Friday, December 14, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Time Periods

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: admin@alanayckbourn.net (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: When is [insert name of the play] set?

Answer: The time settings of Alan Ayckbourn's plays are an increasingly frequently asked question - and yet the answer is very simple.

Alan Ayckbourn himself has frequently stated that the majority of his plays (with a few obvious and notable exceptions) are set at approximately the same time as when he wrote them. In essence, Alan's plays are period pieces that should always be played in period they were written in to best reflect the play.

This also solves the problem inherent in many of Alan's plays, that to perform them in a modern setting puts too much stress on the play due to changing social attitudes and the way we live our lives. Also the extraordinary technological leaps during Alan's lifetime do have an impact as many of the things we take for granted in life (computers, mobile phones) were not in existence when Alan wrote many of his plays.

For example: Bedroom Farce doesn't work in a contemporary setting because the first question any rational person would ask is why don't the characters call on a mobile phone! Written prior to the advent of mobile phones, the play obviously doesn't work pulled out of context.

Generally speaking, Alan Ayckbourn's plays reflect the time and the attitudes of the period they were written in and in very few cases, can they be taken out of the period without causing an issue within the play.

The exceptions to this are: the science fiction / fantasy plays - which are generally set in an unspecified near future; distinctly period pieces such as By Jeeves and Whenever; often the family plays as they either have fantasy elements or are unspecific as to their period.

But for the majority of Alan's plays (except where it's stated otherwise or is plainly obvious), the plays should be set and played contemporary to the time they were written

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: admin@alanayckbourn.net  labelled Ask The Archivist.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Christmas Plays

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: admin@alanayckbourn.net (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: Which of Alan Ayckbourn's plays are set specifically at Christmas?

Answer: Christmas has featured in a number of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, most famously in Absurd Person Singular and Season's Greetings.
It's also featured in some of his most obscure plays - which have never been published and are not available to produce - such as Dad's Tale and Christmas V Mastermind.
Here then is a list of all Alan Ayckbourn's full-length plays set specifically over Christmas.

Dad's Tale (1960)
Christmas V Mastermind (1961)
Absurd Person Singular (1972)
Joking Apart (1978) - Act II, scene I is set on Boxing Day
Season's Greetings (1980)
Sugar Daddies (2003)
Life & Beth (2008)

Although not specifically stated in the play, A Word From Our Sponsor (1995) is probably set at Christmas as the play centres around a community's attempts to stage a nativity play.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: admin@alanayckbourn.net  labelled Ask The Archivist.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Threatening To Quit

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: admin@alanayckbourn.net (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: In the most recent This Week In History feature, it mentions Alan Ayckbourn threatening to leave Scarborough in 1974. Why was this?

Answer: These isn't a short answer to this unfortunately! But the basic background was at the time Alan Ayckbourn was two years into his tenure as Artistic Director of the Library Theatre, Scarborough,  which in the wake of Stephen Joseph's death in 1967 was now a summer-season based company.
Alan wished to make it a permanent repertory theatre in the town and despite the limitations of being based in the Concert Room at Scarborough's Public Library, applied to the North Yorkshire Libraries Committee for an extension of the theatre's performance season to 40 weeks.
Despite support from Scarborough Council, this request was denied and Alan threatened to quit the town in an extensive open letter.
Embroiled amongst this was also a plan to restore Scarborough's Royal Opera House theatre - which had been dividing opinion on the council and is another story for another day!
Although the season extension was eventually agreed, it was in large part a motivating factor in the company leaving the Library Theatre in 1976 for a new home and finally becoming the permanent company in Scarborough which Alan had wanted.
This letter (excerpts reprinted below) also led to an offer by Hull Arts Association in 1974 to offer Alan Ayckbourn and the Library Theatre company a new home in Hull. It is fascinating to think what might have been!
As a real rarity from the Ayckbourn Archive, here are some notable excerpts from Alan Ayckbourn's extensive public response to news that the Library Theatre extension had been denied, which was published in the Scarborough Evening News on 27 November 1974.

"As Artistic Director of the Scarborough Library Theatre in the Round, I do feel bound to comment upon the recent decision by the North Yorkshire County Libraries Committee to reject our application for the use of two of the rooms on the first floor of the Scarborough Public Library. It has been planned, had permission been granted, to extend our season beyond our normal mid-September closing date and to play six performances, four days a week, until the end of January 1976.
I believe that, as a result of the decision, there wlll be several repercussions. First, Scarborough has been denied, unless other premises can be found for us, any chance of havlng its own permanent repertory company based in the town. Secondly, and again this depends on whether the company can find some alternative way of enlarging its activities, it will mean, regretfully, my own departure from Scarborough....
...What we were attempting to do when we applied for extended use of the Library was not, as some would have you believe, to force all the smaller socities of Scarborough out of the Library, but rather to add to what was already there. We were attempting to become a part of Scarborough life and a little more than a three-month sideshow for visitors. It ls something I would dearly love to establish after so many years associated with the town, and before finally quitting I shall assist in a search for alternative sem-permanent accommodation.
But lf we are to operate next year as we originally planned, we have only weeks, and not months, to find and convert somewhere, Revenue grants, as I have said, are made up long ln advance.
People often ask me what is there in it for you - presumably meaning the company and myself. The answer is that, financially, frankly nothing. I know that altruism is extraordinarily unfashionable these days, but what we really hope to get out of it is the chance to continue and develop our work in Scarborough amongst Scarborough people, both of whom we happen to like. It would be nice to hear that, in spite of the views of Councillor Lahteela and the North Yorkshire County Libraries Committee, Scarborough likes us enough to want us to stay.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: admin@alanayckbourn.net  labelled Ask The Archivist.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Writing For Children

Today marks the anniversary of the world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's family play Invisible Friends.
Premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round in 1989, it became the first of his family plays to be staged at the National Theatre and it has been popular ever since.
Today's blog reprints an article from 2002 by Alan Ayckbourn in which he writes about the importance of theatre for children and why it matters, both to him and to the future of theatre.

