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.