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.