Tuesday, October 29, 2013

National Theatre At 50: Bedroom Farce

Continuing our celebration of the National Theatre's 50th anniversary and Alan Ayckbourn's work at the venue.

Bedroom Farce was the first Ayckbourn play to be produced at the National Theatre - and also marked Alan's directorial debut in London.
The play opened in the Lyttelton (end-stage) auditorium at the National Theatre in 1977 and although it was commissioned by Peter Hall for the National, it was first produced at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1975.
Reviews for the play were excellent - marred slightly by a number of prominent critics arguing Ayckbourn plays were too commercial for the National and should remain in the West End - and the play was a huge early hit for the National Theatre.
Its success saw it not only performed for an extended period at the National Theatre, but the production also transferred into the West End, had a UK tour, transferred to Broadway and was also adapted for television in a production featuring most of the original National company.
It began a long and successful relationship between the National Theatre and Alan Ayckbourn.
Below are reprinted four of the posters used by the National Theatre for Bedroom Farce during its original run and its subsequent transfer to the West End.
Copyright: National Theatre
To find out more about the history of Bedroom Farce, visit Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website here. For more information about the National Theatre's 50th anniversary celebrations, click here.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ayckbourn Moments: Love After All

Ayckbourn Moments is now part of the Replaying Ayckbourn feature and offers a look at a rare image connected with the play currently being discussed.

Love After All (1959)
Not one but two images this week offering a look at the only two productions of Alan Ayckbourn's second play Love After All.
Alan wrote Love After All in 1959 as an Edwardian period farce loosely based on The Barber Of Seville. It was performed in December 1959 at the Library Theatre and proved to be a great success; albeit without Alan playing the lead role as intended due to being called up for National Service.
A decision was made to revive it in the summer of 1960 at the Library Theatre but with a new director, who appears to have not been overly impressed by the play. He decided to set it in the present day and changed a number of elements. Although Alan was now available to play the lead role, he has said in retrospect, it was not as good a production as the original.
The photos offers a comparison of the same scene from both productions in which the hero, Jim Jones, disguised as a Doctor diagnoses the miser Scrimes as being terminally ill.
The photo on the left from 1959 sees Barry Boys (left) as Jim Jones 'administering' to David Campton's Scrimes. The right photo from 1960 has Alan Ayckbourn (left) as Jones with David Campton reprising his role as Scrimes, but in modern dress.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust (left) / Alan Ayckbourn (right)
It is worth noting that as only a single manuscript exists for the original production and there is very little other surviving archival material, the photographs of both productions (but especially the second in 1960) are invaluable in offering some insight into the plays and how they were performed.

The Replaying Ayckbourn: Love After All article can be found here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

National Theatre at 50: Alan Ayckbourn's First Letter

The National Theatre is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Alan Ayckbourn's own connection with the National Theatre is a significant part of his theatrical career and between 1986 and 1988, he was a company director with the venue.
The National Theatre has also staged ten Ayckbourn plays since 1977 when Bedroom Farce opened in the Cottesloe, proving to be an early hit for the venue and which the National Theatre toured to Broadway and transferred into the West End.
Over the next two weeks, the blog will be highlighting several interesting items from the Archive pertaining to Alan Ayckbourn's relationship with the National Theatre as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations.
We begin with the first archived correspondence between Alan Ayckbourn and the National Theatre sent by Peter Hall, then Artistic Director of the National Theatre, to Alan on 29 August 1973; four years before Alan would first work for the theatre.
The letter shows Peter Hall's reaction to the West End production of Absurd Person Singular and how he would like Alan to work with the National Theatre.
According to the Peter Hall Diaries (Oberon Books, 2000), Peter Hall saw Absurd Person Singular on 28 August 1973 and was impressed by the play. In his diaries, he noted:
"Saw Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular. It is a hard, beautifully constructed play. But because it is commercial, it tends to be unregarded. I think Ayckbourn is much more likely to be in the repertoire of the National Theatre in fifty years' time than most of the Royal Court dramatists."
This letter, alongside a wealth of other correspondence between Peter Hall and the National Theatre, is held in the Ayckbourn Archive in the Borthwick Institute at the University of York.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Replaying Ayckbourn: Love After All

2014 marks both Alan Ayckbourn’s 75th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his first West End transfer with Mr Whatnot. In a new feature leading up to and through the anniversary year, Replaying Ayckbourn will look back over his entire play canon examining each play and digging up some of the more unusual facts about them. Accompanying features for each play will also be published.

