Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Boy Who Fell Into A Book

The new musical adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's play The Boy Who Fell Into A Book is now running at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
Evelyn Hoskins as Kevin, the boy who falls into a book
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
Directed by Alan Ayckbourn, the musical has been adapted by Paul James with music by Cathy Shostak and Eric Angus and is the first of Alan's plays to have been adapted into a musical.
For Alan Ayckbourn, it has been a new experience directing an adaptation of his own work, but he feels that Paul, Cathy and Eric have created something he has enjoyed working on.
"They’ve caught the spirit of the play very closely and they obviously love it because otherwise you can’t work on something you don’t like. I think they’re as passionate about it as I was when I first wrote the play. As a director, I’ll hitch onto that!"
Katie Birtill as Monique
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
The play features Evelyn Hoskins as Kevin with Nicolas Colicos as the pulp detective Rockfist Slim alongside Katie Birtill, Natasha J Barnes, John Barr and Stephen Matthews.
It follows Kevin's adventures after he falls into the pages of Rockfist Slim's latest adventure, leading the pair into an unlikely friendship as they try to find the way back to Kevin's bedroom through the books on his book-shelf whilst avoiding the evil machinations of Rockfist's nemesis The Green Shark.
Delighted with the adaptation, Alan believes this is a show which will appeal to all ages - or anyone who enjoyed reading a book! - and will appeal to the entire family.
"I think The Boy Who Fell Into A Book lends itself to a musical because it has this fantasy element to it and it is a family show - it’s not a children’s show, definitely a family show - and it’s a play for anyone who was a child and anyone who read under the bedclothes under a child and anyone who’s ever been activated by am story or a book. It’s a neat show but with huge potential."
The production has musical direction by Michael Warman with design by Michael Holt, lighting by Jason Taylor, choreography by Sheila Carter with the band consisting of Chris Guard, Timothy Dullaway and Anthony Lawton.
The Boy Who Fell In A Book can be seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until 31 August. Tickets are priced from £10 to £24.50 with family tickets also available and can be booked at www.sjt.uk.com where further details about the production can also be found.
A look at the history of The Boy Who Fell Into A Book (and an entire section on the play) can be found at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website by clicking here.
Evelyn Hoskins, John Barr & Nicolas Colicos
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
Stephen Matthews & Nicolas Colicos
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew

Monday, July 21, 2014

This Week: 21 July 2014

Welcome to This Week, our regular guide to major Ayckbourn productions in the coming seven days, a look back on the Ayckbourn news of the last seven days and a look at some significant Ayckbourn anniversaries from this week in years past.

This Week & Coming soon:
Until 27 August: A Small Family Business at the National Theatre
Until 31 August: The Boy Who Fell Into A Book at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, directed by Alan Ayckbourn.

News Round Up:
> The new musical adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's play The Boy Who Fell Into A Book is now running at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, with the official opening tomorrow night. Visit www.sjt.uk.com for further details.
> Salisbury Playhouse will be presenting Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce from 4 September to 4 October, click here for details.
Celebrating Ayckbourn at the Samuel French website continues its exploration of Alan Ayckbourn's plays this week.

Anniversaries:
22 July: World premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's Life & Beth at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 2008.
23 July: World premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's Sugar Daddies  at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 2003.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tweet The Archivist: Ayckbourn on DVD

Although it's a much-repeated topic, a recent @ayckbourn tweet queried Ayckbourn plays on DVD - and it gives me a chance to shamelessly plug a new article!
Running through daily tweets mentioning @Ayckbourn, there was a recent query whether The Norman Conquests is the only TV adaptation of an Ayckbourn plays to have been released on DVD.
Sadly, the answer is yes. Recently re-released on DVD in the UK by network (which has a 20 Facts article about the TV adaptation written by Alan's archivist here) and in the USA by  Acorn Media, The Norman Conquests trilogy remains the lonely Ayckbourn TV DVD.
Despite the fact there have been television adaptations of 11 of Alan Ayckbourn's full-length plays, only The Norman Conquests has ever been commercially released and none of the BBC adaptations have ever seen the light of day (The Norman Conquests was produced by Thames Television).
Despite the onset of digital programming and streaming, this also doesn't look likely to change in the foreseeable future - or at least Alan Ayckbourn is not aware of any plans regarding them.
While this is disappointing, it is presumably a commercial decision as Sir Alan has publicly spoken about how he is not against them being released on DVD; however the release of DVDs is not something he has any involvement with or say in (and for anyone who thinks otherwise, do you honestly believe the atrocious A Chorus Of Disapproval film would be on DVD if he had any say in such matters!).
The only other DVDs available of Alan Ayckbourn's plays are the movie adaptations with Private Fears In Public Places available in the UK and the USA, a French language (non-subtitled) Smoking / No Smoking (adapting Intimate Exchanges) available in France, the previously aforementioned Chorus DVD in the UK and on streaming services such as Netflix and America in North America, and, from next year in the USA and parts of Europe, Life Of Riley.
You can also still find Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical By Jeeves on DVD.
If ever the situation changes, www.alanayckbourn.net will be there to report on any future DVD / digital releases.

