Friday, February 28, 2014

More A Small Family Business Details

The National Theatre's revival of Alan Ayckbourn's A Small Family Business is now just one month away.
Complete casting has now been announced for the play which includes two actors who have frequently worked with Alan Ayckbourn in his Scarborough company. The company comprises:

Neal Barry as Desmond Ayres
Stephen Beckett as Cliff McCracken
Matthew Cottle as Benedict Hough
Debra Gillett as Poppy McCracken
Gawn Grainger as Ken Ayres
Amanda Hadingue as Yvonne Doggett
Nigel Lindsay as Jack McCracken
Amy Marston as Harriet Ayres
Rebecca McKinnis as Tina Ruston
Gerard Monaco as the Rivetti brothers
Alice Sykes as Samantha McCracken
Samuel Taylor as Roy Ruston
Niky Wardley as Anita McCracken

The production team is led by Adam Penford as director with Tim Hatley (designer), Paul Anderson (lighting designer), Grant Olding (music), Alison de Burgh (fight director) and Gareth Fry (sound designer).
Of the cast, Stephen Beckett and Matthew Cottle have worked frequently with Sir Alan in his acting company with Stephen notably part of the highly acclaimed Private Fears In Public Places world premiere company in 2005 and Matthew most recently appearing in the world premiere of Neighbourhood Watch in 2011 in Scarborough, New York and London.
Tickets are now on sale for A Small Family Business which is running at the National Theatre from 1 April. Further details and booking information can be found at the NT website here.

Booking can now also be made for the Alan Ayckbourn platform at the National Theatre on Thursday 10 April at 6pm. Further details can be found here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ask The Archivist: Relatively Speaking on TV

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

Question: In yesterday's This Week, you mentioned the 1969 television adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's play Relatively Speaking, what is this and can I see it?

Answer: 45 years ago, Relatively Speaking became the first Ayckbourn play to be adapted for television.
A rare image of Donald Sinden and Celia Johnson
from the 1969 BBC adaptation of Relatively
Speaking. Copyright: BBC
The play, which had been a West End triumph two years previously and launched Alan Ayckbourn to fame, was broadcast on 2 March 1969 on BBC1 starring Donald Sinden and Celia Johnson.
Very little is known about the broadcast as the only clue to its existence is a single report from the Radio Times held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the University of York and an entry in the British Film Institute's television database, which holds very few details.
It was shown in the BBC's Play Of The Month slot and directed by Herbert Wise, who would go on to direct the far better known and successful television adaptation of The Norman Conquests, which was broadcast in 1977.
Relatively Speaking featured Celia Johnson as Sheila - reprising her West End role - with Donald Sinden as Philip; Sinden had recently been responsible for directing the post-West End tour of Relatively Speaking, which launched in 1968.
The roles of Ginny and Greg were played by Judy Cornwell - also reprising her West End debut - and John Stride. It was produced by Cedric Messina and the script attributed to Alan Ayckbourn.
However, although credited with the screenplay, he was not involved in the production which reduced the running time to an astonishing 50 minutes, less than half of its stage running time. Given Alan's trenchant views about how plays should not be cut for television and radio, one can't imagine he was very impressed by adaptation.
Unfortunately, we'll probably never know just how extensive the cuts were or the quality of the piece - although Alan recalls his agent Margaret 'Peggy' Ramsay was unimpressed - as the 1969 adaptation of Relatively Speaking is not believed to have survived in any form. Neither the BBC nor the BFI hold a copy in archive and as it precedes the advent of video recordings, it seems highly unlikely - although not impossible - that an undiscovered copy exists somewhere.
The BBC would later adapt Relatively Speaking again, broadcasting it in on Christmas Eve 1984 with Nigel Hawthorne as Philip, Gwen Watford as Sheila, Imogen Stubbs as Ginny and Michael Maloney Greg.
However, a true piece of Ayckbourn history is in all probability long lost and we will never have the chance to see the first attempt to film an Ayckbourn play with Relatively Speaking.

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Boy Who Fell Into A Book musical

Further details about the new musical adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's The Boy Who Fell Into A Book have been confirmed by the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

