Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Opening dates confirmed for 2015 Ayckbourn plays

The opening dates for Alan Ayckbourn's 2015 productions at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, have been confirmed.
The venue will be producing two Ayckbourn plays this year: a revival of his 1974 classic Confusions and the world premiere of his 79th play Hero's Welcome.
Confusions will start on 9 July with official press night on 14 July. This will also mark the 60th birthday of the Stephen Joseph Theatre which opened as the Library Theatre on 14 July 1955. It is expected other celebration events for that day will be announced in early 2015.
Confusions was first staged at the Library Theatre in 1974 and premiered in London in 1976. It is a collection of five short plays including one of the playwright's most loved and performed plays, Gosforth's Fete.
Hero's Welcome will begin on 4 September with the official first night on 9 September. This will be his 79th play and not much is known about the play other than it involves a soldier returning to his childhood home town following a long and decorated tour of duty. More details are expected soon.
Tickets for both these plays are expected to go on sale at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in February 2015. Watch this space for further details and announcements.

And Season's Greetings from Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website. Thank you once again for supporting and visiting the website and blog and helping it achieve another record-breaking year.
Don't forget, you can hear Alan Ayckbourn on Christmas Day in a Front Row special on BBC Radio 4 and BBC iPlayer at 7.15pm (click here for details).

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Quiz 2014

It's time for the blog's annual Christmas quiz in which we test your knowledge of all things Ayckbourn!
For this year's quiz, we're going to mark the imminent anniversary in 2015 when Alan Ayckbourn's home theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre, will celebrate its 60th birthday.
So the 25 questions are all themed to Alan Ayckbourn's relationship with the Stephen Joseph Theatre. To check how you've done, visit Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website here.

Alan Ayckbourn & The Stephen Joseph Theatre Quiz
1) In which year did Alan Ayckbourn join the Stephen Joseph's Studio Theatre Company at the Library Theatre, Scarborough?
2) Alan joined the company as an acting stage manager, what was his first play and for a bonus point, what was the role?
3) In December 1958, Harold Pinter directed the Studio Theatre Company in only the second production of The Birthday Party. What role did Alan play?
4) Famously Alan was commissioned to write his first play after complaining about the quality of the roles he was performing. What was the name of play Alan was performing in when he made the complaint (and it's not necessarily the play Alan Ayckbourn has historically said it was...)?
5) What was the name of Alan Ayckbourn's first professionally produced play?
6) Alan was supposed to star in his second play Love After All but had to withdraw from the role, what was the reason?
7) Alan Ayckbourn made his directing debut in 1961 at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, what was the play?
8) Alan left the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1962 and was the founding member of which theatre in the same year?
9) Alan wrote his break-through play Relatively Speaking in 1965. What title was it originally produced under at the Library Theatre, Scarborough?
10) In what year did Alan Ayckbourn become the Artistic Director of the Library Theatre?
11) In 1976, Alan moved the company to its second home, the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round. It opened with a revival of an Ayckbourn play never previously seen before in Scarborough, what was the play?
12) The Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round took to the water with Alan's play Way Upstream in 1982. What was the name of the boat / cabin-cruiser which features in the play?
13) In which year did Alan Ayckbourn leave the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round to take a two year sabbatical as a company director at the National Theatre?
14) In 1989, Alan Ayckbourn wrote the epic play The Revengers' Comedies as part of a celebration. What was the celebration?
15) Alan Ayckbourn directed his first Shakespeare play in 1990 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round. What was the play? And for a bonus point, which actor who holds the record for appearing in the most London Ayckbourn productions starred?
16) What was the final play Alan Ayckbourn directed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round before it closed in 1996?
17) The same year saw Alan oversee the company's move to its first purpose-designed home, the Stephen Joseph Theatre. He revised a notable earlier work to open the venue, what was the name of the original work?
18) Alan stopped directing works by authors other than himself in 2002. To date, what was the final play he directed by another playwright? And for a bonus point, at which London theatre did he revive the same production the following year?
19) What was unique about the West End premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's Damsels in Distress trilogy in 2002 that specifically relates to the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
20) In 2003, the Stephen Joseph Theatre teamed up with which organisation to present its largest ever production with Alan Ayckbourn's Orvin - Champion Of Champions?
21) The Stephen Joseph Theatre's first visit to the Brits Off Broadway festival at the 59E59 Theaters, New York, in 2005 was an unprecedented success. What Ayckbourn play was performed at the festival?
22) Alan suffered a stroke in 2006 just as he was about to begin work on a year-long staging of one of his most ambitious works. What is the name of the play? - and for a bonus point, who stepped in at the last moment to direct it?
23) Alan retired as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2009. What was the final play produced by the theatre whilst he was in that role?
24) In 2014, the Stephen Joseph Theatre screened one of only two Ayckbourn plays which has not been performed at the venue. What was the play?
25) And finally, can you name the only two Ayckbourn plays which have been performed in all three homes of the theatre at the Library Theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round and the Stephen Joseph Theatre?

Click here to find the answers and how you've done.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Unseen Ayckbourn

It's that time of year when we give an unapologetic plug to the website's book, Unseen Ayckbourn - currently on offer via Amazon.
The exploration of Alan Ayckbourn's withdrawn, unpublished and lost works is currently available for just £6.78 on amazon.co.uk (as opposed to r.r.p. of £10) and for readers based in North America, there's currently 10% off on amazon.com at $14.90.
Written by Simon Murgatroyd - Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist and the creator and administrator of the playwright's official website - the book was named as one of The Stage's theatre books of the year in 2013.
Unseen Ayckbourn covers Alan Ayckbourn's writing career from his teenage years through to 2014 also offering an insight into unused or abandoned concepts, variations of existing plays, alternative play titles and other ephemera such as screenplays.
It also includes an exclusive interview with Alan Ayckbourn about his early withdrawn plays and an extensive article looking at the story behind his biggest flop, the musical Jeeves.
The book is a guide to the rarely or never seen side of Alan's writing derived from material held in the Ayckbourn Archive. Buying the book also helps to support the website.
Unseen Ayckbourn is available now from amazon.co.uk, amazon.com or direct from the publisher Lulu.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Ayckbourn On DVD Question...

It's that time of the year again when the majority of emails Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website's receives are...
Where can I get a DVD / Blu-ray of the BBC's version of [insert Ayckbourn play title of choice]?
The full answer can be found in the Film, TV & Radio section of the official website, but - apologies for constant blog readers who have read this before - it's worth repeating here.

The simple answer to the question is: unfortunately, none of the BBC's television adaptations of Alan Ayckbourn's plays have ever been commercially released. And as for the non-BBC television adaptations, you're limited to The Norman Conquests on DVD.
Frustrating as it may be for Ayckbourn fans, there appears to be little inclination to release the TV adaptations commercially either now or in the future.

