Monday, January 16, 2017

News & Listings: 16 January 2017

Ayckbourn Plays This Week & Coming Soon
19 - 28 January: Henceforward... at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)
24 - 28 January: Roundelay at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield (Amateur, produced by Dick & Lottie)
6 - 11 February: Henceforward... at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)

News Round Up:
> Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed revival of his classic 1987 play Henceforward... begins a short UK tour this week at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. Previously seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, last summer, the play is directed by Alan Ayckbourn and stars Bill Champion, Jacqueline King, Jessie Hart, Nigel Hastings and Laura Matthews. The tour will also visit the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (6 - 11 February), the Theatre Royal Windsor (13 - 18 February) and Cambridge Arts Theatre (22 - 25 February).
> The first amateur production of Alan Ayckbourn's Roundelay is taking place from 24 - 28 January at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield. The play which comprises of five interlinked plays, the order of which is determined randomly each night, is being presented by Dick & Lottie, the UK's only amateur company dedicated to the works of Alan Ayckbourn. Further details can be found at www.dickandlottie.com.
> Don't forget there's a new regular feature on the blog in which, every Friday, we mark the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre in Scarborough with a year-by-year feature.
> 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 Fully updated for 2017, this book explores the unseen, withdrawn and unpublished works of Alan Ayckbourn with illustrations for the first time.

Sponsoring A Play On Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website
If you have a favourite Ayckbourn play, there's opportunity to be associated with it via Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website. Every Play on the site is open to sponsorship for a nominal fee - to help with the costs of running the website and domain costs - and which gives the sponsor (individuals only, not businesses) a credit on every page relating to the specific play. You can find out more about sponsoring a play and which plays are still available by clicking here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

60 Years At The SJT: 1958

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: 1958
Alan Ayckbourn had joined the Library Theatre company in Scarborough in 1957, but following the summer season, he had worked as an actor during the winter at the Oxford Playhouse.
However, the Library Theatre's Artistic Director, Stephen Joseph, asked Alan to return to Scarborough the following summer with the promise of more acting roles as well as increased stage management responsibility. Alan agreed and this, essentially, laid the foundations for his long-standing commitment and dedication to the company and the town.
Stephen Joseph & Alan Ayckbourn (back row, centre)
with the 1958 Library Theatre company.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Alan stayed with the company for both its summer and winter seasons appearing in three of the six summer plays and all three of the winter plays; the winter seasons at the Library Theatre had only been launched the previous year and demonstrated the town's early support of the company.
His first play of the season, Captain Carvallo, was notable for it being the first time he acted alongside Christine Roland; a new actress to the company who Alan would marry the following year.
At the time, Alan was already engaged though to a stage manger with the company, although it was not to be a long engagement. Alan's biographer, Paul Allen, writes of the story that the engagement was called off during the 1958 autumn tour and that the next day, partly persuaded as a means to get the company publicity, Alan proposed to Christine with the same ring!
Alan Ayckbourn & Christine Roland in Captain Carvallo.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Alan and Christine appeared in four plays together that year and had became close friends as a result of this. She accepted the proposal with them moving into a small flat for Christmas.
Professionally, this season saw Alan moving into more than the walk-on parts of the previous summer and the start of some good notices in the press; although Alan himself has always considered himself as purely an able actor.
"I lacked an awful lot of technique, but what I lacked in technique, I made up an awful lot in sincerity and because I knew better than to show my lack of technique, I kept very still on stage. I got a lot of reviews: “His lizard-like stillness” and of course, as one knows later on, if you stop waving your arms around and you just sit still, just flick your eyes round, you can pull focus that way just as well."
After playing Private Gross in Captain Carvallo, he was Constable Williams in Dial M For Murder and then appearing as the valet, Pasquin, in Marivaux's Love And Chance, he got his first notable review with the Scarborough company from the Yorkshire Post.
"Mr Alan Ayckbourn enjoys every moment of his promotion from valet to master but never believes in it that his performance is a constant joy."
HIs work during the summer season led to Alan being promoted to full-time actor for the winter season; although he undoubtedly also helped with stage management given the nature of the company at the time.
The increase of roles also led to increased notice in reviews. He played Alfred in Jean Jacques Bernard's Martine ("handled with carefully rough edges by Alan Ayckbourn"), Eric In David Campton' Ring Of Roses ("Alan Ayckbourn burbled amusingly into oblivion") and Abrahm in Kataev's Squaring The Circle ("Alan Ayckbourn, as Abrahm, is also slightly too enthusiastic").
An illustration by J. Morton Stanley for the Birmingham Weekly
Post of the play Martine with Alan Ayckbourn (second from left).
Copyright: Birmingham Weekly Post
But this was not enough for the young actor, he felt he was capable of much more than the roles he was being offered and, following Ring of Roses, he made his now famous approach to Stephen Joseph.
"I was in a play directed by Stephen and I'd been complaining about the quality of the script. So Stephen challenged me to write a better one - on condition that I took the main role myself. He was a wise man. It's one thing to write a play and throw it to a bunch of actors to die in, but quite another to appear in it oneself"
Alan Ayckbourn (left) in Ring Of Roses, the play which
launched an extraordinary writing career.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The result was Alan's first play, The Square Cat, but that's part of the next article alongside his experiences with a extraordinary young writer / director, who came to Scarborough during Christmas to direct one of his own plays with Alan appearing in a lead role.
Christmas 1958 would lead to an pivotal six month period for Alan Ayckbourn and the story of how he went from being directed by Harold Pinter to writing his first play.