I immensely enjoy writing plays for children, or really what I prefer to call the "family" audience, because it's probably as hard if not harder than writing for adults. You have to be more aware. Children won't lie to you - they judge you immediately. They can get bored very quickly. Adults are polite people normally and if something is a little boring, they'll sit and watch it and think, "Well, it'll get more interesting in a minute." But children just go, "Boring" and turn round and talk to their friends.
All the things that matter in any sort of theatre matter twice as much for children. Good story, good dialogue, characters you are interested in. My imagination really catches fire sometimes! To write for such an audience sharpens your playwriting skills no end. It's affected my adult work, I know. In fact, one such play, Wildest Dreams - a quite frightening play - is in one sense entirely a children's play. I'd never have written it if I hadn't experienced the thrills and spills of writing for the younger audience.
The shame in this country, of course, is how little importance is attached to children's theatre. It's appallingly under-funded - the companies that do exist providing quality work all year round survive on a shoestring. There are many excellent writers producing scripts for children but there should be many more. But how can there be when they receive precious little monetary reward and hardly any critical acknowledgement?
Young people are the theatregoers of tomorrow, but if they're never given the chance to see exciting, innovative and imaginative theatre in their childhood, how can they develop an interest in watching plays in their adulthood? If we're not careful, they will be lost forever to television, cinema and all those special effects. They will never have experienced the joy of watching something 'handmade' especially for them in one particular place on one particular day. That's what the "liveness: of theatre is about and what we have got to keep alive.

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ayckbourn Influences

The people who have influenced Alan Ayckbourn are the subject of a brand new section on Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website as part of its relaunch.
The Influences pages, which can be found in the Research section of the website, aims to shine a light on some of the well-known and less well-known people who Alan Ayckbourn regards as significant influences in his life.
These people, who Alan refers to as 'Guardian Uncles', often led to key decisions in his life or had a profound impact on his work.
The section - which will expand to include more people over the coming months - initially concentrates on three important men: Stephen Joseph, Edgar Matthews and Alfred Bradley.
Stephen Joseph, perhaps the most obvious and well known of Alan's mentors, was responsible for encouraging Alan to both write and direct and was the single most influential in Alan's life.
Edgar Matthews was Alan's French master at Haileybury College and it is because of him, Alan's nascent passion for theatre was aroused. He was also responsible for getting Alan his first two professional jobs in the business.
Alfred Bradley was the acclaimed and highly influential BBC Radio Producer who almost single-handedly launched Northern writing on the radio. He encouraged and nurtured a whole swathe of new writers and Alan, who worked for him at the BBC for five years, was highly influenced by both his work and the way he worked.
You can find out more about all these people and Alan's own thoughts on them in the new section of www.alanayckbourn.net.

This new section is part of an 18 month relaunch of the entirety of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website, covering 3,500 pages.
Phase I launched last week with a new look for the major sections of the website. Phase II will see all of the Plays section relaunched whilst Phase III, to be completed by Alan Ayckbourn's 75th birthday in 2014 will convert all the remaining sections of the site. The complete website will work as normal throughout the relaunch.
During the next 18 months and beyond, new sections and pages will be added to the website to further expand the amount of information available on Alan Ayckbourn on the website and to continue the aim to make it the single most comprehensive resource on the playwright in the world.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ask The Archivist: West End Revivals

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: admin@alanayckbourn.net (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: Having seen the current West End revival of Alan Ayckbourn's A Chorus Of Disapproval, I was wondering how many Ayckbourn plays have had West End revivals?

Answer: Just to define what a West End revival is: this is a new production of one of the 39 Ayckbourn plays which have been produced in a West End Theatre and does not include transfers or recasts of existing productions.
There have been 12 revivals of Alan Ayckbourn's plays in the West End if we include the recently announced production of Relatively Speaking for 2013. The plays are:

How The Other Half Loves (Duke Of York's, 1988)
Absurd Person Singular (Whitehall, 1990)
Bedroom Farce (Aldwych, 2002)
Absurd Person Singular (Garrick, 2007)
Table Manners (Old Vic, 2008)
Living Together (Old Vic, 2008)
Round And Round The Garden (Old Vic, 2008)
Woman In Mind (Vaudeville, 2009)
Bedroom Farce (Duke Of York's, 2010)
Season's Greetings (National, 2010)
Absent Friends (Harold Pinter, 2012)
Relatively Speaking (Wyndham, 2013)

All these plays have had previous productions in the West End. Further details about Alan Ayckbourn's plays in the West End can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions section of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: admin@alanayckbourn.net  labelled Ask The Archivist.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stephen Joseph: 45 Years On

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the death of the British theatre pioneer Stephen Joseph, who amongst many achievements pioneered professional theatre in the round in the UK and championed new writing.
Stephen Joseph
He was the founder of the Library Theatre, Scarborough (now the Stephen Joseph Theatre) and the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent (now the New Vic). He was passionate about new writing and worked with Harold Pinter, Alan Plater, David Campton and, of course, Alan Ayckbourn among many others; Alan Ayckbourn has cited Stephen Joseph as his most influential mentor.
Stephen Joseph died at the tragically young age of 46, but his influence and legacy - particularly in the development of the major theatre in the round venues in the UK and the writers he encouraged - still persist.
To mark the anniversary, the blog is reproducing an abridged article by Stephen about theatre in the round, which demonstrates his passion and enthusiasm for in the round and theatre generally. The piece was first published in March 1959.