The reasons for this are not obvious - and are not known to Sir Alan - but are presumably commercial in nature. Whilst, as Ayckbourn fans, it may seem a no-brainer to release archive television material onto DVD or blu-ray, there are always going to be hurdles in the way.
Not least the costs - be they restoration of prints, licensing costs or just the standard compensation to the creative talent involved - and on top of all that, there is the principal question of will it sell enough to be commercially viable!
And, sadly, if we're objectively looking at demand for the TV plays, the fact the last Ayckbourn repeated on the BBC (Season's Greetings in 2011) did not even make it into the BBC3 Top Ten for that week (which makes its a pitifully small viewing figure given BBC3's ratings) is hardly a glowing endorsement for the company to take the risk of a commercial release.

What is perhaps worth emphasising is that Alan Ayckbourn himself is not one of the reasons why the likes of the BBC’s Season’s Greetings, Absent Friends and Absurd Person Singular are not available. In principal, he has never had any objection to the release of the plays on DVD or blu-ray. However, he doesn't have any influence or say in the matter as the all important initial decision as to whether to release the films has to be taken by the BBC (or the relevant rights holder).

So, sadly, for those of you who hoping to see the BBC’s Season’s Greetings this Christmas - or any of the other BBC adaptations (Absent Friends, Absurd Person Singular, Relatively Speaking and Way Upstream) or the ITV adaptations (Bedroom Farce, Just Between Ourselves and Time And Time Again) - it’s going to be another frustrating year (probably best making that years).

But if the situation should ever change and the BBC does decide to release the Ayckbourn television adaptations or even just repeat them or make them available on iPlayer, we’ll be the first to let you know at www.alanayckbourn.net.

In the meantime, much as we'd like to help and much as we'd like to see the television adaptations ourselves, we don't have any means to access them or a secret stash of them. Sorry to all those who have written or may consider writing - the answer, for the foreseeable future, is there is no way to get them.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Arrivals & Departures Acclaim

Alan Ayckbourn's plays Arrivals & Departures has been named one of the top ten shows of 2014 by Time magazine.
The playwright's 77th play - which premiered in Scarborough in 2013 - played in New York for a month earlier this year as part of the Brits Off Broadway festival.
Time critic Richard Zoglin praised the play as well as noting Alan Ayckbourn's direction "as usual, never pushes for laughs or tears, but earns them both." The full review can be found here.
Alan Ayckbourn's own productions has previously been in the Time list in 2005 and 2007 for his productions of Private Fears In Public Places and Intimate Exchanges, both also at the Brits Off Broadway festival. In 2009, the Old Vic's acclaimed production of The Norman Conquests featured in the list and in the same year Time named Manhattan Theatre Cub's 2000 production of Comic Potential as part of the Best Theatre Of The Decade list.
Arrivals & Departures was directed by Alan Ayckbourn at the 59E59 Theaters, New York, and starred Elizabeth Boag, Rachel Caffrey, Bill Champion, Russell Dixon, Sarah Parks, Emily Pithon, Ben Porter, James Powell, Richard Stacey, Sarah Stanley, Kim Wall. Design was by Jan Bee Brown with lighting design by Tigger Johnson.
More details about Arrivals & Departures can be found at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website here.

Friday, November 28, 2014

TV, Film & Radio Section Updated & Re-launched

The Film, TV & Radio (and other media!) section of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website has been completely relaunched today.
The extensive section has been seen every page updated with new details and facts about the many multi-media adaptations of Alan Ayckbourn's plays; each page has also been updated with a new look.
The Film, TV & Radio section of www.alanayckbourn.net includes broadcast details of all the adaptations of Alan Ayckbourn's plays for television, radio, film and audiobooks as well as details of incidental music and original cast recording albums.
The section has been extensively updated with new information found in the Ayckbourn Archive and via the BBC's Project Genome about the various adaptations.
The Documentaries pages has also expanded to include details of a third more TV and radio programmes previously unlisted on the website.
To find out more about Alan Ayckbourn's plays in other media, visit the Film, TV & Radio section at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website.

Note: Sadly this does not mean the unavailability of the majority of these adaptations has altered nor is likely to be altered in the foreseeable future. As far as the website is aware, there are still currently no plans to make the television and radio adaptations of Alan Ayckbourn's plays available in the forseeable future.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Alan Ayckbourn At The BBC

One of the least well known - and documented - aspects of Alan Ayckbourn's life was his work as a Radio Drama Producer for the BBC between 1965 and 1970.
Having experienced terrible reviews for his first West End production of Mr Whatnot, Alan left the theatre - apparently with no intention of writing again - and joined the BBC in Leeds working with the highly respected producer Alfred Bradley, who was key in championing northern writers.
During his time at the BBC, Alan was responsible for directing dozens of radio dramas as well as evaluating new scripts and sending script reports; all skills which proved to be essential when he took over as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round in 1972.
Although basic details about Alan's work at the BBC have been known (and can be found in the BBC pages of the Careers section of www.alanayckbourn.net), there has been a notable gap in information.
For many years, next to nothing has been known about the many radio dramas Alan produced nor who he worked with during these years. Thanks to the BBC's Project Genome, light has been shed on this area of Alan's career for the first time.
Thanks to the Genome resource, Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website has basic details of more than 70 radio productions directed by Alan whilst at the BBC. At some point, the website will also carry more comprehensive details of all these productions for future research.
To find out more about Alan's productions at the BBC, click here or to find out more in general about Alan's work at the BBC, visit the BBC section of the website.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Roundelay - Statistics

We've had a number of requests in recent weeks concerning Alan Ayckbourn's latest play Roundelay and how probability affected the performances.
Roundelay features five different plays (The Agent, The Judge, The Novelist, The Politician, The Star), the order in which they were performed determined by a random public draw prior to each performance. Theoretically, there are 120 possible permutations of the play affecting not only the order of the inter-linked plays, but also the narrative and how the audience perceives the characters and events.
The Roundelay stage-management team kept a record of all the permutations during the play's initial run at the Stephen Joseph Theatre and its subsequent tour to Newcastle-under-Lyme and Bowness-on-Windemere.
For those interested, the results for the 35 performances at the Stephen Joseph Theatre are produced below. During the initial month-long run, there were just three repeats of previously seen permutations. So 32 of the 120 possible permutations were performed.
Performances with a star indicate a repeated permutation with the number of the original performance in brackets.

Roundelay: Stephen Joseph Theatre permutations
1 Politician; Novelist; Star; Judge; Agent
2 Novelist; Politician; Agent; Judge; Star
3 Politician; Star; Judge; Agent; Novelist
4 Star; Novelist; Politician; Judge; Agent
5 Politician; Star; Novelist; Agent; Judge
6 Judge; Novelist; Politician; Star; Agent
7 Judge; Star; Novelist; Agent; Politician
8 Politician; Novelist; Star; Agent; Judge
9 Star; Agent; Politician; Judge; Novelist
10 Agent; Judge; Star; Novelist; Politician
11 Agent; Novelist; Judge; Star; Politician
12 Star; Agent; Politician; Judge; Novelist * (9)
13 Politician; Judge; Star; Novelist; Agent
14 Politician; Agent; Star; Novelist; Judge
15 Judge; Agent; Politician; Star; Novelist
16 Star; Judge; Agent; Politician; Novelist
17 Star; Novelist; Politician; Judge; Agent * (4)
18 Judge; Novelist; Agent; Politician; Star
19 Agent; Novelist; Star; Politician; Judge
20 Novelist; Star; Judge; Politician; Agent
21 Novelist; Judge; Politician; Agent; Star
22 Agent; Politician; Novelist; Star; Judge
23 Judge; Star; Politician; Novelist; Agent
24 Star; Judge; Politician; Agent; Novelist
25 Star; Judge; Agent; Novelist; Politician
26 Novelist; Agent; Judge; Politician; Star
27 Star; Novelist; Agent; Judge; Politician
28 Novelist; Judge; Politician; Agent; Star * (21)
29 Agent; Star; Politician; Novelist; Judge
30 Star; Politician; Agent; Novelist; Judge
31 Judge; Politician; Agent; Novelist; Star
32 Agent; Star; Politician; Judge; Novelist
33 Star; Politician; Novelist; Agent; Judge
34 Star; Politician; Agent; Judge; Novelist
35 Novelist; Agent; Star; Politician; Judge

A complete list of all the permutations performed of Roundelay during 2014 can now be found in the  Roundelay section of www.alanayckbourn.net.

