Friday, July 1, 2016

Archiving Ayckbourn: Henceforward... Revisited

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 Archiving Ayckbourn column will be taking a short break until the autumn. With several new Ayckbourn productions about to be unveiled this summer at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and with the blog reporting more news as a result, the Archive feature will take a rest until a quieter time of the year.

Henceforward... (1987)
Although Archiving Ayckbourn featured Henceforward... several weeks ago, it seems a good idea to return to it as a prelude to this column's summer break.
Henceforward... is being directed by Alan Ayckbourn this summer at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in its first major revival since its West End production in 1988.
The original production opened in 1987 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, and was - at the time - one of the most technically ambitious plays staged at the theatre (allowing for Way Upstream!)
The photos below are rare images of a world premiere set for an Ayckbourn play being built at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round. There are very few photographs held in Ayckbourn Archive relating to building the sets at Alan Ayckbourn's home theatre.
Working on the original set for Henceforward...
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The Round space at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Wiring up the set
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The original production was designed by Roger Glossop, who is returning to design the 2016 revival in Scarborough. Within the photos, the tall gentleman in dungarees is Frank Matthews, the long-standing Master Carpenter of the company, who was responsible for many ingenious solutions to challenges posed by Alan Ayckbourn in his plays.
Looking at the images (click to enlarge), you can not only see the keyboards on which Jerome composes and later plays, but also the video monitors which were interspaced around the set and used for video calling (then distinctly science fiction, now just a fact of every day life).
Given the changes in technology, it will be fascinating to see what the revival of Henceforward... looks like later this year.
Henceforward... opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round on 30 July 1987 and was directed by Alan Ayckbourn. More details about the play can be found here.

Henceforward..., directed by Alan Ayckbourn, can be seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from 8 September - 8 October. Further information and booking details can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

Monday, June 27, 2016

This Week: 27 June 2016

Ayckbourn Plays This Week & Coming Soon
Until 3 July: Hero's Welcome & Confusions at 59E59 Theaters, New York (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)
7 July to 1 October: How The Other Half Loves at Duke of York's Theatre, London.
8 July - 7 October (in repertory): Alan Ayckbourn's 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:
> This is the final week to catch the highly acclaimed transfers of Alan Ayckbourn's Hero's Welcome & Confusions to the 59E59 Theaters in New York as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival. Praised by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal amongst others, the plays feature Alan Ayckbourn's acting company directed by Alan Ayckbourn. They can be seen at the 59E59 until Sunday 3 July and further details can be found at www.britsoffbroadway.com.
> The World Of Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness-on-Windermere launches a new show today celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter. Where's Peter Rabbit? features two songs written by Alan Ayckbourn in a show conceived by one of Alan Ayckbourn's most prolific designers Roger Glossop. Further details about the show can be found here.
> The acclaimed West End revival of How The Other Half Loves has had its run extended and is moving venues. It will transfer to the Duke of York's Theatre from 7 July - 1 October and stars Nicholas Le Provost, Matthew Cottle, Andrea Lowe, Jason Merrell, Jenny Seagrove and Gillian Wright. Further details and booking information can be found here.
> Alan Ayckbourn's latest work, The Karaoke Theatre Company, opens at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on 8 July. Directed by the playwright, it offers the chance for the public to join in the action as The Karaoke Theatre Company present an evening of farce, comedy and melodrama with the help of the audience and where no performance will be the same. Further information and booking details can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

Sponsoring The 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.

Event Of The Week
A weekly feature highlights an event in Alan Ayckbourn's life pertinent to the week in question.
Directing Debut: It's not widely known that Alan Ayckbourn considers himself a director before a playwright; but then he has spent far more time during his theatrical career directing than writing. On 29 June 1961, Alan Ayckbourn made his directorial debut at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, with Patrick Hamilton's classic thriller Gaslight. Alan was encouraged to direct by his most influential mentor, Stephen Joseph, who also encouraged Alan to write. His directorial debut was hugely significant for Alan and since then he has directed more than 350 productions. For further details about Alan's directing career, visit Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Archiving Ayckbourn: This Is Where We Came In

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.