"The theatre in the provinces is taking a beating. There are many of our largest cities without a resident professional repertory company, Leeds, Leicester and the Potteries for example. One or two established reps are doing well, but in the main the reps are having a difficult time. The audience for theatre seems to be diminishing.
There are a few experiments trying to get out of the rut. One of these is theatre in the round - a form of presentation where the audience sits all round a central acting area. It is theatre on a small scale, seating no more than 300. It is theatre on the cheap. the total expenses being no more than £250 per week. It is theatre for actors and audiences, there being a close bond of excitement between them.
Theatre in the round has an ancient history. In this country, at present, the Studio Theatre company is the only professional group trying out this form of presentation.
After live summer seasons at Scarborough, the company has proved that it can attract all sorts of people into the theatre, and hold their attention with all sorts of plays. Touring round theatreless towns, the company has proved that theatre on a shoe-string need not be of low standard. But the people who have witnessed this near-miracle have been few, there being terrific resistance to going to the theatre anyhow. The idea will catch on.
Each visit the second time round brings a bigger audience. Soon it will be full houses.If the money lasts till then!
Have you ever asked yourself what the theatre can do that the cinema and the TV cannot? Worry it out. In the end you'll remember that the theatre has live actors who are responsive to a live audience and vice versa. You can eat fish and chips through a TV show. You can switch off. They go on acting just the same. You can cuddle your girl friend at the flicks. They go on acting. In the theatre, actors feel the response of the audience. Every performance is a unique work of creation, a work of art made by that audience and those actors at this moment of time. So to hell with the scenery that the films can do so much better! To hell with the frame that protects the cathode ray tube! Let’s have the actors in the same room as the audience, let’s have four front rows, let’s get really excited about this acting business!
You can call it highbrow, but it isn’t. You can call it a new-fangled gimmick. But it isn’t. You can be worried stiff by the ways it differs from the proper theatre - but this won’t worry an audience which has never been in a proper theatre (ninety per cent of the population, at a guess).
Any sort of play can be done, and the company is currently doing Squaring the Circle by Kataev, The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter, Ring of Roses a new play by David Campton, Martine by Jean-Jacques Bernard and Easter by Strindberg. Recently Margaret Rawlings caused a stir with a powerful performance in Ph├ędre by Racine.
Nearly half the plays by the company have been by new and unknown writers (the critics were far too busy complaining about the lack of new writers to travel to Scarborough and have a look!)
Very few of the plays have been West End successes. Dial M For Murder and Look Back In Anger though have featured and done very well at the box office. But why imitate the West End? The West End will soon be imitating Scarborough. There will be a theatre in the round in London before long, so go and see the original company now."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From The Archives: Ayckbourn & Gambon

On 26 September 1990, Alan Ayckbourn premiered what was notably his first (and so far last) production of a Shakespeare play.
He directed Othello at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, with a cast which included Michael Gambon, Ken Stott, Claire Skinner, Elizabeth Bell and Adam Godley amongst others.
This extraordinary casting coup for the regional theatre saw the play run in repertory with Alan Ayckbourn's own play Taking Steps, featuring the same company.
The picture below was an early publicity shot for the season featuring Alan Ayckbourn and Michael Gambon launching Othello; Gambon has previously worked extensively with Ayckbourn, most recently during Alan's two years as a company director at the National Theatre.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
It's also interesting to note that Alan Ayckbourn's production of Othello starring Michael Gambon was originally conceived as being for the West End in a repertory season with Man Of The Moment. Unfortunately, fascinating as this idea was, it was never realised and instead Alan invited Michael Gambon to Scarborough instead!
Further details about the proposed West End productions of Othello and Man Of The Moment can be found at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The first major review

Today marks an unusual anniversary for Alan Ayckbourn as a playwright.
For on the 15 August 1959, Alan Ayckbourn received his first review from a major publication when The Stage wrote about his first play The Square Cat.
It's frequently overlooked that The Stage was paying attention to the playwright so early in his career and is particularly interesting in light of the fact that archival records suggest only it and the Scarborough Evening News reviewed Alan's first steps as a professional playwright.
To put this into perspective, aside from The Stage reviewing Standing Room Only in 1960, the next major (i.e. non regional) review of an Ayckbourn play - and apparently the first from a broadsheet - was not published until his 6th play in 1963 when Benedict Nightingale reviewed Mr Whatnot for The Guardian.
Did The Stage spot a burgeoning talent at the Library Theatre in Scarborough? You can make your own mind up with the review below.

Big Beat In The Round
Twenty-year old Alan Ayckbourn puts the big beat into Studio Theatre's new production, The Square Cat at Scarborough's Library Theatre, in more ways than one. He wrote it, has the leading part and learned to play guitar for his part as a rock 'n' roll idol chased by a married woman. He gives his best performance of the season in this lively, and extremely amusing off-beat foot tapping comedy. While rock still tops the pops London might well be interested in this bright little play from the provinces.
Comedy centres on the situation which arises when rock star Jerry Wattis is invited to a borrowed mansion for a clandestine dance with a married woman, and her husband and son discover the plan. Mr. Ayckbourn plays a little guitar during sequences, and dances a rock number called "The Riddle" with Dona Martyn, whose acting is first class. The pair are well backed up by William Elmhirst's rather aged laughter-raising schoolboy, David Campton's middle-aged husband, and Faynia Jeffery as the daughter.
As if to disprove the theory, The Square Cat fits into theatre in the round the way Mr. Ayckbourn intended it to do - smoothly and well.
(Copyright: The Stage)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Shortest West End run

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: I recently read Absurd Person Singular had the longest West End run of any Ayckbourn play. Which play had the shortest run?

Answer: Most people familiar with Alan Ayckbourn's plays would probably presume the answer to this was Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber's flop musical Jeeves - but it's actually not.

Jeeves opened at Her Majesty's Theatre on 22 April 1975 and received one of the worst critical maulings to have ever been levelled at an Ayckbourn play. It subsequently closed on 24 May 1975. The combination of a big budget, star cast and headline creative talents was enough to make it infamous as one of the West End's most famous flop shows.

However, the shortest West End run of an Ayckbourn play is actually held by his first London transfer, Mr Whatnot. In 1964, the producer Peter Bridge decided to bring the show to the West End following its successful world premiere at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent.

Mr Whatnot opened at the New Arts Theatre on the 6 August 1964 and was met with some reviews as vitriolic as anything Jeeves would later receive. It subsequently closed on 22 August 1964, running approximately half the time Jeeves did.

Of course, whilst Jeeves had no future until it was extensively revised by Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber in 1996, Mr Whatnot has - unaltered - had a very long and successful life in both professional and amateur circles. Which goes to show that success - or lack of - in the West End for a play isn't the be all and end all.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Ayckbourn Premieres

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: A two-pronged question this week about some Ayckbourn facts which are frequently inaccurately reported: I've read conflicting reports about the number of his own plays Alan Ayckbourn has premiered in Scarborough and also how many he has directed the world premieres of, can you tell me the correct numbers.

Answer: With regard to how many of Alan Ayckbourn's full-length plays have premiered in Scarborough, the answer - as of 2012 - stands at 72 of the 76 plays.