Many thanks to the Stephen Joseph Theatre Roundelay stage management team who kept track of all the permutations and kindly provided the website with the spreadsheet.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Relative Mystery Solved

Insight into the earliest television broadcasts of Alan Ayckbourn's plays have been revealed as a result of a major archival project.
The BBC Genome Project is an ambitious project to create a digital archive of every edition of the Radio Times between 1923 and 2009 creating, for the first time, a comprehensive historical record of both the planned output and the BBC services of any given time.
With the help of the Genome website, www.alanayckbourn.net will be filling in gaps and omissions with regards to television broadcasts about Alan Ayckbourn and his plays. But already one major mystery has been solved.
The TV Times listing and photo
for the 1969 adaptation of
Relatively Speaking; the only
item relating to the production
in the Ayckbourn Archive.
In the Ayckbourn Archive, held at the University of York, there is a single reference to a broadcast - apparently watched in 2.5m homes - of extracts from the original West End production of Relatively Speaking in 1967. There is also a single press cutting relating to a filmed adaptation of Relatively Speaking in 1969 - previously believed to be the first Ayckbourn play transmission.
Sadly, few other details have been found about these broadcasts with neither of the programmes having survived in either the BBC or the BFI archive. However, the Genome Project has shed light on both of these and altered a key understanding of the broadcast history of Alan's plays.
The original 1967 broadcast of the West End production is not - as previously believed - several extracts, possibly shown as part of another programme. It was a 50 minute broadcast, recorded in the Duke of York's Theatre, advertised as Relatively Speaking and containing 'scenes from the successful comedy.'
Given its length and the fact the programme was advertised as Relatively Speaking, this now becomes the earliest TV recording / broadcast of an Ayckbourn play. The only sadness is 50 minutes of Richard Briers, Celia Johnson, Michael Hordern and Jennifer Hilary in action in Alan's first major West End success did once exist but is now lost.
This means the 1969 adaptation of Relatively Speaking is now the second major broadcast of an Ayckbourn play but remains the first television adaptation (i.e. filmed in a studio as opposed to recording an existing production).
History will also shed a kinder light on this adaptation too as it was previously believed from archive research this ran for only 50 minutes (a poor adaptation to lose half a play!). However, Project Genome has revealed it was a 90 minute programme and obviously much of the entire play was shown with no radical edits.
Directed by Herbert Wise - who would go on to direct the television adaptation of The Norman Conquests - this production starred Celia Johnson and Donald Sinden; not as strange a choice as might first appear as Sinden had been responsible for directing the post West End tour of the play.
Sadly. like the original 1967 broadcast, the 1969 version of Relatively Speaking has not survived at either the BBC or the BFI and the only visual material relating to it in the Ayckbourn Archive is the photo which accompanied the TV Times listing of the play.
Further discoveries about the BBC's television and radio programmes will be added to the Recordings section of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website in the coming weeks.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New additions to Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website

Eagle-eyed visitors to Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website www.alanayckbourn.net might have noticed some new additions recently.
New features are being added to the Plays section of the website and will roll out across all 78 (soon to be 79) of Alan Ayckbourn's plays over the coming months.
The additions have begun with Alan's first five plays The Square Cat, Love After All, Dad's Tale, Standing Room Only and Christmas V Mastermind with several new themed pages.
The Archive (which will be an addition to every play eventually) is a page featuring archival documents pertaining to the history of the play; these have been drawn from the playwright's personal collection, the Ayckbourn Archive at the University of York, the Stephen Joseph Theatre's archive and private collections.
Many of the documents reproduced have never been reproduced before and it is hoped as more plays are covered, some of he key documents relating to the plays and Alan Ayckbourn's career will be put onto the website.
The Scene pages will be featured on plays which have been withdrawn or where plays have gone through substantive changes. A scene from the play is reproduced (frequently having never been published before) alongside commentary offering an insight into the most rarely seen and less well-known Ayckbourn works.
Finally Other Quotes pages are being added to all the plays offering insight and views of the plays by noted Ayckbourn commentators. This will add broader insight into the plays by offering a taste of other writers' views on the playwright and the plays.
The work will be ongoing but will be a major new addition to alanayckbourn.net and I hope will offer even more insight and information about Alan Ayckbourn's plays.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Alan Ayckbourn's 2015 Plays Announced

The Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, has announced Alan Ayckbourn's plays for 2015 as part of its 60th anniversary announcement.
The theatre will celebrate its diamond anniversary in 2015 marking the opening of the Library Theatre, Scarborough, by Stephen Joseph on 14 July 1955.
As part of the celebrations, Alan Ayckbourn will direct the world premiere of his 79th play Hero's Welcome as well as a revival of his classic play Confusions.
The season will also include revivals of Stephen Mallatratt's famed adaptation of Susan Hill's The Woman In Black and Tim Firth's Neville's Island; both of which were first staged at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round in Scarborough.
More details about all the productions will be announced in the coming months.

Halloween Hauntings...

Andy: (softly) I was at this party. The other side of town. I got really pissed. We'd had a row. Julia and I. (with a glance at Ken) It doesn't really matter what about. Not any more. But in the morning, I woke up on some sofa and I felt really terrible. Talk about hung-over, I think I was still drunk. But the first thought in my head was, I must see if she's OK. Julia. So I thought, I'll go over and see her. I still had my key, you see. I remember walking here, trying to sober up. Lovely sunny morning. It was cold. February. But really bright. And I reached here about nine o'clock. And I let myself into the house and then up the stairs and into this room. The curtains were still drawn, and I thought, she's overslept for once, that's unusual, she's usually halfway through a concerto by seven. And I remember standing in the doorway there - getting my eyes used to the darkness - and the first thing I really registered was that bedspread. The last time I'd seen it, it had been white. Only now it wasn't white it was - red. And I thought, oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus Christ. What has she done? She can't have done it. Not really. I couldn't see her at first, you see, not from that doorway, she was hidden by the bed. But then as I moved in, I saw... She was... She looked as if she'd lain on the bed for a bit and - I think she must have been in that much pain she - It looked as if she'd tried to get up - maybe for help - but she'd moved away from the door, you see, not towards it - towards that table instead. Maybe she wasn't conscious of where she was any more. Disoriented. But then I think what she was really trying to do was to get back to her music. She'd tried to get back to her music. Only she'd sort of slipped, you see, and was just lying there. They weren't just sleeping pills she'd taken - she'd swallowed every bloody thing she could lay her hands on –-she was bleeding from her mouth and her stomach... she must have been in such awful pain and I remember saying, over and over, no, no, no, no, no!