Monday, January 9, 2017

News & Listings: 9 January 2017

Ayckbourn Plays This Week & Coming Soon
19 - 28 January: Henceforward... at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)
24 - 28 January: Roundelay at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield (Amateur, produced by Dick & Lottie)

News Round Up:
> The first amateur production of Alan Ayckbourn's Roundelay is taking place from 24 - 28 January at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield. The play which comprises of five interlinked plays, the order of which is determined randomly each night, is being presented by Dick & Lottie, the UK's only amateur company dedicated to the works of Alan Ayckbourn. Further details can be found at www.dickandlottie.com.
> Don't forget there's a new regular feature on the blog in which, every Friday, we mark the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre in Scarborough with a year-by-year feature.
> The end-stage UK tour of Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed revival of Henceforward... begins on 19 January at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. The tour will also visit the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (6 - 11 February), the Theatre Royal Windsor (13 - 18 February) and Cambridge Arts Theatre (22 - 25 February).

Sponsoring A Play On Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website
If you have a favourite Ayckbourn play, there's opportunity to be associated with it via Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website. Every Play on the site is open to sponsorship for a nominal fee - to help with the costs of running the website and domain costs - and which gives the sponsor (individuals only, not businesses) a credit on every page relating to the specific play. You can find out more about sponsoring a play and which plays are still available by clicking here.

Friday, January 6, 2017

60 Years At The SJT: 1957

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: 1957
If life had gone the way Alan Ayckbourn imagined at the age of 16, he would have gone on to become a professional actor. Certainly, it seems unlikely he would ever have imagined becoming a world famous playwright and director nor - even more improbably - that he would be associated with a small Yorkshire seaside town for the next six decades.
As it was, Alan Ayckbourn left his school, Haileybury, at the age of 16 in 1955 with the intention of becoming a professional actor. During the next two years, he worked with theatre impresario Donald Wolfit at the Edinburgh Festival and worked at the Connaught Theatre in Worthing and Leatherhead Theatre Club.
Then in April 1957, a friend took him to London to see Studio Theatre Ltd performing at the Mahatma Gandhi Hall. It was a turning point in the young actor's life.
Studio Theatre Ltd was a company created by Stephen Joseph to promote theatre-in-the-round and new writing. Founded in Scarborough in 1955, the company performed on Sundays in London in a bid to attract interest in the company, ideally with the hope of finding a base in the city.
Alan Ayckbourn (back row, second from left) with the Library
Theatre company in 1957 with Stephen Joseph (front row, far
right). Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The play was the UK premiere of Sartre's Huis Clos (In Camera) and Alan was captivated by theatre-in-the-round. After the performance, his friend, Rodney Wood, revealed that he had been offered a job as stage manager with the company in Scarborough for the summer and he asked Alan if he would like to join him.
Alan agreed - despite not even knowing where Scarborough was ("Oh, it’s somewhere up there, you know. You go up to York and you turn right," he recalls being told). He arrived in Scarborough in June 1957 and was immediately taken with the town.
"I remember I got off the train packed with holidaymakers and this bracing air and smell of chips. I said, 'Wow!' Because I was an inland child living in north Sussex, one of the great treats as a child was a trip to the seaside - so, dear reader, I bought the sweet shop. I came to the seaside and stayed. I thought, 'This can't get better'."
Alan was employed as an acting stage manager - that is an assistant stage manager with some acting responsibilities. He worked on all of the summer shows that season beginning with stage-managing The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.
Alan Ayckbourn (right) as Eric Birling in An Inspector Calls.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
His first acting role was as Eric Birling in a production of J.B. Priestley's An Inspector Calls and he followed it up with a role as Jack Bensted in Catherine Prynn's world premiere The Ornamental Hermit.
Alan Ayckbourn & Clive Goodwin in The Ornamental Hermit.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Although he did not receive any notice in reviews for An Inspector Calls, he was mentioned in several reviews for The Ornamental Hermit including The Times, which noted: "Mr Alan Ayckbourn at the end gave a lively account of a young country-bred poet of an engaging dishevelment."
With regards to Stephen Joseph - who Alan regards as the most influential person and single most important mentor in his life - Alan did not meet him until well into the season and then in the most unexpected of ways.
Stage managing in 1957 - Alan Ayckbourn and John Smith.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
"I was on the lighting by then, now working this dimmer board, which was very, very rudimentary and had these vicious slider dimmers that sparked and often gave you quite nasty shocks! I was doing a blackout with my arm across the top of them, trying to pull all seven down in sync - so that there was a blackout on stage. And I was suddenly aware of this huge man standing behind me, staring. And I said, ‘Excuse me, sir. I’m sorry this is a restricted area. Professional people working here.’ And he said, ‘There’s a good way to do that you know?’ I said, ‘eh?’ ‘A better way than you’re doing it,’ he said, ‘You’re going to miss a dimmer one day.’ I said, ‘oh, yes, and he said, ‘look, let me show you.’ I said ‘Just excuse me, I’m just about to start the first scene’ and I brought the lights all up again and he said, ‘no, no, what you need is a piece of wood,’ and he handed me a piece of wood and he said, “now lay it across the top of the dimmers and now we pull it down and there you have it. Instant blackout.’ And I said, ‘You’ve just blacked out the scene!’ And I could hear the actors blundering around in the dark and I whipped the lights up again and then they all came out through the curtains afterwards and they, ‘What the hell went on there!? My great speech!’ And I said, ‘this great big man came and did all the…’ - I was like Stan Laurel and he said, ‘Oh, that’ll be Stephen.’ And that was my introduction to Stephen Joseph and we struck up a sort of friendship after that."
At the end of the summer season, Alan left Scarborough and joined the Oxford Playhouse for the winter season. He was not to know it at the time, but he would be back in Scarborough the next year and for many more years to come.