Love After All
Play: 2
World premiere: 21 December 1959
Venue: Library Theatre, Scarborough
Published: No - held in archive (unavailable for production)
Find out more: http://loveafterall.alanayckbourn.net

Short Synopsis
An elderly miser, Scrimes, plans to marry of his daughter Angelica to a pig-breeding bore of an aristocrat, Rupert Hodge. A passing stranger, Jim Jones, sees Angelica at her window and falls in love with her whilst Angelica's clever maid, Minta, falls for him.
Jones, donning a variety of increasingly bizarre disguises - including a portrait artist, doctor and Scrimes' female American cousin - attempts to see gain entry to the house to propose to Angelica; all the while Minta telling him he's pursuing the wrong girl.
In a bid to rid himself of Jones, Scrimes comes up with a plan for Hodge to disguise himself and abduct Angelica; Minta informs Jones of the plan and engineers Hodge's successful abduction of Angelica, whilst she waits in disguise to entrap Jones for herself. With everyone in disguise and confusion abounding, Scrimes gives several dowries to Jones instead of Hodge. Jones and Minta run off together with the money, whilst Hodge and Angelica flee a pistol-wielding Scrimes to also begin a new life together.

Did you know?
> This is the Ayckbourn play about which least is known. Only one original manuscript exists (despite there being two different versions of the play), very few reviews exist and Alan Ayckbourn has said very little about the play.
> The only manuscript for Love After All was discovered by Alan’s archivist Simon Murgatroyd and the British Library in the Lord Chamberlain’s Collection (held at the British Library) in 2007. It is a clean, pre-production script and thus there is no indication of how representative it is of the actual produced play.
> It is, arguably (and I’d argue very strongly for this!), this most conventional play written by Alan Ayckbourn. It is a period farce which satisfies but does not push the conventions of the genre.
> Although apparently based on The Barber Of Seville; it seems this was only in the loosest use of the term.
> Alan has suggested it was an easier play to write than The Square Cat as he stole the plot; he has never explained why he stole the plot though. This could be because he was only commissioned to write it no earlier than 9 September 1959 (the end of the summer season) for rehearsals beginning no later than 9 December 1959 - less than three months!
> It is attributed to Roland Allen (a pseudonym combining of the names of Alan and his wife, Christine Roland); quite why a pseudonym is used is unclear given the programme - free to all audience members - makes it clear the author Roland Allen is actually the actor Alan Ayckbourn.
> Love After All is - even more so than The Square Cat - centred largely on providing a showcase for the leading actor (who plays four different characters). Ironically, Alan wrote it to showcase his own abilities, but was then not able to perform in the original production due to being called for National Service.
> It is Alan’s first multi-location set as it contains both a ground floor living room and a second floor bedroom on the same stage.
> Alan has frequently talked about how he and the company’s other resident playwright, David Campton, wrote each other the worst roles possible (culminating in David writing Alan a role for a one-eyed, one armed, one legged barman). Possibly it all began here with Alan casting David as an 83 year old miser (David being 35 at the time).
> It is possibly (and I stand to be corrected) the only Ayckbourn play where a character gives an aside to the audience (breaking the in-the-round equivalent of the fourth wall) where the convention hasn’t been established as part of the narrative (i.e. the narrators / lead characters in certain family plays such as Invisible Friends and Miss Yesterday).
> There is also an astonishing example of monologuing by Minta purely to provide exposition and, presumably, to just make it clear to the audience a character was in disguise; it's doubly unusual given Alan so rarely writers monologues in his plays.
> Notable dialogue: “I have always ridiculed the doctor who sat and listened to his patient’s chest as if it were a gramophone. If a gramophone goes wrong, one does not sit listening to it. On the contrary, one opens it up - dear sir - opens it up and has a good look inside.”
> Like The Square Cat before it, the play was so popular with audiences that a decision was made to run it for a second week.
> For the summer of 1960, the play was revived but the new director Julian Herington decided he did not like it and updated it to a contemporary setting. As a script for this production hasn't survived, we have no idea how substantially it was altered.
> While Alan joked in the 1970s he was trying to destroy all copies of his early plays, the fact that only one Love After All manuscript is known to exist (and in a place where Alan could not destroy it!), whereas there are multiple copies of his other early plays, does suggest he really did try to destroy Love After All!