Joe: (softly) No...

From outside the door, the sound of the piano again.
But this time being played discordantly. Heavy, insistent, rapid, disturbing chords.
The three men freeze.
The chords cease as abruptly as they started. The sound of a piano lid slamming shut.

Andy: (in a low whisper) What's happening? What the hell's happening? Ken I think she's coming upstairs...

The sound of a distant door closing. Then, on a flight of wooden stairs, a woman's footsteps slowly ascending and approaching.
A pause.
Slowly the door handle starts to move up and down. The men remain frozen.

Woman: (softly, from the other side of the door) Dad... Dad... Dad...

The door handle continues to move.

Joe: (softly) Julia?

Andy: Oh, God...

Joe: Let her in. Do you hear me? Let her in. That's my daughter out there.

The door handle stops moving.
A long silence.
A sudden heavy pounding on the door, strong enough to cause the whole door frame to
shake.
As this continues, Joe recovers and steps forward to grab the door handle. Andy does likewise.
They wrestle over the handle.

Joe: Let her in! Do you hear me? Let her in!

Andy: (over this) You can't let her in. There's no way you're letting her in here.

Ken: (simultaneously, as he tries to separate them) You've got to let her go, don't you
understand? You have to release her, Mr Lukin, it's the only way...

Suddenly the door swings open violently.
The breeze-block wall has now gone to reveal a shabby, dimly lit hallway.
The men are swept aside as if by a violent wind which tears into the room. Books and
papers are scattered and blown about. A poster on the wall is violently ripped in half.
The door slams shut.
Silence.
Andy and Ken have apparently been hurled to the ground and now lie at opposite sides of
the room.
But Joe has his eyes fixed on something, someone invisible, standing by the bed.



(Extract from Haunting Julia by Alan Ayckbourn)

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Special 10th Anniversary Event

The UK's only Ayckbourn-dedicated amateur drama group is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month with a special event - and a unique opportunity for Ayckbourn fans.
Dick & Lottie, which is based in Huddersfield, will be staging a 12 hour long Ayckbourn readathon at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield on Saturday 20 September which is open to all.
For Ayckbourn fans, there will be the unique opportunity to hear an Ayckbourn play which has not been performed since its world premiere at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1967 with The Sparrow.
The play has never been performed or read in its entirety since 1967 and has not even been published. Alan Ayckbourn has given special permission for it to be part of the day of rehearsed readings by Dick & Lottie.
The event will also feature a surprise mystery guest who has appeared in nine world premiere productions of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, reprising one of her many roles.
The event on Saturday 20 September will feature six plays in three sessions starting at 10am with The Boy Who Fell Into A Book and Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays. From 1pm, there will be Bedroom Farce and Wildest Dreams and from 6pm, RolePlay and The Sparrow.
Tickets are available for individual sessions or for the day with tickets at £5 for one session, £9 for two sessions and £12 for the entire day. Further details can be found at www.thelbt.org/Absolute-Ayckbourn.
This promises to be a unique event in the playwright's 75th birthday year celebrating all things Ayckbourn by a company celebrating their own special anniversary.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Roundelay Production Images

The first performance of Alan Ayckbourn's latest play Roundelay took place at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, last night.
We now have production images from the play which promises a different experience every night.
Russell Dixon & Brooke Kinsella in Roundelay
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
Consisting of five short related plays - The NovelistThe PoliticianThe StarThe Agent and The Judge - the order of the plays is chosen at random by the audience each evening leading to a possible 120 permutations.
Leigh Symonds & Sophie Roberts in Roundelay
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
The order of the plays will offer a different perspective of the characters and events as the playwright notes: "The plays are very different styles. One borders on the gothic horror and they go through to pure farce. One or two are quite sad ones. One that’s particularly lump in throat. I just wonder what that mix [of the plays] will do. It’s like opening a big box of chocolates and starting with the caramel and then crunching through to the coffee cream."
Nigel Hastings & Krystle Hilton in Roundelay
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
The production features Russell Dixon, Nigel Hastings, Krystle Hilton, Brooke Kinsella, Alexandra Mathie, Sophie Roberts, Richard Stacey and Leigh Symonds. Direction is by Alan Ayckbourn with design by Michael Holt and lighting by Jason Taylor.
Alexandra Mathie & Richard Stacey in Roundelay
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
Roundelay can be seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until 4 October. Tickets are priced from £10 - £24.50 and are available from the SJT box office on  01723 370541 or online at www.sjt.uk.com.

You can find out more about Roundelay at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ayckbourn On The Net

Today the blog is looking at some of the downloads and streams concentrated on Alan Ayckbourn currently available on the internet (please note this doesn't include any plays currently available to download or stream). All these are free to stream or download unless otherwise noted.

BBC.CO.UK / BBC iPlayer
The BBC website has several features on Alan Ayckbourn to currently stream from its website or iPlayer.
Front Row (2014) interview with the playwright about his latest play Roundelay (also available on iTunes).
> Front Row (2014) interview about the late film-maker Alain Resnais (also available on iTunes).
Profile (2014) looks at Sir Alan's life through the eyes of friends and colleagues (also available on iTunes).
> Saturday Review (2012) looks at the playwright's 2012 play Surprises when it visited Chichester Festival Theatre.
> Ayckbourn In Action (2009) was produced to celebrate Alan Ayckbourn's 75th play and concentrates on his directing career amid rehearsals for Neighbourhood Watch.
> Landmarks: The Norman Conquests (2009) Not currently available but coming soon to iPlayer is a programme looking at the cultural impact of Alan Ayckbourn's famed trilogy of plays.
> Front Row (2009) is entirely devoted to Sir Alan Ayckbourn to mark his 70th birthday and looks at his life, career and thoughts on playwriting.

Sky / Now TV
> In Confidence (2012) sees Alan Ayckbourn talking about writing for the stage as well as looking back on his life in theatre (this is also available on NOW TV via the set-top box and a paid subscription to either Sky or NOW is needed).