Only four of his plays have not received their premiere in Scarborough and these are Christmas V Mastermind and Mr Whatnot (which both premiered at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent), Jeeves (which premiered at the Bristol Hippodrome) and A Small Family Business (which premiered at the National Theatre, London). The other 72 plays all had their first performance in Scarborough at either the Library Theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round or the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

As to how many of his plays has Alan directed the world premieres of, this currently stands at 69 of his 76 plays.

There are only seven of his own plays he did not direct the world premiere of and these are his first play The Square Cat (1959), Love After All (1959), Dad's Tale (1960), Standing Room Only (1961), Christmas V Mastermind (1962), Relatively Speaking - originally titled Meet My Father (1965) and Jeeves (1975).

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Family Plays

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: Soho Theatre is currently presenting the London premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's family play The Boy Who Fell Into A Book, what are the family plays?

Answer: The family plays are full length plays by Alan Ayckbourn and considered part of the official 76 play canon, but which are written for a family audience.
They are different to the plays which Alan has specifically written for children, which are not considered part of the full-length play canon, as they are intended to be enjoyed by adults and young people alike.
Alan Ayckbourn's first family play was Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays (1988) and was written for several reasons. Firstly, Alan had noted an increasing amount of young people visiting and enjoying his 'adult' plays and he wondered whether he could succesfully write something aimed slightly more at the younger generation, but which would be equally appreciated by an adult audience.
He also felt, at the time, very few people were taking theatre for young people seriously and that many plays and productions aimed for the lowest common denominator and underestimated, even patronised, young people. He believed then - and still passionately believes - that children are a sophisticated audience and you can deal with most of the same themes as in his 'adult' work, but it just has to be written in a way to hold their interest. He also believes as much as possible should be done to encourage young people to visit the theatre, hopefully encouraging an enthusiasm for live performance.
As of 2012, Alan Ayckbourn has written 12 family plays and these are: Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays, Invisible Friends, This Is Where We Came In, Callisto 5 (later revised as Callisto#7), My Very Own Story, The Musical Jigsaw Play, The Champion Of Paribanou, The Boy Who Fell Into A Book, Whenever, The Jollies, My Sister Sadie and Miss Yesterday.
You can find out more about the family plays in the Plays section of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website.

Alan has also written a number of short plays specifically for either young people to perform (Gizmo & Ernie's Incredible Illucinations) as well as several plays specifically for the youngest theatre audiences from pre-school to the age of eight (The Princess And The Mouse, The Ten Magic Bridges, Miranda's Magic Mirror, The Girl Who Lost Her Voice).

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Directing in America

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: With the announcement that Alan Ayckbourn will direct Sugar Daddies at the ACT in Seattle in 2013, I wondered how many plays Alan Ayckbourn has specifically directed in North America - as opposed to tours or transfers from the UK.

Answer: Although productions of Alan Ayckbourn's plays have been taking place in North America since 1970 and Alan's own productions have also toured to the USA, there are only four plays he has specifically directed for North American venues.

The first was in February 1982 when Alan Ayckbourn toured his Scarborough company to the Alley Theatre in Houston. The company performed two plays, the first was Way Upstream and this was a transfer of the Scarborough production which had opened the previous October. Of interest here is that he also directed the same company whilst in Houston in a production of Absent Friends. This was directed specifically for the Alley Theatre and was performed nowhere else.

The Alley Theatre was also host to Alan's second specific production when in 1987 he directed Henceforward... at the venue. The play had premiered in Scarborough in July and less than three months later, he opened an entirely new production of the play in Houston. The cast featured George Segal and Judy Geeson and was again only seen at the Alley Theatre.

The third play was By Jeeves - although this had a convoluted production history. After the play's premiere at Scarborough in 1996 and following its London premiere, Alan was invited by the Goodspeed Opera House to direct an American premerie at the Norma Terris Theater, Chester, Connecticut, in 1996. This featured John Scherer as Bertie Wooster and, initially, Malcolm Sinclair reprising his Scarborough role as Jeeves. This production became the basis for several further productions of the play, directed by Alan in various venues (and for television), until it opened in Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theater in 2001.

The final play - as of writing - will be Sugar Daddies, which Alan will specifically direct for the ACT in Seattle in 2013, with the play expected to run during September / October. This will also mark the professional North American premiere of the play, which was first produced in Scarborough in 2003.

Of course, Alan has transferred productions from the UK to the USA and directed them in the USA (such as Bedroom Farce (1979), Way Upstream (1982), Communicating Doors (1994), Private Fears In Public Places (2005), Intimate Exchanges (2007), My Wonderful Day (2009), Neighbourhood Watch (2011)), but the four plays discussed above remain the only ones to have been specially produced by Alan for American venues.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Most Prolific London Actor

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: Who is the most prolific actor in West End productions of Alan Ayckbourn's plays?

Michael Gambon &
Felicity Kendal in
The Norman Conquests
© Stephen Moreton Prichard
Answer: Michael Gambon. The award-winning and acclaimed actor is easily the most prolific performer of Alan Ayckbourn's plays in London having appeared in eight plays.

His first West End Ayckbourn experience was the enormously successful The Norman Conquests trilogy (Table Manners, Living Together, Round And Round The Garden), which initially opened at Greenwich Theatre in 1974 before transferring to the Globe Theatre.

In 1977, he played the role of Neil in the London premiere of Just Between Ourselves before appearing at the National Theatre as Patrick in Sisterly Feelings in 1980.

In 1985, he played Dafydd ap Llewellyn in A Chorus Of Disapproval at the National Theatre, which won him the Olivier Award for Best Comedy Performance.

In 1987, having joined Alan Ayckbourn's company at the National Theatre the previous year, he appeared in the world premiere production of A Small Family Business as Jack McCracken.

Michael Gambon in
Man Of The Moment
© John Haynes
Finally - as of 2012 - in 1990 he won his second Olivier Award in an Ayckbourn play (as well as a Critics Circle Award) when he played Douglas Beechey in Man Of The Moment at the Globe Theatre.

Gambon was also directed by Alan in two other plays whilst at the National Theatre, appearing in Will Evans & Valentine's Tons Of Money and Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge, for which he won a third Olivier Award under Alan's direction.

