Friday, September 4, 2015

Archiving Ayckbourn: Standing Room Only

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.

Standing Room Only (1961)
Standing Room Only was the final play Alan Ayckbourn wrote under his pseudonym Roland Allen (and, bizarrely, is also regarded as the first he wrote as Alan Ayckbourn due to the author's credit on a revival of the play) and is the first of his future-set plays.
Copyright: Daily Telegraph
As the article above, published in the Daily Telegraph on 11 September 1961, also shows, it could have been the first Ayckbourn play to transfer to the West End.
Standing Room Only opened at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1961 and was quickly optioned by the producer Peter Bridge, who was making a name for himself as a risk-taking producer in London.
The story has always gone that Bridge optioned the play after he saw a glowing review of the play in The Stage newspaper whose headline questioned "Is there a manager to drive this bus to Shaftesbury Avenue?"
Ironically, this was not quite the objective review one might expect of The Stage as it was written and submitted by the production's stage manager Joan Macalpine!
The play was never produced in the West End though, despite numerous re-writes and plans by Peter Bridge for a host of star names to appear in it. It was similarly optioned for television by ITV's Armchair Theatre, but this was also never produced.
The article is notable as it marked the first news story about Alan Ayckbourn in a major newspaper and, theoretically, marked the beginning of his relationship with the West End - even if this particular production came to nothing.
Standing Room Only opened at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, on 13 July 1961 and was directed by Stephen Joseph. More details about the play can be found here.

Monday, August 31, 2015

This Week: 31 August 2015

This Week & Coming Soon
Until 26 September: Confusions at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)
4 September - 3 October: Hero's Welcome at the Stephen Joseph Theatre (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)
Until 13 September: SJT At 60 exhibition at Scarborough Art Gallery
Until 17 October: Improbable Fiction at Pitlochry Festival Theatre (in repertory)
1 - 2 September: Absent Friends at the Gala Theatre, Durham
3 - 5 September: Absent Friends at the Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury
27 September: The Divide at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)

News Round Up:
> Alan Ayckbourn's latest play, Hero's Welcome, opens at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on Friday. This is the playwright's 79th play and follows a soldier returning with his new bride to the home-town where he left his fiancee - now the town's mayor - at the aisle 15 year earlier. Further details and booking information can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.
> Tickets are still available for a unique Alan Ayckbourn experience. As part of the Stephen Joseph Theatre's 60th anniversary, a chance is being offered to hear The Divide - the very latest work by Alan Ayckbourn. This is a dramatic narrative for voices and will feature a number of guest artists and will only be performed on 27 September at the SJT. Further details about this special one-off, fund-raising event can be found here.
SJT At 60, an exhibition celebrating the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn's home theatre - the Stephen Joseph Theatres - is now running until 13 September at Scarborough Art Gallery. Further details can be found here.
> Our sister site Scarborough In The Round continues its weekly look at the history of the Stephen Joseph Theatre as part of its 60th anniversary celebrations. Check the website's blog every Monday.

Alan Ayckbourn & The Stephen Joseph Theatre Anniversaries:
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2015, the blog will be looking back on notable dates from the history of the theatre and its relationship with Alan Ayckbourn. Visit the Scarborough In The Round blog for a more in-depth exploration of significant SJT anniversaries each week.
4 September: Alan Ayckbourn's farce Taking Steps reached a milestone when it became the first play to reach 100 performances at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, in 1980.
4 September: World premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's RolePlay at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 2001.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Unique Ayckbourn Opportunity

There’s a unique opportunity to see a third Alan Ayckbourn work at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough for its 60th anniversary year.
The Divide is an epic five-part satire of the sexes written for more than thirty voices. A world exclusive semi-staged reading, featuring a cast of 18 from Ayckbourn’s Confusions and Hero’s Welcome plus special guest appearances, takes place on Sunday 27 September.
Alan Ayckbourn says: “I wanted to challenge the director in me to write something that was ‘unstageable’. The Divide could be a radio play, a movie or I’d love to reinvent it as a full production but it’s so big that, as far as I know, this will be a unique one-off, the one occasion anyone will get a chance to see, hear or experience it.
“I’ve written it for younger audiences, it’s less Game of Thrones, more social satire. It’s a dystopian fantasy set in a completely reimagined world where men and women live separately.”
Not so long ago, let it not be forgotten, as decreed by The Preacher, Men and Women lived apart on separate sides of the Divide in segregated isolation. The celebrated novelist Soween Clay-Flin recalls this period in our recent history with dramatised readings based on documents of the period, including her own personal diary as a young girl who lived through it and survived to tell the tale.
The Divide will see the writer and director reunited with actors from previous Stephen Joseph Theatre productions. Heather Stoney (Lady Ayckbourn), whose last Ayckbourn role was in the 1985 premiere of Woman In Mind, appears in the mature role of lead character Soween Clay-Flin, also played by Terenia Edwards from the upcoming world premiere of Hero’s Welcome and young actress Velvet Hebditch.
Alan Ayckbourn with Heather Stoney, Terenia Edwards & Velvet Hebditch
Copyright: James Drawneek
Liza Goddard (If I Were You, Communicating Doors), Alexandra Mathie (House & Garden, Neighbourhood Watch), Laura Doddington (Improbable Fiction, Surprises) and Paul Kemp (Private Fears In Public Places, My Wonderful Day) are among the 18 guest actors who will be performing.
The gala reading will support the commissioning and production of new work at the theatre. It can be seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on Sunday 27 September from 3pm to approximately 9.30pm and will include three intervals and a supper break.
Tickets, priced from £15 to £60 (£60 includes picnic supper – limited availability), are available from the box office on 01723 370541 and online at www.sjt.uk.com.

Archiving Ayckbourn: Dad's Tale

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.

Dad's Tale (1960)
Dad's Tale was the first of two family plays for Christmas written by Alan Ayckbourn, both of which he considers - and the term is not used lightly - disasters. Indeed after the second, Christmas Vs Mastermind, was produced in 1964, Alan would not write another family play until 1988 - at which point he discovered he was slightly better at it than he had once believed.
Copyright: The Stage
Although The Stage newspaper did publish cursory reviews of Alan Ayckbourn's first two plays, The Square Cat and Love After All, in 1959, Dad's Tale marked the first substantive review of an Ayckbourn play by the industry newspaper.
Given the complete lack of success - particularly financially - for the production at the Library Theatre in Scarborough, it's interesting to note how positive this review was. Plausibly it might have had an effect on ticket sales, had it not been published on 5 January 1961, five days after the production had closed.
The review also mentions the collaboration between the Library Theatre and the British Dance Drama Theatre, something Alan was not aware until after he had accepted the commission to write the play (and having no experience whatsoever of incorporating ballet into a play!). Famously the two companies only came together for the dress rehearsal which points to considerable ingenuity on the part of Alan in making the play and the collaboration work.
It is also worth noting the attention drawn to the ongoing discussion about the future of the Library Theatre in Scarborough and its apparently fragile existence. Indeed this is only five years from when Stephen Joseph - despairing of the lack of support from the Library and Town Council - closed the venue in 1965; it was re-opened two years later but without Stephen's involvement who died that same year.
Dad's Tale opened at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, on 19 December 1960 and was directed by Clifford Williams. More details about the play can be found here.