YouTube
The Stephen Joseph Theatre channel on YouTube has a number of Alan Ayckbourn-related features including trailers for several of his world premiere productions. Also of note:
> The Boy Who Fell Into A Book (2014) features a short interview with the playwright about the recent musical adaptation of the play.
> Absurd Person Singular (2012) is an interesting time-lapse video of the scene changes for Alan Ayckbourn's 2012 revival of Absurd Person Singular.
Other interesting material on YouTube includes:
> Opening Up Surprises (2012) was recorded at Chichester Festival Theatre and sees Alan Ayckbourn in conversation with the author Kate Mosse.
> Alan Ayckbourn: Britain's Secret Rebel (2012) was a pre-show talk by Dan Rebellato, Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway University of London, also at Chichester Festival Theatre offering insight and context to Absurd Person Singular (for Alan Ayckbourn's 2012 revival).
> Alan Ayckbourn In Conversation (2014) is the National Theatre's most significant Ayckbourn video currently available and sees the playwright talking to Angus MacKechnie about his work at the National Theatre through the decades (also available on iTunes).

iTunes
In addition to free downloads of several of the programmes listed above, iTunes has several other notable items.
> Downstage Center (2011) is an interview with Alan Ayckbourn about his career and his 75th play Neighbourhood Watch visiting the Brits Off Broadway festival.
> Downstage Center (2005) interviews Alan Ayckbourn about his play Private Fears In Public Places and his approaches to writing and directing.
> Theater Talk (2005) sees Alan Ayckbourn talking about his play My Wonderful Day and his career as a playwright.
> The Open University has several podcasts on creative writing in which Alan Ayckbourn discusses directing,  redrafting and staging.
> Alan Ayckbourn: In His Own Words (various dates) is a collection of various BBC interviews with Alan Ayckbourn from 1979 to 2011. Although it costs £4.99, it does contain more than 100 minutes of fascinating insight into the playwright's life and career over three decades.

Hopefully that should keep all you Ayckbourn fans busy listening for some time to come!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Scarborough In The Round Launch

Today sees the official launch of our new website Scarborough In The Round at www.theatre-in-the-round.co.uk.
This website explores the history of theatre-in-the-round in the seaside town of Scarborough, where the UK's first professional theatre-in-the-round company was launched in 1955.
Scarborough In The Round offers an in-depth look at the history of the Library Theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round and the Stephen Joseph Theatre and the company's relationship with its home-town.
It is the third and final part of a trio of websites alongside Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website and the Stephen Joseph & The Library Theatre site exploring the theatre and the people most associated with it.
The new site, which features a considerable amount of new research, complements both of its sister-sites by offering a broader perspective of the venues most closely associated with British theatre pioneer Stephen Joseph and his protege, Alan Ayckbourn. Between them they ran the company from 1955 to 2009 and Scarborough In The Round offers a broader perspective of what was taking place at the theatre during their tenures as Artistic Director, concentrating on the entire theatre programme as opposed to just the plays they directed - and in the case of Alan Ayckbourn, wrote.
Since 1955, the company has produced 609 plays and every one of them has its own dedicated production page at Scarborough In The Round - alongside a number of upstaged production pages - from 1955 through to the present day, including all plays staged since 2009 under the present Artistic Director Chris Monks.
There are also historical details of the three theatre-in-the-round venues in the town as well as a year-by-year chronology of major events and significant productions. A section explores the company's major legacy of new writing which has seen 326 world premieres in Scarborough since 1955.
There is also a listing of every actor to have worked with the company as well as comprehensive lists of directors, playwrights, designers, stage management and many of the other people who have had a hand in producing six decades worth of plays.
Scarborough In The Round has also been launched to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the company in 1955 and will also carry details of events relating to the anniversary in the months ahead. 
If you'd like to know more about the theatre in which Alan Ayckbourn began his writing and directing careers and to which he is inextricably linked, visit Scarborough In The Round at www.theatre-in-the-round.co.uk.

Scarborough In The Round also has an accompanying blog at http://theatre-in-the-round.blogspot.co.uk which will carry articles about the history of theatre-in-the-round in Scarborough as well as its own Twitter page here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

50th Anniversary Of West End Debut

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first Ayckbourn play in the West End.
On 6 August, 1964, Alan Ayckbourn's Mr Whatnot opened at the New Arts Theatre and was subsequently mauled by the critics. It closed just two weeks later on 22 August 1964 and left Alan so depressed, he considered giving up playwriting and for the next five years he worked for the BBC as a Radio Drama Producer in Leeds.
Fortunately, Alan didn't stop writing and Mr Whatnot was followed into the West End in 1967 by Relatively Speaking, which was considerably more successful!
To mark the 50th anniversary of Mr Whatnot going into the West End, the blog is presenting an extract from the excellent Conversations With Ayckbourn, by Ian Watson (Faber, 1988) in which Alan discusses the experience in an interview from 1981.

"Almost everything went wrong with the London production. [The producer] Peter Bridge bought it. He first of all suggested we take the whole production down [from the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent where it premiered]. Peter Cheeseman [the Victoria's Artistic Director] was less than enthusiastic about taking the whole cast, but agreed. But Peter Bridge then went back on that and said, 'No, perhaps this is bit risky. Perhaps we should think about getting a slightly better-known cast.
Programme cover for the West
End production of Mr Whatnot
And perhaps, on second thoughts, the director [Alan Ayckbourn] shouldn't also be the writer, because writer-directors are not a good idea.' So, could I think of anybody? And I said, 'Well, yes, why not Clifford Williams?' because he, after all, had done two of my earlier shows and I liked him. Clifford came up: he was at the Royal Shakespeare Company by then. He was heavily involved, 1think quite liked the show but said he couldn't do it himself, and suggested another Welshman - Welshmen stick together, you see - Warren Jenkins. Warren I didn't know, but he was then directing at Cardiff.
Where it didn't work, to put it bluntly, was that he was not happy with the play and he was not happy with the company, which I think was the most extraordinary mixture of talents. There was a young Judy Cornwell, there was a youngish Ronnie Barker, as headstrong as Ronnie is now, a very talented Ronnie Stevens, who also wanted to go his own way; and Judy Campbell, who was a totally straight actress, and Diane Clare, totally straight - both in their way experienced. And then, in the middle of this, a very young actor straight from the provinces, thrown in as the lead, who was to dominate the whole thing; and a very young Christopher Godwin also, playing the vicar and the pedestrian. The other member of the cast was Marie Lohr, a wonderful old lady who was actually the right age to play it - well, strictly she was too old to play it, she was in her seventies - and she gamely battled through the script, playing vigorous games of imaginary tennis, and broke her knee. So she was labouring under the most terrible handicap by the time we opened, with her knee strapped up. Anyway, that was the chemistry. That was the first thing: that the balance of cast and the director itself was wrong. The second thing that was wrong was that it was overproduced, and that far too much money was spent on it. Peter Rice, who'd done a lot of very nice designs for operas, came in and did some very, very decorative sets, none of which added to it. He added slides to a show that supposedly had to do with imagination.
The other thing I learned was that while theatre-in-the-round can be quite small - every square inch of space is viable playing space - when you put something on to an equivalent quite small proscenium stage, there is no way you can get it all on. Warren had put in some very charming music by Vivian Ellis, which was totally wrong. I was looking for Ibert and Poulenc - those very French things. I wanted spiky little French tunes, and I was getting rather nice little English tunes. And the thing was rapidly becoming very chintzy and very charming. It was in fact, as I think one critic called it, a very gushy evening, very pretty, very winsome. I find Marcel Marceau slightly charming, but he opened the same week as us (which wasn't a very good omen), and by comparison his show was so butch it was unbelievable. We were fairy-time, you know. If ever a show deserved to close, that one did."

You can read more about Mr Whatnot and Alan Ayckbourn's first West End production at his official website by clicking here.