As a final note, the actor also appeared in a repertory season at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 1990 appearing in Alan Ayckbourn's productions of Taking Steps and Othello.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Absurd Title

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: I understand the title of Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular was originally intended for an entirely different play. Do we know anything about that play?

Answer: The title of Absurd Person Singular has always been an intriguing one as it's one of the most well-known of his plays. For many years, Alan did not mention the title was not designed specifically for the play and this led to much discussion about its meaning in context to the actual play. Alan apparently has received some very clever and interesting interpretations of the title - when essentially it was nothing but a stock title that would cover a multitude of possibilities given that at the time, the title of his plays would be announced far in advance of them being written.

As for where the title originates, there's no definitive answer although I suspect there was not so much an earlier play which wasn't written as a concept or an idea for a play which didn't come to fruition and Alan applied the title to the play that did. Alan himself has never clarified this. The first indication the play title was not specifically intended for the final play was given by Alan just five years after he wrote it in his preface to Three Plays, published in 1977.

Absurd Person Singular - the title was originally intended for a play I didn't write and subsequently, because I rather cared for it, given to the play I did write.”

At face value, this suggests when it came to writing his play for the 1972 summer season at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, he had an idea for a play which would have had the title Absurd Person Singular, but this came to nothing so he wrote an alternative play which used the same title.

The likelihood is though that the original 'unwritten' play (or idea) also bore no resemblance to the title either as we also know that had thought of the title in advance of writing anything. As revealed in talks given by the playwright in 2008 and 2010, the title was something that randomly occurred to him.

“We were in a lift up to [the producer] Michael Codron’s office and I suddenly said ‘Absurd Person Singular. That’s a good title.’ I hadn’t got a play!”

Sadly, we have no idea when Alan had his epiphany as he had known Michael Codron since the early 1960s, although it's probable the lift incident came in late 1971 / early 1972 when Michael handled his first production of an Ayckbourn play with Me Times Me (Family Circles) and was in more regular contact with Alan. This would, hypothetically, tie in nicely as within that time period Alan's next play would have been for summer 1972, which became Absurd Person Singular.

But in reality, all we really know is Alan thought of a title in advance of working on a play and decided to use it for a play, which he then didn't write (and which may have got no further than an initial concept) before reusing it on the play he did write.

You can find out more about the history of Absurd Person Singular at Alan Ayckbourn's website by clicking here.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ask The Archivist: BBC Radio Adaptations

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: Following yesterday's article about Henceforward... on BBC Radio 3 this Sunday, how many of Alan Ayckbourn's plays has BBC Radio broadcast?

Answer: Probably more than you think! BBC Radio has consistently been recording and broadcasting Alan Ayckbourn's plays since the early mid-1970s. Here's a list of all the BBC Radio productions in chronological order.

Relatively Speaking (1975)
Absent Friends (1977)
Absurd Person Singular (1977)
Confusions (1979)
Just Between Ourselves (1984)
Confusions (1985)
Season's Greetings (1985)
Intimate Exchanges (1987)
Confusions (1985)
Joking Apart (1990)
The Norman Conquests (1990)
Man Of The Moment (1992)
By Jeeves (1996)
Way Upstream (1997)
Things We Do For Love (1998 tbc)
Season's Greetings (1999)
Woman In Mind (2000)
Whenever (2006)
A Small Family Business (2009)
Man Of The Moment (2009)
Henceforward... (2012)

Of these broadcasts, only two are currently available to buy. These are Season's Greetings and The Norman Conquests, which are available on CD via Amazon or as downloads via iTunes or Amazon.

Further details about all these productions and Alan Ayckbourn's plays in other media can be found on the Films, TV & Radio section of his official website.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ayckbourn at the BBC

One of the least well-known aspects of Alan Ayckbourn's professional career is his association with the BBC.
Between 1965 and 1970, Alan worked as a Radio Drama Producer for the BBC in Leeds, employed by the renowned producer Alfred Bradley, who was passionate in encouraging new writing.
Although largely ignored, there is no doubt Alan's tenure at the BBC (during which he was often directing at and working with The Library Theatre in Scarborough) had a huge influence on his work as a writer and director.
Arguably, the demands of his job at the BBC and the pressured environment were extremely useful when he took over as Artistic Director of The Library Theatre in 1972, aged just 33.
Unfortunately, not a lot is known about Alan's career at the BBC. There is no listing of the hundreds of plays he directed for the radio and it is not even known which, if any, of these plays survive in the BBC archive. However, here is a brief guide to Alan Ayckbourn's career at the BBC from alanayckbourn.net with quotes from the playwright.

> Alan Ayckbourn worked as a Radio Drama Producer for the BBC in Leeds between 1965 and 1970.

“Radio was and still remains the medium where the impossible can be made to happen once every second. The only limitation is the speed of the listener's mind itself in its ability to grasp events. And the average radio listener is quick. I know.”

> He worked with Alfred Bradley, a highly respected radio producer who championed northern writers and helped launch the careers of Alan Plater, Keith Waterhouse, Alun Own and Stan Barstow among others.

“I was influenced by him. Alfred’s strongest point was obviously his relationship with his writers. And I suppose I learned from him a certain amount about how to treat writers, and how to draw them out.”

> Alan joined the BBC after his first West End production, Mr Whatnot, flopped. Alfred Bradley was in Alan’s agent office at the moment Alan rang her for advice and Alfred told him to apply for a new post at the BBC.

“I joined the BBC with no thoughts of writing again - certainly not for London or the stage.” (which although a famous quote was not entirely true as by the time he began working for the BBC, Stephen Joseph had already commissioned a play for 1965 at the Library Theatre from Alan!)

> Alan's position at the BBC was created to cope with the huge amount of scripts which had accumulated as a result of Alfred’s success encouraging new writers, but which he had neither the time nor the resources to produce.

“I didn’t know what the job was when I applied to join the BBC. I thought I was going to be sorting our Alfred Bradley’s filing.... When I got there I found that, far from sorting out Alfred’s filing, I was going to be doing my own programmes and running with a great deal more responsibility than I’d had in the theatre.”