Look out for our accompanying Ayckbourn Moments photograph on this blog on Friday.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce this article without the permission of the copyright holder.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

National Theatre's 50th Anniversary

The National Theatre is 50 years old today and over the coming weeks will be celebrating this anniversary.
Alan Ayckbourn's work and productions at the National Theatre will be included as part of the celebrations with his play Bedroom Farce named as one of the 50 seminal productions produced during the venue's first half century.
The play features in the new free app for iPads, 50 Years Of The National Theatre, which contains an extensive selection of often exclusive content relating to the history of the National Theatre and 50 productions which are regarded as particularly significant.
The Bedroom Farce selection includes production and behind-the-scenes photos, many of which have rarely - if ever - been seen in public before drawn from the National Theatre's extensive archives.
It also includes production details about the play, an introduction as well as design material such as the set plan; for anyone who is interested in the history of Bedroom Farce, it is a fascinating collection of material and in sight into one of the National Theatre's most successful early productions.
Although only available on iPad, this free app comes highly recommended and further details can be found here.

The 50th anniversary will also be celebrated and explored in a major two-part documentary screening on BBC4 and BBC iPlayer over the next two weeks.
Arena: The National Theatre tells the story of the National from the appointment of Laurence Olivier as its first Director, and the great period of legendary productions at the Old Vic, to the move to the controversial and now iconic new building on the South Bank.
Alan Ayckbourn is one of the many people interviewed for the documentary; talking about his experiences at the National Theatre since 1977 and which has included ten productions of his work.
Arena: The National Theatre starts on Thursday 24 October at 9pm on BBC4 with the second part screening on Thursday 31 October at 9pm. It will also be available on BBC iPlayer and further details can be found here.

Last, but certainly not least, the major celebration of the National Theatre's 50th anniversary takes place on Saturday 2 November with a live broadcast of 50 Years On Stage.
BBC2 will be broadcasting this celebration from the National Theatre which draws together many of 100 celebrated actors who have worked at the venue, recreating some of iconic scenes and moments from significant works produced over the past five decades - including a scene from Bedroom Farce with Penelope Wilton as Delia.
This promises to be an extraordinary theatre event and further details about it - including broadcast times when announced - can be found at the National Theatre website here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ayckbourn Articles: Comedy & Farce

In the run-up to Alan Ayckbourn's 75th birthday in April 2014, a monthly feature reproduces articles by the playwright highlighting his life in theatre through the years.
Last month we looked at Alan Ayckbourn's views on the repertory company - something which has always been an essential element of his work in Scarborough.
This month, we reproduce an article first published in the Amateur Stage in 1978 - for which Alan wrote several articles during the late '7-s - in which he explores the difference between comedy and farce and how they should be approached from an acting perspective.

On Comedy & Farce
Going back to my great idol, Buster Keaton - everything followed logically; he behaved completely within his own mad world as a normal human being would behave. The mistake that's made is that people imagine that somehow farce has to be played louder, faster, broader - and suddenly they throw all credibility away. I have a campaign at the moment for slow, quiet farce. I don't see why farce has necessarily to be loud or fast. It has to be paced well, but that does not necessarily mean all loud or all fast.

The middle act of Absurd Person Singular is sometimes a trap, but one should bear in mind that all the characters are in their own terms acting totally logically. Leave it to us, the audience, to laugh, if we see the funny side; and leave it to the dramatist, if he's done his job properly, to point the absurdity. The actors don't need to react; they can continue to play their own role within that scene... there's still a woman trying to kill herself, which she is still quite serious about, and there's still a man trying to unblock a sink. What turns an audience off, I think, is when actors are in effect saying "Aren't I funny?"

Farce playing is not as mysterious as it's sometimes made out to be. It's difficult, but there's a sort of mystique about farce, which makes everyone very nervous about it. Some of the best performances I've had in farce and comedy are from actors who've never played it before.