Extract from Conversations With Ayckbourn (second edition, Faber, 1988) by Ian Watson, pp.51-52

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Countdown to 60: Alan Ayckbourn & Scarborough

On 14 July 2015, the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough will celebrate its 60th anniversary. 
In the coming months as we move towards the anniversary, the blog will be publishing occasional features about the history of the venue and its relationship with both Alan Ayckbourn and the town of Scarborough.
The first article (click here) asked why the UK's first professional theatre-in-the-round company was established in Scarborough. Here we follow that up with how did Alan Ayckbourn also end up in what is now his adopted home-town of Scarborough?

Like Stephen Joseph before him, Alan Ayckbourn had no existing ties to Scarborough before he first visited the town in 1957.
Born in Hampstead in 1939, Alan Ayckbourn had left school in 1955 to work as an actor. Following a brief stint with Sir Donald Wolfit's company at the Edinburgh Festival, Alan found himself working at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, followed by the Thorndike Theatre in Leatherhead.
There Alan worked as an Acting Stage Manager (a stage manager with occasional acting roles) and met the stage manager Rodney Wood - who would later play an important part in the survival of the Stephen Joseph Theatre (then the Library Theatre) following Stephen Joseph's death in 1967.
Rodney Wood & Alan Ayckbourn at the
Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1957.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn
At the end of the Leatherhead season, Rodney asked Alan if he'd like to come with him to join the stage management team at the Library Theatre in Scarborough.
Alan had never heard of the company, but intrigued by mention of theatre-in-the-round, he agreed to accompany Rodney to see the company perform a production of Sartre's Huis Clos at the Mahatma Ghandhi Assembly Hall in Fitzroy Square, London.
Alan saw the production on either 3 February or 14 April 1957 (he does not remember which, but the company only performed the play twice in London) and it had the most profound effect on the 18 year old.

"[It] sticks out still in my mind as one of the most exciting things I'd ever seen in the theatre.... It was an absolute knockout. It was a pretty racy play, for its time, you know. And I thought, 'This is terrific.' I also liked it because it had no scenery and that meant less work."

Alan agreed to join the company and spent two weeks in London rehearsing for the summer season with Clive Goodwin directing three plays and Rodney directing another; Stephen Joseph did not actually play much part in the 1957 season and Alan would not meet him for many weeks.
Alan was predominantly a stage manager, but also had small acting roles in two productions in Priestley's An Inspector Calls and Catherine Prynne's The Ornamental Hermit.
After two weeks, the company moved up to Scarborough with Alan having no idea where it was other than the vague direction of turn right at York - leading to his first experience of the town he was to become most associated with.

"I remember I got off the train packed with holidaymakers and this bracing air and smell of chips. I said, 'Wow!' Because I was an inland child living in north Sussex, one of the great treats as a child was a trip to the seaside - so, dear reader, I bought the sweet shop. I came to the seaside and stayed. I thought, 'This can't get better'.”

Alan worked the summer season at Scarborough before taking a job at the Oxford Playhouse for the 1957 / 58 winter season. Although he enjoyed his time there and was offered the chance to stay, Stephen Joseph had contacted him about returning to Scarborough for the summer 1958 season - with the opportunity of more acting.
The rest is history, Alan returned to Scarborough in 1958 and that winter was commissioned to write his first professional play, The Square Cat, which premiered at the Library Theatre on 30 July 1959 (and whose story was reported on the blog yesterday here). Two years laters with Stephen's encouragement, he made his professional directing debut with a production of Patrick Hamilton's Gaslight.
Alan has been wedded to Scarborough ever since he arrived for the first time 57 years ago* in 1957 and considers it to have been his adopted home ever since. During this time, he has premiered 73 of his 77 plays (with the 78th to premiere in the town soon!) and directed more than 200 productions in Scarborough and between 1972 and 2009 was the Artistic Director of what is now the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
All this stemmed from a fortuitous job offer and an early glimpse of the company that was to change his life forever.

"The first question everybody asks me is 'what am I doing here?' My answer is always the same - it was a happy accident that I came here and I am happy I chose to stay. I have stayed here longer than most Scarborians, since 1957!"

You can find out more about the history of the Stephen Joseph Theatre and its connections with Scarborough at the website Scarborough In The Round, a sister site to Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website and the Stephen Joseph & The Library Theatre website, where you can also learn more about Alan Ayckbourn's most influential mentor Stephen Joseph.

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

* Somewhat longer than the 37 years quoted in the Yorkshire Post last week (37 years actually being how long Alan was Artistic Director of the SJT between 1972 and 2009).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Square Cat: 55 Today

Today marks the 55th anniversary of the world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's first professionally produced play The Square Cat.
To mark the anniversary, the blog presents an extract from the book Unseen Ayckbourn, by Alan Ayckbourn's archivist Simon Murgatroyd, looking at the story behind the play.

The Square Cat

The Square Cat was Alan Ayckbourn’s first professional play, commissioned by his mentor Stephen Joseph and premiered at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, on 30 July 1959.
The genesis of the play has often been repeated in interviews over the years, but what should not be forgotten is Alan never had any grand intentions to be a playwright; at the time of his first commission he was just an actor at the Library Theatre, Scarborough.

“I have never made any decisions; they have always been made for me. I could look back on my life and say I planned it that way, but I didn't plan to be an actor, nor a director, nor a writer. They ran out of writers!”

Alan Ayckbourn as Jerry Wattis &
Arthur Brummage in The Square Cat.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn
Even if he did nit intend to be a playwright, Alan had actually been interested in writing for many years and had written a number of scripts - mostly inspired by his favourite writers - which he was confident enough to submit to Stephen Joseph, the founder of the Library Theatre, for advice. This knowledge of Alan’s nascent talent and enthusiasm for writing gave Stephen the perfect opportunity to further encourage the young writer when Alan infamously complained about the roles he had been playing recently.

“Stephen had the complete, some would say lunatic, disregard in allowing me to write for him. The story goes that I came off stage one night and said that I could write much better than what I had just acted in and he told me to get on with it then."

The offending play was David Campton’s Ring Of Roses, although for many years Alan mentioned it was John Van Druten’s Bell, Book And Candle, as he did not want to upset Campton, a friend and contemporary at the Library Theatre.
Stephen Joseph was always keen to encourage new writers, although this also had other benefits for the company as Alan recalls there was funding to encourage new writing.

“The Arts Council gave us £300, more than I’d ever seen in one place before. I thought, this is money for old rope.”

Stephen’s writing challenge was made during the winter season at the Library Theatre in 1958, when Alan was also in rehearsals for the company’s brief winter tour. The play he was rehearsing was by and being directed by a relatively unknown writer who had just suffered his first West End flop. Harold Pinter had been invited to Scarborough to direct The Birthday Party following its critical mauling in London. This would only be the second time it had been professionally staged and featured Alan in the role of Stanley. The play may not have directly influenced The Square Cat, but its author certainly inspired Alan.

“I got fascinated by his [Pinter’s] use of dialogue, his use of words, the structure of sentences. You can see even now what’s actually rubbed off on me from him.”