Alan Ayckbourn directs a sparkling new musical version of his 1998 play The Boy Who Fell Into A Book which premieres at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in his 75th birthday year.
A musical revival of his 1998 play The Boy Who Fell Into A Book plays in the Round from 18 July to 31 August and sees the director team up with Paul James, who is responsible for the musical adaptation and lyrics, and composers Cathy Shostak and Eric Angus who have created the music.
The production reunites Cathy, Eric and Paul, the team responsible for The Demon Headmaster (National Theatre Studio and UK No. 1 Tour).
Alan Ayckbourn said: “It’s something of a novelty for me as a writer to be a collaborator for once.  And, joy, with The Boy Who Fell Into A Book there is not just one other collaborator but three, Cathy Shostak, Eric Angus and Paul James. Anarchy?  Well, I’ll be there, strictly as director of course, to arbitrate in the unlikelihood of creative disputes!”
Ten year old Kevin Carter falls into his book and meets his fictional hero, tough hard-bitten PI, Rockfist Slim. Together the gallant, incongruous pair set out on the most exciting journey of their lives on a quest to save the world!
The Boy Who Fell Into A Book can be seen on various dates from 18 July to 31 August.
Tickets are priced from £10 to £24.50, will be available from the SJT box office on  01723 370541 or online at from March 1. Full details of show times can be found on the SJT website.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Press Launch News Round-Up

Alan Ayckbourn spoke yesterday at a press call to launch the Stephen Joseph Theatre's summer season - which includes the world premiere of his latest play, Roundelay.
The press launch has attracted a lot of interest and here is a brief round-up of what Sir Alan said and where to find the various news reports.

Daily Telegraph by Hannah Furness (click here to read full article)
Discussing the importance of theatre getting its 'liveness' back
“I always want to make theatre live,” he said. “I want to say to Joe public, who sits through so much pre-recorded stuff, ‘look guys, this is a show that’s especially for you’. It’s unique, either by their input or our mistakes.”
When asked if he felt excitement had gone out of theatre, he said: “I think it possibly has.
“We all try desperately to polish it. I think theatre has realised somewhat belatedly that it can no longer provide adequate competition for kids watching videos or computer games. “It has to get the liveness back, and that is the only think it trades on.
“We can’t do scenery as well as the movies, we can’t do music as well, and the recording techniques are way beyond us. But if we have an air of liveness and spontaneity and excitement then I’m sure people will want to come.
“People are looking for something that hasn’t been decided six months ago in a studio in Hollywood!
“I’m confident that we’ll have that freshness, that spontaneous event.”

The Times by Jack Malvern (click here for full article - Paywall)
Discussing the current state of regional theatre in the UK
"I think theatre has realised belatedly that it can no longer compete with children playing computer games. We can’t do scenery as well as the movies, or effects like the movies, but if we do the liveness and spontaneity well then we can bring the theatre audience back.”
Sir Alan said that he was lucky to have begun his career in the 1950s. “We’re quite old men and old women now. A lot of theatre came from the regions - we were all initiating stuff there and it was grabbed gratefully by producers in London. That’s not happening now because of the finance.
“I think that the outlook for regional theatre is very bleak. We’re all having to reapply for our jobs. It really is a little bit dispiriting and I’m sort of rather glad I’m out of it.”

The Independent by Nick Clark (click here for full article)
Discussing his writing and directing post-stroke
Sir Alan said his remarkable output remained dependent on ideas. He woke up one day shortly after having a stroke in 2006 and for the first time, the creativity failed to come. “I can’t really legislate for that,” he said. “I felt very, very lonely... I’d had good ideas for plays since I was 17. It was a very empty feeling. Thank God, after a few months another idea popped its head above the parapet.”
He has no plans to put down the pen but is now also driven by directing. “If I just wrote I’d probably die of loneliness. Just going into the rehearsal room with a dozen or so likeminded people keeps me going.”

The Stage by Nicola Merrifield (click here for full article)
Reporting on the summer season at the Stephen Joseph Theatre
Alan Ayckbourn is to direct the world premiere of his 78th play Roundelay at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough this summer as part of a season that comprises five new works.
The piece is made up of four short plays that can be seen in any order, which will be decided on by the audience. It will run in the main auditorium from September 4 to October 4.

*The press launch of the summer season at the Stephen Joseph Theatre confirmed that the world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's Roundelay will run from 4 September to 4 October. It was also confirmed the new musical adaptation of his play The BoyWho Fell Into A Book with musical adaptation by Paul James and music by Cathy Shostak and Eric Angus would run from 18 July to 31 August. Tickets for the new season will go on sale from 1 March.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dates For New Ayckbourn Play Confirmed

Alan Ayckbourn's latest play, Roundelay, will premiere in September at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
The collection of connected five short plays - The Judge, The Novelist, The Politician, The Star, The Agent - are intended to be seen in random order on any given day, to be decided by the audience ahead of each performance. With 120 possibilities, no single show is likely to be repeated during its run from 4 September to 4 October.
Speaking about his 78th play, Alan Ayckbourn said: “In Roundelay I have created a confectionary assortment of five related short plays, each with differing flavours and colours and written to be played in no particular order. Each performance will unfold differently in this unique adventure in live theatre.”
A new musical adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's The Boy Who Fell Into A Book - with musical adaptation and lyrics by Paul James and music by composers Cathy Shostak and Eric Angus - has also been confirmed for the venue between 18 July and 31 August.
Bookings for tickets will open at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on 1 March.
To learn more about the play, visit the Roundelay section at here.