> Despite having no formal training as a radio producer, within his first year Alan produced approximately 50 radio plays. These ranged from 30 - 90 minute pieces and were predominantly for Radio 2 and 4 with occasional pieces for Radio 3 and BBC North. He would go on to direct several hundred plays whilst at the BBC.

“It gave me a great opportunity to do far more plays - I did more plays in a year than I’d done in ten years in the theatre.”

> Although very different mediums, Alan feels his work for radio - particularly its tight deadlines - was an asset to him when he subsequently devoted himself full-time to the theatre.

“As a director who was previously from theatre, I learnt the virtues of speed and economy. With two or three days to produce a finished product for broadcast, you can't afford to hang about!”

> As a script editor, Alan read hundreds of new plays, the responsibility of which - as Alfred insisted every writer deserved a written response - demanded in Alan’s view objectively and articulacy, which he felt fed through to his own writing.

“I’d already been working with actors, of course, and I suppose I had learned the hard way about directing them. But now I learned something about writers.”

> Alan initially earned £38 a week from the BBC - more than double what he had been earning at the Victoria Theatre when he left in 1964.

“The job did come my way with an astronomic salary. It was £38 a week: it was unbelievable.”

> During his tenure with the BBC, Alan still managed to write several plays including Meet My Father (later retitled Relatively Speaking), The Sparrow, How The Other Half Loves and The Story So Far... (later retitled Family Circles).

> By 1969 and 1970, Alan was juggling two jobs as he was employed as the Director Of Productions at the Library Theatre in Scarborough during the summer. Often his BBC secretary would pretend he was still in Leeds but out of the office and Alan would ring back from Scarborough, pretending to be in Leeds!

> Alan left the BBC on 23 June 1970 in order to concentrate on his playwriting career. Within two years, he would accept the position of the Artistic Director of the Library Theatre in Scarborough, a position he would hold until 2009.

“Radio itself, I must say, I went into without great enthusiasm, although I’d been a great listener as a child. But once in, I found it was a magic place.”

> Despite working for six years with the BBC, perhaps surprisingly Alan never wrote a play for the radio during this period or subsequently - although he has frequently been asked to do so since.

“I think I was dealing so actively all day with writers that felt first it would almost be cheating to write my own plays for radio. And I wasn’t actually very inspired to do so.”

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Earliest Play

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: In Paul Allen's biography of Alan Ayckbourn, Grinning At The Edge, he mentions Alan wrote several plays before his first professionally commissioned play The Square Cat. Do any of these survive and what is the oldest surviving Ayckbourn play?

Answer: The Square Cat is regarded as Alan Ayckbourn's first play - largely because it was his first professional commission and the first of his plays to be performed. However, prior to that Alan had been writing during his teenage years and had shown a number of these plays to Stephen Joseph; his mentor at Scarborough's Library Theatre, Stephen Joseph.

Depending on which interviews you read with Alan concerning these plays, there were between nine and a dozen plays written between the start of his professional acting career in 1956, aged 17, and the premiere of The Square Cat in 1959. These are known to include plays inspired by both Pirandello and Ionesco, but details of the rest remain vague at best.

In the Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute at the University Of York, there are several manuscripts which have confidently been dated as being written prior to or in the immediate aftermath of The Square Cat. These are one act plays which have never been produced or published and are: The Season; The Party Game; Relative Values; Mind Over Murder.

Details on all these plays are sketchy at best as the playwright has little memory of writing them, but - with the possible exception of Mind Over Murder - there is no reason to doubt these were part of the dozen pre-professional plays. Of these, following research by Alan's Archivist and consultation with the playwright, the most likely contender for the earliest surviving play is The Season. This is a play in four scenes (for each season) which sees a young girl and a mysterious Traveller meeting and falling in love but moving forward in time with each scene from medieval times to a post-apocalyptic landscape. There may well have been plays preceding The Season, but unfortunately all record of them has been lost.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Number of plays

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: The Evening Standard's recent review of Neighbourhood Watch implied there was uncertainty regarding how many plays Alan Ayckbourn has written. Is this the case?

Answer: No, there's absolutely no uncertainty. Neighbourhood Watch is undoubtedly Alan Ayckbourn's 75th play - and has always been advertised as such - with his soon to be premiered Surprises being, unsurprisingly, his 76th play.

The Neighbourhood Watch world
premiere programme with the 75th
play embossed on the cover.
In fact when Neighbourhood Watch was premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre last year, the programme cover made it very clear just which play number it was as it celebrated both Alan's 75th full-length play and the 300th new play commissioned at the SJT since it opened in 1955.

There was actually a point in history when there was confusion about how many plays Alan had written, but that was in the period between the mid '70s and mid '80s. At the time, Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Jeeves was not considered one of his full length plays (whether this was because it was a musical or because he was trying to forget the infamous flop musical is not known). As a result reviews and articles from this period tend to incorrectly refer to how many plays he's written. This is most significant with Season's Greetings, which was promoted as his 25th play but which we now consider to be his 26th. This was corrected by the the late '80s.

There was also a brief period in 1999, when it debated whether House & Garden was one or two plays (it's two plays), but other than that, there's been very little doubt about how many plays Alan has written and had produced.

You can see a definite list of Alan Ayckbourn's full length plays (and all his other writing) at his website in the Plays section.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ayckbourn Plays For Amateurs

Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website receives frequent requests about which Ayckbourn plays are available for performance by amateur groups.
Although there is a page with full details of availability (click here), today's blog lists offers a comprehensive list for all currently available plays.*
Performing rights for the majority of these plays are held by Samuel French Ltd (exceptions listed below) and licenses, permissions and further details about producing the plays can be found via their website.
As of April 2012, the following full-length Alan Ayckbourn plays are available to perform (listed alphabetically and with cast breakdown).