The Square Cat was written during the tour, but it was not a sole effort. Alan’s partner and soon to be wife, Christine Roland, worked together with him offering advice on the play.

“I stomped off home and, with the help of my then wife, who was a very judicious editor, wrote a play under a joint pseudonym, Roland Allen. This was the time of skiffle and coffee bars and the play was an unashamed launch for my own acting career.”

The pseudonym Roland Allen (Christine Roland / Alan Ayckbourn) was used by Alan for his first four plays, although Christine was only involved in helping The Square Cat and Love After All.
The Square Cat was a showcase for him both as a playwright and actor with Alan playing two roles; it has never really been emphasised Alan spent the play quick-changing between the rock ‘n’ roll star Jerry Wattis and the mild-mannered Arthur Brummage.

“I came on in act one and stayed on, with all the best lines, until the end, and I danced and sang and played the guitar - none of which I was very good at. It was an immensely practical way to start. I learned a great deal from seeing the same bits die every night."

It opened at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, on 30 July 1959 and was a big hit with the summer audiences. The surprise success and demand for tickets led Stephen Joseph to cancel a week’s performance of David Campton’s adaptation of Frankenstein (which had not been well received) and scheduled a second week for The Square Cat’s second repertory run the following month; the first time a play in repertory had run for two consecutive weeks at the venue.
For Alan, the over-riding memory was the pay-cheque.

“It made me forty-seven quid, I remember, more than I earned in several weeks. It proved very popular because it was what it was - a farce, with no pretensions to anything else - and it did give people quite a laugh.”

Financial accounts for the 1959 season record that 3,440 people saw the play during its three weeks of performance and it made £695 with a number of the performances booked to capacity; in comparison the most successful show of the season was John Van Druten's Bell, Book & Candle which was seen by nine more people and took an equivalent amount of money.
Conventional wisdom has it The Square Cat was never performed again, but it was produced once more during the company’s 1959 winter tour. Alan was unavailable to reprise his role, having received his National Service call-up (deftly avoided by being signed out after just three days) and Barry Boys took on the role for the play’s swansong.
It has never been performed since then and the script has never been published. Although Alan suggested for many years all copies had been destroyed, it is surprisingly profligate. Originals of the play are held by The University Of York, The University Of Manchester and the British Library.
The only other public glimpses of The Square Cat have been in 2005 when on the anniversary of the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s 50th anniversary, Alan agreed to let the first scene of the play be read as part of the theatre’s celebration event 50 Years New. He also agreed to a reading of this scene as part of the Royal And Derngate Theatre’s Ayckbourn At 70 celebration in 2009 and for an Ayckbourn themed weekend in Scarborough in 2010.

“We read The Square Cat [at 50 Years New] and I would say to anyone that heard it: “Take heart, if you are writing plays it can only get better than this.” They [the early plays] are not producible pieces, they are nothing more than my early jottings. My early plays are an object lesson in someone having confidence in someone - I was just delighted that someone would put my plays on.”

Unseen Ayckbourn is available from amazon.co.uk here and amazon.com here. You can find out more about the book by clicking here.

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Boy Who Fell Into A Book

The new musical adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's play The Boy Who Fell Into A Book is now running at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
Evelyn Hoskins as Kevin, the boy who falls into a book
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
Directed by Alan Ayckbourn, the musical has been adapted by Paul James with music by Cathy Shostak and Eric Angus and is the first of Alan's plays to have been adapted into a musical.
For Alan Ayckbourn, it has been a new experience directing an adaptation of his own work, but he feels that Paul, Cathy and Eric have created something he has enjoyed working on.
"They’ve caught the spirit of the play very closely and they obviously love it because otherwise you can’t work on something you don’t like. I think they’re as passionate about it as I was when I first wrote the play. As a director, I’ll hitch onto that!"
Katie Birtill as Monique
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
The play features Evelyn Hoskins as Kevin with Nicolas Colicos as the pulp detective Rockfist Slim alongside Katie Birtill, Natasha J Barnes, John Barr and Stephen Matthews.
It follows Kevin's adventures after he falls into the pages of Rockfist Slim's latest adventure, leading the pair into an unlikely friendship as they try to find the way back to Kevin's bedroom through the books on his book-shelf whilst avoiding the evil machinations of Rockfist's nemesis The Green Shark.
Delighted with the adaptation, Alan believes this is a show which will appeal to all ages - or anyone who enjoyed reading a book! - and will appeal to the entire family.
"I think The Boy Who Fell Into A Book lends itself to a musical because it has this fantasy element to it and it is a family show - it’s not a children’s show, definitely a family show - and it’s a play for anyone who was a child and anyone who read under the bedclothes under a child and anyone who’s ever been activated by am story or a book. It’s a neat show but with huge potential."
The production has musical direction by Michael Warman with design by Michael Holt, lighting by Jason Taylor, choreography by Sheila Carter with the band consisting of Chris Guard, Timothy Dullaway and Anthony Lawton.
The Boy Who Fell In A Book can be seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until 31 August. Tickets are priced from £10 to £24.50 with family tickets also available and can be booked at www.sjt.uk.com where further details about the production can also be found.
A look at the history of The Boy Who Fell Into A Book (and an entire section on the play) can be found at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website by clicking here.
Evelyn Hoskins, John Barr & Nicolas Colicos
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
Stephen Matthews & Nicolas Colicos
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tweet The Archivist: Ayckbourn on DVD

Although it's a much-repeated topic, a recent @ayckbourn tweet queried Ayckbourn plays on DVD - and it gives me a chance to shamelessly plug a new article!
Running through daily tweets mentioning @Ayckbourn, there was a recent query whether The Norman Conquests is the only TV adaptation of an Ayckbourn plays to have been released on DVD.
Sadly, the answer is yes. Recently re-released on DVD in the UK by network (which has a 20 Facts article about the TV adaptation written by Alan's archivist here) and in the USA by  Acorn Media, The Norman Conquests trilogy remains the lonely Ayckbourn TV DVD.
Despite the fact there have been television adaptations of 11 of Alan Ayckbourn's full-length plays, only The Norman Conquests has ever been commercially released and none of the BBC adaptations have ever seen the light of day (The Norman Conquests was produced by Thames Television).
Despite the onset of digital programming and streaming, this also doesn't look likely to change in the foreseeable future - or at least Alan Ayckbourn is not aware of any plans regarding them.
While this is disappointing, it is presumably a commercial decision as Sir Alan has publicly spoken about how he is not against them being released on DVD; however the release of DVDs is not something he has any involvement with or say in (and for anyone who thinks otherwise, do you honestly believe the atrocious A Chorus Of Disapproval film would be on DVD if he had any say in such matters!).
The only other DVDs available of Alan Ayckbourn's plays are the movie adaptations with Private Fears In Public Places available in the UK and the USA, a French language (non-subtitled) Smoking / No Smoking (adapting Intimate Exchanges) available in France, the previously aforementioned Chorus DVD in the UK and on streaming services such as Netflix and America in North America, and, from next year in the USA and parts of Europe, Life Of Riley.
You can also still find Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical By Jeeves on DVD.
If ever the situation changes, www.alanayckbourn.net will be there to report on any future DVD / digital releases.