Aimer, Boire et Chanter Reaction

Aimer, Boire et Chanter - the film adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's play Life Of Riley by the acclaimed director Alain Resnais - opened at the Berlin Film Festival yesterday.
This is the third Ayckbourn play Resnais has tackled and initial reaction has been predominantly positive about the film. Here is a taste of some of the reviews so far.

Variety (by Scott Foundas)
"Life Of Riley doesn’t find the 91-year-old helmer [Resnais] doing anything he hasn’t done before, but it does find him doing it in ebullient, beautifully stylized fashion, aided by an able-bodied ensemble drawn from his regular corps of traveling players."
Click here for full review.

Screen International / Screen Daily (by Dan Fainaru)
"If the whole point of a film is to put a big smile on your face and have you walk out of the cinema feeling a bit better about yourself, having learned just that little bit more about your fellow men and women, then Alain Resnais’ latest film Life Of Riley (Aimer, Boire et Chanter) does a splendid job of it."
Click here for full review.

Hollywood Reporter (by Jordan Mintzer)
"This joyous yet melancholic effort once again charts the woes of middle-class couples coping with problematic love lives, solitude and death, though manages to do so with a bit of a smile."
Click here for full review.

Reuters (by Sarah Marsh)
"At 91-years-old, veteran French filmmaker Alain Resnais shows no sign of letting up his experimentation, drawing on theatre, graphic illustration and cinema in his whimsical comedy Life of Riley."
Click here for full review.

Aimer, Boire et Chanter stars Hippolyte Girardot, Sabine Azéma, Michel Vuillermoz, Caroline Silhol, André Dussollier and Sandrine Kiberlain. It is directed by Alain Resnais and adapted by Laurent Herbiet.
Release dates for the film in Europe and North America have not yet been confirmed, but the blog and will publish dates as they are announced.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ayckbourn Ensemble Assembles In New York

A mini-festival celebrating Alan Ayckbourn is coming to New York this summer at the Brits Off Broadway festival.
The Ayckbourn Ensemble - three plays receiving their New York premieres with Alan Ayckbourn directing his own company - will be coming to the annual celebration of British theatre.
The productions comprise Alan Ayckbourn's highly acclaimed latest play Arrivals & Departures, a revival of his classic 1992 play Time Of My Life and well as two new one act plays, known jointly as Farcicals. They will be in repertory from 29 May - 29 June, 2014.
Arrivals & Departures and Farcicals will also be making their American premiere and it will mark the fifth time Sir Alan has participated in the festival, having previously had productions in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011.
Arrivals & Departures is described by the playwright as a 'memory' play and follows two disparate characters brought together during an anti-terrorism raid and what has led them to this stage of their lives.
Time Of My Life is a play which extrapolates forwards and backwards from a pivotal birthday meal in the lives of the Stratton family.
Farcicals consists of two related one act farces, The Kidderminster Affair and Chloë With Love; they are described by the author as amongst the silliest and most frivolous things he has ever written!
The Ayckbourn Ensemble premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in summer 2013 and is currently on a UK tour before it crosses the Atlantic for the Brits Off Broadway festival where it will be resident from 29 May - 29 June.
Tickets are priced from $25 - $70 ($17.50 - $49 for 59E59 Members) and go on sale on February 28, with a special pre-sale for 59E59 Members beginning February 21.
Tickets can be booked online at, where further information and all the latest news about the festival can be found.
To find out more about the plays, visit the Alan Ayckbourn website's sections dedicated to Arrivals & Departures, Time Of My Life and Farcicals.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ask The Archivist: A Small Family Business

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

Question: In your coverage of the National Theatre's revival of A Small Family Business, you noted the playwright Mark Ravenhill had cited it as an influential play. Could you expand on this?

Answer: Mark Ravenhill has cited the significance of Alan Ayckbourn's A Small Family Business on and the influence it had on him on several occasions. Reprinted below is one of his more significant quotes on the subject, tying in the impact of the play with Alan Ayckbourn's other major play at the National Theatre during the same period, his much lauded production of Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge.

"I think if you look at the point A Small Family Business was written in 1987, family and business are the key words of the Thatcher regime. I think it’s significant he’d directed an Arthur Miller play [A View From The Bridge] in the same season and it very much follows an Arthur Miller All My Sons structure where it starts with the ideal of a small family business and bit by bit that ideal is eroded by the events of the play. And to undermine the whole notion of family and business in an absolutely relentless way throughout the play until there’s nothing left of that notion, I think is one of the most intensely political plays of the period."

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