Absent Friends (3m / 3f)
Absurd Person Singular (3m / 3f)
Awaking Beauty (5m / 5f)
Bedroom Farce (4m / 4 f)
Body Language (5m / 3f)
The Boy Who Fell Into A Book (3m / 3f)
By Jeeves (7m / 3f) **
Callisto 5 (2m / 1 f)
The Champion Of Paribanou (7m / 3f)
A Chorus Of Disapproval (7m / 6f)
Comic Potential (7m / 7f)
Communicating Doors (3m / 3f)
Confusions (3m / 2f)
Dreams From A Summer House (4m / 4f)
Drowning On Dry Land (4m / 3f)
Family Circles (4m / 4f)
FlatSpin (4m / 4f)
GamePlan (4m / 4f)
Henceforward... (2m / 3f)
House & Garden (6m / 8f)
How The Other Half Loves (3m / 3f)
If I Were You (3m / 2f)
Improbable Fiction (3m / 4f)
Intimate Exchanges (1m / 1f)
Invisible Friends (4m / 3f)
It Could Be Any One Of Us (3m / 3f)
Joking Apart (4m / 4f)
The Jollies (4m / 4f)
Just Between Ourselves (2m / 3f)
Life & Beth (3m / 3f)
Life Of Riley (3m / 3f) **
Man Of The Moment (5m / 5f + 7 non speaking)
Miss Yesterday (3m / 4f) **
Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays (4m / 2f + 2 narrators)
Mr Whatnot (4m / 3f)
My Sister Sadie (3m / 4f)
My Very Own Story (7m / 6f)
My Wonderful Day (2m / 4f)
The Norman Conquests (3m / 3f)
Orvin - Champion Of Champions (15m / 7f plus others)
Private Fears In Public Places (4m / 3f)
Relatively Speaking (2m / 2f)
The Revengers' Comedies (7m / 7f)
RolePlay (3m / 4f)
Season's Greetings (5m / 4f)
Sisterly Feelings (7m / 4f)
A Small Family Business ( 7m / 6f)
Snake In The Grass (3f)
Suburban Strains (4m / 3f)
Sugar Daddies (2m / 3f)
Taking Steps (4m / 2f)
Ten Times Table (6m / 4f)
Things We Do For Love (2m / 2f)
This Is Where We Came In (5m / 4f)
Time And Time Again (3m / 2f)
Time Of My Life (4m / 3f)
Way Upstream (3m / 4f)
Whenever (5m / 4f)
Wildest Dreams (4m / 4f)
Woman In Mind (5m / 3f)
A Word From Our Sponsor (4m / 5f)

* Certain plays may be withdrawn for limited periods due to forthcoming or current major professional productions.
** Life Of Riley and Miss Yesterday are available to perform but licenses and permissions should be obtained from Alan's agents Cassarotto Ramsay; By Jeeves is now available and permissions should be applied to from the Really Useful Company.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ask The Archivist: Neighbourhood Watch

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: Where will Alan Ayckbourn's Neighbourhood Watch be going after the Tricycle Theatre? / Will Neighbourhood Watch be transferring to the West End? / Where can I see Neighbourhood Watch?

Answer: Ever since Libby Purvis's exceptional review of Alan Ayckbourn's Neighbourhood Watch in The Times last week, this has become the single most asked question of the website in recent memory.

The answer is you only have until 5 May to see Neighbourhood Watch at the Tricycle Theatre in London. After that the company's UK tour closes with Alan Ayckbourn turning his focus to his new play Surprises and his revival of Absurd Person Singular.

There are no further immediate plans for Neighbourhood Watch, which is somewhat understandable since the same company will, by the time the play finishes at the Tricycle, have performed it more than 200 times with very few breaks since September 2011. The production has gone from Scarborough to New York to London stopping at Bowness-on-Windemere, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Guildford, Cambridge, Richmond, Bath, Cheltenham, Eastbourne, Watford, Oxford and Windsor along the way.

You can find out more about the play Neighbourhood Watch at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website here.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ask The Archivist: 13 April 2012

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd.
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.

Question: With this summer's revival of Absurd Person Singular at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Alan Ayckbourn will have directed the play in all three homes of the Stephen Joseph Theatre company. Are there any other plays he's directed in all three venues?

Answer: To put this into context, what is now the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough was originally based at The Library Theatre (1955 - 1976); the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round (1976 - 1996) and moved to its present home, the Stephen Joseph Theatre, in 1996.

Alan directed the world premiere of Absurd Person Singular at the Library Theatre in 1972 and a revival at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round in 1989. This summer he will direct it again at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

As of 2012, Alan has only directed one other play in all three venues: he directed the world premiere of Time And Time Again in 1971 at the Library Theatre before reviving it at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round in 1986 before directing it at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2005.

Absurd Person Singular is also significant in being the only play Alan has directed in all three Scarborough venues and the West End as the 1989 revival of the play transferred to the Whitehall Theatre in 1990 with Alan directing.

You can find out more about the play Absurd Person Singular at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website here.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ask The Archivist: 4 April 2012

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd. 
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.  

A slight change of format this week. Some of the most frequently asked questions to alanayckbourn.net over the years have concerned amateur productions of Alan's plays. Here we've collected some of the most asked questions (with thanks to Samuel French's website for their comprehensive answers to several of these questions which have been reproduced here).

Can changes be made to Alan Ayckbourn's scripts for amateur performance?
No changes of any kind may be made to a script without the permission of the author. This condition of every performing license is also repeated in the published edition of his plays which states: 'the integrity of the authors' work will be preserved.'
This includes - but is not limited to - changing the sex of characters, cutting 'bad' language, adding material, altering the setting (be it time or place) or adding characters written as unseen / offstage.

If you feel particularly strongly about an alteration, contact the licensing agent (generally Samuel French Ltd) and if a persuasive case if presented this may be forwarded to the author or author's agent, but there is no guarantee an alteration will even be considered let alone approved.


Why do certain previously available plays become unavailable for performance?
When a play is produced professionally, the amateur rights are often restricted or withdrawn completely until the professional contract has expired. This is a standard licensing procedure in order to protect box office income.

While it may be argued that an amateur production would not harm or infringe on a professional production, it is generally standard practice to restrict amateur rights and this clause is generally guaranteed in professional contracts and requested by professional producers.

Why isn't a new play published / made available for amateur performance sooner?
Most Ayckbourn plays are published and made available for amateur performance within two to three years of the original performance. This is to allow the initial professional stage life of a play to be fully exploited. In the case of most of Alan Ayckbourn's new plays in recent memory, the initial production is followed by a tour which covers the better part of a year. As a result, it will frequently be 12 months before a new play is made available even for general professional production.