The Norman Conquests, starring Tom Conti, Richard Briers, David Troughton, Penelope Wilton, Penelope Keith and Fiona Walker, is available now on DVD and further details can be found here.
Details of all the filmed adaptations of Alan Ayckbourn's plays can be found on his official website here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Countdown to 60

Monday saw the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough celebrate its 59th birthday.
It is the venue most associated with Alan Ayckbourn and, it is fair to say, the two are now inextricably linked. Further more, after six decades in the town, both the theatre and playwright are also inseparable from Scarborough.
One of the questions frequently asked of the website is, why Scarborough? What were the links between Stephen Joseph and Alan Ayckbourn with the town leading them to become such an essential part of the cultural fabric of it?
The answer is, surprisingly, luck and chance. Which given both elements have played significant parts in several Ayckbourn plays (including his latest Roundelay), seems very appropriate.

Neither Stephen Joseph nor Alan Ayckbourn had any pre-existing links or connections with Scarborough. It is actually just a fortunate set of circumstances which brought both men independently to the town creating life-long bonds.
With regard to the British theatre pioneer Stephen Joseph, he arrived in Scarborough almost as a last resort as he struggled to find a home for what would become the UK's first professional theatre-in-the-round company during the '50s; in context, the vast majority of theatres in England at this point were proscenium arch - theatre-in-the-round was a rarity outside of experimental theatre groups in thiscountry.
Stephen Joseph had been searching for a home for theatre-in-the-round, preferably in London, for a number of months having seen a number of theatre-in-the-round venues in the USA. Unable to find or afford suitable premises in the capital, his attentions led elsewhere as he explained in his book Theatre In The Round.

“For several years, John Wood, education officer for the North Riding Education Committee, had asked me to take part in weekend courses and summer schools in Yorkshire, and it was on a weekend course in acting at Wrea Head that he challenged me to put theatre in the round to the test of professional performance to the public, I told him of the difficulties in finding a suitable hall, in London. So he took me to the concert room in the Central Library at Scarborough; and after a friendly and helpful talk with W.H. Smettem, the librarian, our first booking was made.... On the whole, a very good place in which to make experimental first steps.”

But the Library Theatre at Scarborough's Public Library was never intended to be a permanent home for the company. Stephen later noted: "And so each year another and another season was planned. But still on a very ad hoc basis. No sureness about the future; each season likely to be the last." One of the main reasons for this was the lack of guaranteed financial backing from Scarborough Council or, several years later, a perceived lack of support in finding a permanent new home for the company.
So the town which has the longest continual association with theatre-in-the-round in the UK was an accidental choice and certainly never intended to be a permanent home for Stephen Joseph's theatrical experiment.
When the Library Theatre began touring in 1957, Stephen did not hide the fact he was essentially selling his product to towns without a civic theatre, hoping theatre-in-the-round would catch someone's attention and they would build a permanent home for his company.
This eventually resulted in the Victoria Theatre being built in an old cinema conversion in 1962 in Stoke-on-Trent; what is now the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme is considered the UK's first permanent professional theatre-in-the-round venue.
Stephen was a practical man and, although he liked the town, he had no long-term loyalty to Scarborough. Indeed, as chronicled in his book Theatre In The Round, in 1965 he decided to close the venue due to a perceived lack of support from the town council.
That the theatre survived and flourished was due to the support and commitment from the town itself with an amateur theatrical, Ken Boden, arranging for the theatre to continue and relaunch itself as a professional venue in 1967, the year Stephen Joseph died.
This is the moment the Library Theatre - later the Stephen Joseph Theatre - really became a permanent fixture in Scarborough, further cemented in 1972, when Stephen's protege Alan Ayckbourn committed himself to the theatre and the town by becoming the Artistic Director of the venue for the next 37 years.

As to why Alan Ayckbourn found himself in Scarborough - and then decided to make it his adopted home - that's the subject of another feature on the blog in the near future.

You can find out more about the history of the Stephen Joseph Theatre and its connections with Scarborough at the website Scarborough In The Round, a sister site to Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website and the Stephen Joseph & The Library Theatre website, where you can also learn more about Alan Ayckbourn's most influential mentor Stephen Joseph.

Alan Ayckbourn premieres his latest play Roundelay at the Stephen Joseph Theatre this year with it running from 4 September - 8 October. He is also currently directing the world premiere of the musical adaptation of his play The Boy Who Fell Into A Book. Further details about both plays and how to book tickets can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Ayckbourn Ebook Releases & Digital Play List

Updated: 14 July with Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 3 ebook

This week has seen the release of two ebook collections of Alan Ayckbourn's plays.
Faber has published the Damsels In Distress trilogy and Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 2 in digital format and they are currently available from Amazon for Kindle; no news about other platforms yet but presumably they will be coming soon.
Damsels In Distress features Alan Ayckbourn's highly acclaimed 2001 plays GamePlan, FlatSpin and RolePlay; the trio are not connected by were written to utilise the same set and the same company of seven actors. More details can be found here.
Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 2 is a collection of family plays and includes Invisible Friends, Ernie's Incredible Illucinations, The Champion Of Paribanou, This Is Where We Came In and My Very Own Story. More details can be found here.
This means there are more than 20 Ayckbourn plays now available for download. The list of publications can be found below followed by the current list of Ayckbourn plays available as ebooks (please note, all links are for the Kindle publications).

Ayckbourn ebook Publications
> Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 2 (Invisible FriendsErnie's Incredible IllucinationsThe Champion Of ParibanouThis Is Where We Came In, My Very Own Story)
> Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 3 (Haunting Julia, Drowning On Dry Land, Sugar Daddies, Things We Do For Love)
> Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 4 (The Revengers' Comedies, Things We Do For Love, House & Garden)
> Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 5 (Snake In The Grass, If I Were You, Life & Beth, My Wonderful Day, Life Of Riley)
> Three Plays (Absurd Person Singular, Bedroom Farce, Absent Friends)
> Confusions (student edition)
> Damsels In Distress (GamePlan, FlatSpin, RolePlay)

Ayckbourn Plays In Digital Format
> Absent Friends (Three Plays)
> Absurd Person Singular (Three Plays)
> Bedroom Farce (Three Plays)
> The Champion Of Paribanou (Plays 2)
> Confusions
> Drowning On Dry Land (Plays 3)
> Ernie's Incredible Illucinations (Plays 2)
> FlatSpin (Damsels In Distress)
> GamePlan (Damsels In Distress)
> Garden (Plays 4)
> Haunting Julia (Plays 3)
> House (Plays 4)
> House & Garden (Plays 4)
> If I Were You (Plays 5)
> Invisible Friends (Plays 2)
> Life & Beth (Plays 5)
> Life Of Riley (Plays 5)
> My Very Own Story (Plays 2)
> My Wonderful Day (Plays 5)
> Private Fears In Public Places (Plays 3)
> The Revengers' Comedies (Plays 4)
> RolePlay (Damsels In Distress)
> Snake In The Grass (Plays 5)
> Sugar Daddies (Plays 3)
> Things We Do For Love (Plays 4)
> This Is Where We Came In (Plays 2)