking for the regular Sixty Years At The SJT article, it's taking a break for Easter and will resume next Friday.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

New Look

Changes are afoot at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website www.alanayckbourn.net.
The entire Plays section of the website is being re-designed over the coming months with new pages, a new look, clearer navigation and improvements to existing pages.
An example of one of the new Images pages.
Foremost among the changes will be an introduction of an Images page for every play offering a selection of images drawn from the Ayckbourn Archive and production posters alongside rehearsal and production photographs; where the Images page has been added it can be accessed via the navigation bar for the play.
Visitors to the History page of the plays (formerly the Background page) will increasingly find Behind The Scenes insights into rarely known facts about the play's history and an In Brief page presenting the essential facts about the plays. Frequently Asked Questions pages are also being added to many of the plays.
The redesign will run throughout the year, but has already begun and the redesign can be seen in the Arrivals & Departures, Roundelay, Hero's Welcome and Consuming Passions sections. These pages also feature an improved navigation tool on the play's home-page.
Of course, while the redesign is taking place it will mean there will be a disparity in look and features between certain areas of the website, but we hope you'll bear with us while we bring these improvements to the entire website.