Are unpublished works available for production?
In certain cases, some plays have not been published - such as many of the revues and plays for children - and which are available for production. In these cases, enquiries should be made to Alan Ayckbourn's agent.

Certain works such as the early plays (anything written before 1963) or specific plays (for example: The Sparrow, Jeeves, Virtual Reality) are not available for production.


Can we record our production?
No. The performance license for Alan Ayckbourn's plays is only for live performance which excludes the recording of the play.
The only exception - if agreed by the licensing agent - is if the recording is for an archival purpose and is not being shown publicly or distributed to anyone outside the performance company.

Ou production is raising money for charity. Can we get a royalty waiver or reduction?

Unfortunately, no. Royalties represent authors' income and it isn't fair to ask them to support other people's fundraising in the form of lost royalties.

Do we have to pay royalties if we don't charge for admission?

Yes. Legally a production must be licensed if it is witnessed by the general public, regardless of whether or not a charge is being made to them. Also performances before audiences reduce the earning potential of a play for which the author must be compensated in the form of royalty fees.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ask The Archivist: 27 March 2012

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd. 
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.  

Question: Having recently seen the West End production of Absent Friends, how many of Alan Ayckbourn's plays are set in real time and which play has the longest time-span of his plays?

Answer: Absent Friends, written in 1974, was Alan Ayckbourn's first full-length play set in real time (where a minute of stage time equals a minute of real time). Since then he has written only one other full-length play in real time, Haunting Julia. If performed as intended, Haunting Julia is the epitome of the real time play as it is intended to be performed without an interval (unlike Absent Friends, which does have a scripted interval).

As for the play which has the longest time-span for the characters, this would currently be Joking Apart, which is set over a period of 12 years. Although this will be superseded this summer by the premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's new play Surprises which covers a period of fifty years for the characters.

As for general time-span (in which time does not affect the characters), this would have to be Whenever, which by virtue of a time machine sees the characters venture from Victorian times to the end of time and back again within the course of the play!

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Alan Ayckbourn In His Own Words

The BBC has just released a new digital album offering a selection of interviews with Alan Ayckbourn recorded over the past three decades
Alan Ayckbourn In His Own Words collects various interviews recorded at the BBC between 1979 and 2011 offering a fascinating opportunity to hear Alan's thought on his plays and career at different points in his life.
The audio interview extracts are taken from both BBC Radio and BBC television features on Alan Ayckbourn with more than 100 minutes of interviews. The album is split into five tracks, each containing a couple of interviews.
Extracts are included from interviews with the playwright on: Today (1979); The Saturday Review (1980); The Levin Interview (1984); Kaleidoscope (1984); The Michael Parkinson Programme (1987); Meridian (1989); Omnibus (1990); Alan Ayckbourn In Conversation (1991); Simon Mayo (2010); Imagine (2011).
Alan Ayckbourn In His Own Words is currently only available via iTunes as a digital download and is priced at £4.49. You can purchase the download or find out more information by clicking here.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ask The Archivist: 15 March 2012

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd. 
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.  

Question: We're extrapolating on a recent question about Alan's directing career today, by focussing on a less well known area of Alan's directing career - with a look at where, other than the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Alan has professionally directed.

Answer: As we noted in the 17 February edition of Ask The Archivist (click here), Alan began directing at the Library Theatre, Scarborough (the company which now the Stephen Joseph Theatre) in 1961, where he has spent the majority of his acting career. However, he has also directed for a number of other venues and companies over the years.

Victoria Theatre, Stoke: In 1962, Stephen Joseph founded the first permanent and professional in-the-round venue in the UK (he had previously founded the UK's first professional in-the-round company in Scarborough in 1955). Alan joined the Victoria as an Associate Director and worked as actor, playwright and director at the venue between 1962 and 1964. During that period, he directed six productions which included his first opportunity to direct one of his own plays (Standing Room Only) and the world premiere of his sixth play Mr Whatnot.

National Theatre, London: In 1977, Alan co-directed with Peter Hall his first play at the National Theatre, Bedroom Farce. Between 1977 and the present day, Alan has since directed 12 full-length plays at the venue (Bedroom Farce, Sisterly Feelings, Way Upstream, A Chorus Of Disapproval, A Small Family Business, Invisible Friends, Mr A's Mazing Maze Plays, House & Garden, Will Evans & Valentine's Tons Of Money, Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge, John Ford's Tis Pity She's a Whore. Alan was also a company director for two years at the National between 1986 and 1988 when he took a sabbatical from Scarborough.

West End, London: Between 1977 and the present day, Alan has directed 14 West End productions - predominantly for the producer Michael Codron - including Just Between Ourselves, Ten Times Table, Joking Apart, Season's Greetings, Woman In Mind, Henceforward..., Man Of The Moment, The Revengers' Comedies, Time Of My Life, Communicating Doors, By Jeeves, Things We Do For Love and Comic Potential (note: this figure does not include transfers of productions from the Stephen Joseph Theatre or the National Theatre).

Royal Shakespeare Company: In 1994, the Royal Shakespeare Company asked Alan to direct his most recent work for the company. He directed Wildest Dreams, which was performed at The Pit at the Barbican in London before transferring to the company's home town of Stratford.

Alley Theatre, Houston: As well as touring several of his Scarborough productions to Houston in the USA, Alan also directed the American premiere of his play Henceforward... with the Alley Theatre in 1987.

Goodspeed Opera House: In 1996, Alan was invited to direct his and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical By Jeeves at the Norma Terris Theater in Chester. Between 1996 and 2001, Alan re-directed the piece several times in different venues for the company until the play opened on Broadway in 2001.

Hampstead Theatre, London: In 2002, Alan Ayckbourn directed a revival of Tim Firth's The Safari Party which he had previously directed in Scarborough.

Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond: Most recently, Alan directed a highly acclaim production of his farce Taking Steps at the in-the-round venue in London in 2010.

Since 2009, when Alan Ayckbourn stepped down as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, he has - essentially - become a freelance director so it is probable this list will expand in the future.

To find out more about Alan Ayckbourn's directing career, visit the Directing section of Alan Ayckbourn's website.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.