This Is Where We Came In (1990)
Having found success with his family plays with Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays and Invisible Friends, Alan Ayckbourn set about expanding their appeal in 1990.
To this end, he wrote This Is Where We Came In for Saturday matinees at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough; perhaps harking back to his love of film as a child and the Saturday mornings he spent at the cinema!
This Is Where We Came In is a play about story-tellers and the characters within the stories taking control of the stories and is one of the more performed and better known of Alan's family plays.
Except the play we know now isn't what was originally intended. It's not widely known that the play began life as a two part piece shown on alternate Saturdays and which could be seen in any order.
The cover of the original programme.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The interior of the original programme.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The item drawn from the Ayckbourn Archive this week is the programme for the original production, which is a rare piece of Ayckbourn ephemera (click on images to enlarge).
This programme shows how "the very first circular adventurous comical mystery play" was presented with the emphasis on people coming to see whichever parts they wanted, when they wanted.
Sadly, no manuscripts exist in archive for the original productions and this programme and a couple of images and press cuttings are all the material which exist for the world premiere production.
As a result, it's not known how much Alan changed of the play to make it into the play which is performed today and which was premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round during the following Christmas in 1991.
The play as it stands today has the circular feeling with the characters beginning each act back where they started and unaware of what has gone before, but does lead to a point where the storytellers wrest control of the narrative from the Storytellers. It's not clear how this would have worked with a two part play and whether more of a narrative was imposed on the play.
As it is, the programme stands as a very rare piece of Ayckbourn ephemera from the 1990s as well as showing Alan's continuing interest in promoting theatre for young people and pushing the directions such plays could go.
This Is Where We Came In opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round on 4 & 11 August 1990 and was directed by Alan Ayckbourn. More details about the play can be found here.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ayckbourn In The Summer

There's a quite a choice of Ayckbourn productions on offer this summer around the UK. The blog offers a quick guide to what's on where.

The Karaoke Theatre Company (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 8 July - 7 October)
Alan Ayckbourn's latest work premieres in early July at his home theatre promising something unlike anything he's ever written before. Join The Karaoke Theatre Company for an evening in which the audience are encouraged to take part in the fun. This is directed by Alan Ayckbourn and further details can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

Consuming Passions (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 8 July - 7 September)
Another new work from the playwright receiving its debut in Scarborough this summer. Consuming Passions consists of two one act plays (Premonitions and Repercussions). Described by Alan Ayckbourn as Alfred Hitchcock meets The Twilight Zone, it follows a woman who thinks she hears a murder being plotted - or has it happened or is it just in her imagination. The two plays are showing separately and in double bills throughout the summer. They are directed by Alan Ayckbourn and further details can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

Henceforward... (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 8 September - 8 October)
The first major UK revival of Alan Ayckbourn's dystopian, future-set classic since its award-winning and acclaimed West End premiere in 1988. Alan Ayckbourn directs the production which looks at the nature of creativity as a composer desperately tries to get access back to his estranged daughter to help compose his masterwork. The play recently ran for more than a year in to great success in Germany and promises to be a fascinating return to the future. Further details can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

How The Other Half Loves (Duke Of York's Theatre, London, 7 July - 1 October)
Having been running in London for several months, this acclaimed revival of the classic 1969 play has just had its run extended by another 12 weeks along with a transfer of venues to the Duke Of York's Theater. The play is directed by Ayckbourn veteran Alan Strachan and features Nicholas Le Provost, Matthew Cottle, Jenny Seagrove, Jason Merrell,  Gillian Wright and Andrea Lowe. Further details can be found here.

Bedroom Farce (Theatre Royal Windsor, until 25 June).
You've not got long to catch this one, presented for just a week as part of the Theatre Royal's summer repertory season, this closes on Saturday and offers the chance to catch one of Alan Ayckbourn's perennially popular plays. Directed by Lillie Collier, this follows a highly successful return to rep theatre last year which also featured an Ayckbourn play. Further details can be found here.

Damsels In Distress (Pitlochry Festival Theatre, until 13 October)
Pitlochry Festival Theatre has been regularly producing Alan Ayckbourn's plays in recent years (including Improbable Fiction, A Chorus Of Disapproval and Communicating Doors) and this year is producing three with the Damsels In Distress trilogy; three plays featuring unrelated stories with the same cast and setting. This is a rare chance to see the acclaimed plays GamePlan, FlatSpin and RolePlay all performed together and to enjoy a showcase for actors. Further details can be found here.

Relatively Speaking (on tour from 30 August)
Alan Ayckbourn's breakout comedy, Relatively Speaking, is touring from August with Liza Goddard and Robert Powell starring. Confirmed venues include: Grand Opera House, Leeds; Theatre Royal, Brighton; Oxford Playhouse; Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury; Richmond Theatre; The Lowry, Manchester; Malvern Theatre; MK Theatre, Milton Keynes and Bath Theatre Royal. Further details are expected to be announced soon.

Woman In Mind / Invisible Friends (Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, 13 - 17 September)
Dick & Lottie, the UK's only amateur company dedicated to Alan Ayckbourn's plays and of which Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website is the patron, is presenting the first ever UK double bill of these plays looking at what happens when a child and an adult's fantasy lives run rampant. The week will also feature a talk with Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist discussing the plays on 17 September.

Further details about forthcoming productions of Alan Ayckbourn's play and performance dates can be found at www.alanayckbourn.net.