The Norman Conquests, starring Tom Conti, Richard Briers, David Troughton, Penelope Wilton, Penelope Keith and Fiona Walker, is available now on DVD and further details can be found here.
Details of all the filmed adaptations of Alan Ayckbourn's plays can be found on his official website here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Countdown to 60

Monday saw the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough celebrate its 59th birthday.
It is the venue most associated with Alan Ayckbourn and, it is fair to say, the two are now inextricably linked. Further more, after six decades in the town, both the theatre and playwright are also inseparable from Scarborough.
One of the questions frequently asked of the website is, why Scarborough? What were the links between Stephen Joseph and Alan Ayckbourn with the town leading them to become such an essential part of the cultural fabric of it?
The answer is, surprisingly, luck and chance. Which given both elements have played significant parts in several Ayckbourn plays (including his latest Roundelay), seems very appropriate.

Neither Stephen Joseph nor Alan Ayckbourn had any pre-existing links or connections with Scarborough. It is actually just a fortunate set of circumstances which brought both men independently to the town creating life-long bonds.
With regard to the British theatre pioneer Stephen Joseph, he arrived in Scarborough almost as a last resort as he struggled to find a home for what would become the UK's first professional theatre-in-the-round company during the '50s; in context, the vast majority of theatres in England at this point were proscenium arch - theatre-in-the-round was a rarity outside of experimental theatre groups in thiscountry.
Stephen Joseph had been searching for a home for theatre-in-the-round, preferably in London, for a number of months having seen a number of theatre-in-the-round venues in the USA. Unable to find or afford suitable premises in the capital, his attentions led elsewhere as he explained in his book Theatre In The Round.

“For several years, John Wood, education officer for the North Riding Education Committee, had asked me to take part in weekend courses and summer schools in Yorkshire, and it was on a weekend course in acting at Wrea Head that he challenged me to put theatre in the round to the test of professional performance to the public, I told him of the difficulties in finding a suitable hall, in London. So he took me to the concert room in the Central Library at Scarborough; and after a friendly and helpful talk with W.H. Smettem, the librarian, our first booking was made.... On the whole, a very good place in which to make experimental first steps.”

But the Library Theatre at Scarborough's Public Library was never intended to be a permanent home for the company. Stephen later noted: "And so each year another and another season was planned. But still on a very ad hoc basis. No sureness about the future; each season likely to be the last." One of the main reasons for this was the lack of guaranteed financial backing from Scarborough Council or, several years later, a perceived lack of support in finding a permanent new home for the company.
So the town which has the longest continual association with theatre-in-the-round in the UK was an accidental choice and certainly never intended to be a permanent home for Stephen Joseph's theatrical experiment.
When the Library Theatre began touring in 1957, Stephen did not hide the fact he was essentially selling his product to towns without a civic theatre, hoping theatre-in-the-round would catch someone's attention and they would build a permanent home for his company.
This eventually resulted in the Victoria Theatre being built in an old cinema conversion in 1962 in Stoke-on-Trent; what is now the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme is considered the UK's first permanent professional theatre-in-the-round venue.
Stephen was a practical man and, although he liked the town, he had no long-term loyalty to Scarborough. Indeed, as chronicled in his book Theatre In The Round, in 1965 he decided to close the venue due to a perceived lack of support from the town council.
That the theatre survived and flourished was due to the support and commitment from the town itself with an amateur theatrical, Ken Boden, arranging for the theatre to continue and relaunch itself as a professional venue in 1967, the year Stephen Joseph died.
This is the moment the Library Theatre - later the Stephen Joseph Theatre - really became a permanent fixture in Scarborough, further cemented in 1972, when Stephen's protege Alan Ayckbourn committed himself to the theatre and the town by becoming the Artistic Director of the venue for the next 37 years.

As to why Alan Ayckbourn found himself in Scarborough - and then decided to make it his adopted home - that's the subject of another feature on the blog in the near future.

You can find out more about the history of the Stephen Joseph Theatre and its connections with Scarborough at the website Scarborough In The Round, a sister site to Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website and the Stephen Joseph & The Library Theatre website, where you can also learn more about Alan Ayckbourn's most influential mentor Stephen Joseph.

Alan Ayckbourn premieres his latest play Roundelay at the Stephen Joseph Theatre this year with it running from 4 September - 8 October. He is also currently directing the world premiere of the musical adaptation of his play The Boy Who Fell Into A Book. Further details about both plays and how to book tickets can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.