I had a girl who came into the company to play Evelyn in Absent Friends; on the first night she delivered the lines as she had been doing in rehearsals and the audience just fell about. So I popped round in the interval because I thought she'd be really thrilled about this as it was her first job with us, and she said, "I can't stop them laughing. I'm sorry." I said, "Don't worry - that's just what we want." "Is it?" she replied. She had no idea. Maybe I hadn't explained it, but I had been talking about it as a character - I hadn't thought to talk about the laughter. Three nights into the run I went to see it again - and she was practically standing on her head to let laughs. I said, "You don't need to do any more - you've already got the laughs."

This was the most clear example of how to play comedy - be real; and she had instinctive timing on how to play the lines for real. There was someone with very little experience playing comedy beautifully, and taking it a little further, why not farce the same way?

A lot of my plays start quite low key, and I slowly "jack them up"' into quite high-key stuff. The Normans has a sort of climax in the middle, where it becomes quite broad - though it should still be played as comedy, not farce. Of course one can have big moments, but you must have explored the truth in order to reach them. What often happens with an actor who is not naturally an expert farceur is that he has seen somebody playing farce and then tries to copy the externals. He forgets that the great farce players have a sort of inner logic and truth about them that makes them, for the time you are watching, totally believable. So many actors go wrong in trying to play farce because of certain "distractions".
For example, Ralph Lynn had very large hands and a very comic personality, and he did things truthfully from his own viewpoint, but which any other actor copying would be phoney. But he uses his own particular physical peculiarities to create laughter. People following him think he got laughs by doing "funny things" - but in fact he got laughs by doing things his way.

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Replaying Ayckbourn: The Square Cat Interview

Following on from the launch of Replaying Ayckbourn last week, today takes a final look at Alan Ayckbourn's first play The Square Cat.
Here the playwright talks about The Square Cat to his archivist Simon Murgatroyd, looking at how and why he came to write it and the impact of the play.

The Square Cat: Alan Ayckbourn Interview

Simon Murgatroyd: The Square Cat was your first professional commission, why do you think Stephen Joseph took that risk on you?
Alan Ayckbourn: I think one of the reasons Stephen Joseph first asked me to write was I let slip early on that I’d written at school. In fact, I’d written my first play before the age of 12 and it was an adaptation of an Anthony Buckeridge book Jennings At School; which I wrote and never got to see because I was ill. I wrote sketches and little bits and pieces once I was at Haileybury, my public school, where the arts scene was covert and undercover and which was all very exciting; like being in the French resistance!

Alan Ayckbourn in The Square Cat
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn
The story famously goes that the commission came as a direct result of you complaining about the quality of your acting roles in 1958, is this true?
Yes, I was overheard to complain about the play I was in one night [David Campton's Ring Of Roses], the way actors do. I didn’t have a very good part in it and Stephen Joseph threw down the gauntlet: “If you think you can write a better play, do so.” I said, “I can write better than this - I can write a play tomorrow that’s better than this.” And he said, “OK, do so smarty. There’s just one thing, if you write it, be prepared to play the lead in it.” Which he actually thought would queer my pitch as obviously I’m not going to be lunatic enough or suicidal enough to write myself an unplayable role in a play I didn’t have any confidence in!
But I was so swollen with confidence and possibly a slight stupidity of youth, that I wrote a play in which I gave myself this starring role.

Not just a starring role though. An all-singing and all-dancing role. Which seems slightly strange - possibly suicidal - given you were neither singer nor dancer!
The freedom to write my own play was amazing and the actor in me was urging the author in me onward and onward! So the role was a rock ‘n’ roll singer playing a guitar, singing and dancing; it was an amazing role - Michael Crawford would have died for it! But I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t dance and I certainly couldn’t play the guitar!
So it occurred to me in the first two or three weeks of rehearsals that I ought to remedy this quite quickly and I went for some guitar lessons. I didn’t even have a guitar and this boy looked at me in amazement and said, “how long have you got?” I said: “Well, about two weeks.” He said, “You can’t play the guitar in two weeks! I can teach you a couple of chords.” I said, “Yeah, OK, that’ll do. So can we find a song to go with a couple of chords?” and he said: “Well, there’s a very boring song with two chords in it!” which I finished up playing in this play of mine.

