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: (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:  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."