The Square Cat is a rarity for you because it is a pure farce. Why did you decide to write a farce for your first play?
The Square Cat was a farce because that was how it turned out. Everyone tells you; don’t write farces, they’re for old men. Farces are technically very, very difficult to write unless you’re a natural farceur - you have to know exactly all the wheels and nuts of play-building. Long before that, you’re supposed to write a very serious play about how your mother didn’t understand you and how your father was unkind to you; write something rather introverted and gloomy and all about you - which is what 80% of all first plays written are. First plays tend to come soaring out of a person’s unhappy childhood - if they had a happy childhood, they invent an unhappy one.
But I started with a silly play about a woman who fell in love with a pop singer and he arranges to go on holiday with her, to her family’s horror, who then turn up and try to stop her. The rest of the play is about pop singers running in and out of doors.

How was the play received by audiences at the Library Theatre?
Because The Square Cat was light and had a few laughs in it, it made money because we were still doing - in those days - plays largely written by young people who were writing about their “unhappy childhoods” and this was a silly play about no childhood at all. The audience, who were on holiday in Scarborough trying to avoid the rain, ran in gratefully and saw my play, which made the theatre money. It made me more money in one lump than I’d ever earned in my life! £33*, it was a fantastic amount! I went completely berserk and bought myself some more records!
Stephen Joseph realised he’d actually, like some freak accident of lightning striking, found himself an embryonic commercial writer and he encouraged me to write more. I, wanting to see more £33s coming in because by then I had a family and one child with another on the way, started to write comedies for Stephen and the first three or four all included exciting parts for me! And then as they went on I began to realise that possibly the one weak link in the plays was this bloke playing all the leads. So I recast them for another actor - to the eternal gratitude of the rest of the company, who were fed up with supporting me.

*Alan Ayckbourn has generally quoted a figure of £47 earned from The Square Cat previously.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce any part of this interview without permission of the copyright holder.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ayckbourn 2014 Tour Announced

Dates for the 2014 tour of Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed new play Arrivals & Departures have been announced.
In 2014, a triple bill of Ayckbourn plays will be touring the UK following a successful run at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, this summer.
His new play Arrivals & Departures, which has received critical acclaim, will be touring alongside the playwright's lauded revival of his classic 1992 play Time Of My Life and the world premiere production of his two new one act plays Farcicals.
The tour begins at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, on 22 January before visiting the Oxford Playhouse; Warwick Arts Centre; Cambridge Arts Theatre; Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham; Theatre Royal, Bath; Watford Palace Theatre.
All the plays, which are currently on a short in-the-round tour to the New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and the Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-on-Windemere, are directed by Alan Ayckbourn.
Arrivals & Departures is Alan Ayckbourn's 77th play and revolves around a young female soldier, Ez, and an older traffic warden, Barry, brought together in unusual circumstances, whose lives are revealed through their memories.
Time Of My Life was premiered in 1992 and is the first revival by Alan Ayckbourn since he directed the West End premiere in 1993. It follows a pivotal night in the life of the Stratton family intertwined with events leading to and from the event.
Farcicals consists of two inter-related one act plays, Chloë With Love and The Kidderminster Affair, which are Alan's first forays into pure farce since he wrote Taking Steps in 1979.
Further details of the tour can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

Arrivals & Departures, Time Of My Life and Farcicals Tour 2014
22 January - 1 February: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
3 - 8 February: Oxford Playhouse
10 - 15 February: Warwick Arts Centre
17 - 22 February: Cambridge Arts Theatre
24 February - 1 March: Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
3 - 8 March: Theatre Royal, Bath
10 - 15 March: Watford Palace Theatre

Friday, October 11, 2013

Ayckbourn Moments: The Square Cat

Ayckbourn Moments is now part of the Replaying Ayckbourn feature and offers a look at a rare image connected with the play currently being discussed.

The Square Cat (1959)
This image is a rare image of the The Square Cat's author Roland Allen. The play was actually written under a pseudonym which acknowledged it was a joint collaboration between Alan Ayckbourn and his fiancee - later first wife - Christine Roland.
Apparently Christine contributed substantially to the structure of the play, whilst Alan concentrated in the dialogue and plot. Alan and Christine had first met whilst both were actors in the Studio Theatre company based at the Library Theatre, Scarborough.
This is a rare publicity image of the two of them together, out of character - as opposed to images from productions they were both in - and probably the only publicity photograph of 'Roland Allen'.
Alan Ayckbourn & Christine Roland (1959)
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn
Do not reproduce without permission
The Replaying Ayckbourn: The Square Cat article can be found here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Replaying Ayckbourn: The Square Cat

2014 marks both Alan Ayckbourn’s 75th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his first West End transfer with Mr Whatnot. In a new feature leading up to and through the anniversary year, Replaying Ayckbourn will look back over his entire play canon examining each play and digging up some of the more unusual facts about them. Accompanying features for each play will also be published.

The Square Cat
Play: 1
World premiere: 31 July 1959
Venue: Library Theatre, Scarborough
Published: No - held in archive (unavailable for production)
Find out more: http://thesquarecat.alanayckbourn.net

Short Synopsis
A married woman, Alice, goes on a clandestine trip to a county house to meet and dance with the rock idol Jerry Wattis. Unknown to her, her husband Sidney finds about about the trip and bring their son and daughter to the house too. Jerry is also not who he seems but the extrovert alter-ego of mild-mannered Arthur Brummage, looking to escape the celebrity lifestyle. Over a weekend, Sidney tries to humiliate Arthur, whilst Arthur falls in love with the daughter Susan, all the while pretending to be 'Jerry' for Alice. Eventually 'Jerry' deliberately upsets Alice who is reconciled with Sidney and Arthur becomes engaged to Susan, without Alice having any clue as to what has happened.

Did you know?
> Alan Ayckbourn wrote The Square Cat when he was just 19 years old. It was written whilst on the Studio Theatre Company 1959 winter tour, which included Harold Pinter’s self-directed second production of The Birthday Party (which featured Alan as Stanley).
> Alan had written approximately a dozen plays before The Square Cat, most of which are now lost. By all accounts though, none of these were full length and none were farces. It was entirely new territory for the budding playwright.
> In a letter dated 19 March 1959, the Library Theatre’s manager Rodney Wood discusses the coming season with Scarborough Library and no mention is made of The Square Cat; it must have been a very late addition to the season.
> The Square Cat was co-written with his fiancee Christine Roland - they married later that year in May 1959. As a result, it was credited to Roland Allen - although the first print of the production’s programme mis-spelt Allen as Allan.
> Someone heads off for a clandestine meeting at a country-house, not knowing their partner has decided to follow them but who arrives first.... Sound familiar? It’s the set-up for both Relatively Speaking and The Square Cat.
> Alan says he wrote the main part of a rock ‘n’ roll star for himself, despite knowing he couldn’t sing, dance or play the guitar. The original manuscript acknowledges this by ending the first act: “Wattis gives a triumphant twang on his guitar.” Unfortunately, someone - either writer or director - decided to be more ambitious as a handwritten next to it reads “breaks into a number”, despite the fact Alan only knew the chords for the song I Gave My Love A Cherry.
> The X Factor / The Voice / American Idol are not new, when the ‘Prince Regent Of Rock’ Jerry Wattis is asked how he got his lucky break, he responds: “I won a talent competition.”
> Jerry’s mild-mannered alter-ego Arthur Brummage was brought up in a “dull seaside town” - a sly dig at Scarborough?
> Memorable quote: “If people carried on like they do in songs, the delinquency rates would get out of hand.”
> Product placement is obviously not a recent trend either as Jerry is constantly refering to Zingo - “The sparkling health drink with the tasty stimulant” which “will fill you up with new hep - zing - and off you go.” Hep apparently being a variant or earlier version of the word ‘hip.’ Jerry Wattis constantly spouts trendy Americanisms.
> Sidney Glover - the protagonist Alice's husband - is definitely the prototype ‘Ayckbourn Man’; a husband who obsesses on DIY - and explains in detail the difference between water and gas pipes - and who is clueless as to how he treats his wife. He is almost a proto-Denis from Just Between Ourselves.
> The Square Cat was the first play at the Library Theatre to run for two consecutive weeks.
> According to financial accounts for the 1959 summer season, The Square Cat had a total attendance of 3,340 people. It was the second highest attended show of the year behind John van Druten’s Bell, Book & Candle with 3,349 people attending.
> The play made £695, 8 shillings and 6 pence as compared to £696, 2 shillings and 6 pence for Bell, Book & Candle.
> Alan estimates he earnt £47 from The Square Cat - the most money he had ever earned in his life!
> The Square Cat was revived for the Studio Theatre Company’s 1960 winter tour with Barry Boys playing the role of Jerry Wattis due to Alan being called for a short-lived (3 days) National Service. It was never performed in its entirety again.
> During the 1970s and 1980s, Alan insisted he had destroyed all copies of the play. However, original manuscripts are held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York, the John Rylands Library at the University Of Manchester and the Lord Chamberlain’s Collection at the British Library.

Pendon is the fictional town which appears in many of Alan Ayckbourn's play.
> While The Square Cat does not specifically identify where it is set - it mentions “just outside London” and “Surrey” - it sounds potentially like a fore-runner to Alan’s renowned fictional town of Pendon. Although this will not appear until Relatively Speaking in 1965, it is predominantly located (occasionally the town moves) in the London commuter belt, near Reading, in a similar vicinity.

Look out for our accompanying Ayckbourn Moments photograph on this blog on Friday.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce this article without the permission of the copyright holder.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Sugar Daddies in Seattle

Alan Ayckbourn makes his west coast directorial debut tonight with the 10th anniversary revival of Sugar Daddies at ACT.
This is the playwright's first collaboration with ACT - although the company has produced a number of Ayckbourn plays in the past - and this production also marks the north American premiere of Sugar Daddies.
Emily Chisholm in Sugar Daddies.
Copyright:  LaRae Lobdell
Sugar Daddies is a “comedy of dark intentions” about a naïve student who rescues an old man dressed as Father Christmas from a hit-and-run driver and brings him back to the London flat she shares with her sister. He showers her with generosity and they embark on a dangerously Faustian game of fantasy. The cast of characters play roles in which no one is quite who they seem and no good deed goes entirely unpunished.
The company features Anne Allgood, Emily Chisholm, Sean G. Griffin, Elinor Gunn and John Patrick Lowrie. It is directed by Alan Ayckbourn with designs by Matthew Smucker, costumes by Deb Trout, sound by Brendan Patrick Hogan and fight direction by Geof Alm. Gin Hammond is the dialect coach.
Previews begin tonight for Sugar Daddies with the official opening on 10 October. The play runs until 10 November at the Allen Arena Theatre, 700 Union Street, Downtown Seattle. Performances are Tuesday to Sunday.
Tickets are available by calling (206) 292-7676 or by visiting www.acttheatre.org, where further details of the production can also be found.

*An interview with Alan Ayckbourn about the ACT's production of Sugar Daddies can be found at Crosscut by clicking here.

*To learn more about Sugar Daddies, visit Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website here.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day in the UK.
To mark the event, which began in 1994, the blog today reproduces one of Alan Ayckbourn's favourite poems.
The playwright has frequently noted in interviews that one of his favourite poems is by A.A. Milne and taken from The House At Pooh Corner - and originally recited by Winnie the Pooh.

The more it
The more it
The more it

And nobody
How cold my
How cold my

A.A. Milne

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Celebrating Alan Ayckbourn

2014 is a significant year for Alan Ayckbourn. It will mark both his 75th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his first West End production, Mr Whatnot.
Given two such significant anniversaries, the blog - in conjunction with Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website - will be marking them with an extensive project over the next two years looking at all of Alan Ayckbourn's plays.
Alan Ayckbourn
Copyright: Andrew Higgins
Approximately every two weeks, a new column Re-Playing Ayckbourn will look at every one of Alan Ayckbourn's full-length plays, re-reading them and exploring them in the light of what came before and what came after them.
There will also be a special Ayckbourn Moments blog for each play with a rarely seen photo related to the play offering an insight into a moment of its life. Articles and features from Alan Ayckbourn's official Website will also feature in the blog.
We'd also like to hear from you, if you want to contribute to the discussion of the plays, we'd love to hear your comments and thoughts on the plays. The best of the comments will be saved for posterity and may even find a permanent place at www.alanayckbourn.net in the future.
This will mark the single biggest project the Alan Ayckbourn Blog has undertaken and we hope you'll support and enjoy it as we lead into 2014 and beyond (and let's not forget 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the world premiere of Relatively Speaking as well as the 60th anniversary of the Stephen Joseph Theatre).
We'll also be covering any major productions and events being arranged to tie in with the Ayckbourn anniversaries such as the Celebrating Ayckbourn page on Samuel French's website.
The blog and Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website also wants to hear from any companies (professional and amateur) planning productions or events during the anniversary year (email: admin@alanayckbourn.net).
Re-Playing Ayckbourn will launch next week. Join the celebrations with the blog and Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website!