Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Alan Ayckbourn's Consuming Passions coming soon

Alan Ayckbourn’s new play Consuming Passions takes a step into 'Hitchcockian' territory when it opens at the Stephen Joseph Theatre next month.
Consuming Passions is Alan Ayckbourn's 80th play and is a play in two parts - Premonitions and Repercussions - which can be seen individually or together.
They follow Melanie, who believes she has forseen the future – but has she really? Or is it all in her mind?
True or false, she has seen events which threaten one she secretly loves, and whose life is in terrible danger. What can she do or say to prevent things happening - and who on earth will believe her?
The playwright says of the play: "I describe Consuming Passions as slightly Hitchcockian. It’s a sort of comedy, yet it’s a thriller with a 'did she, didn't she?' theme. It’s got a lot of the Hitchcock motifs: the ice blonde at the centre who has murderous intentions, the hapless lover."
Consuming Passions is written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, it’s performed by members of the SJT’s Summer Festival rep company Rachel Caffrey, Andy Cryer, Louise Shuttleworth and Leigh Symonds, who can all also be seen in the main house show, Alan Ayckbourn’s The Karaoke Theatre Company. The production is designed by Kevin Jenkins.
The play opens on Friday 5 August with individual performances of Part 1 (Premonitions) and Part 2 (Repercussions) taking place in the SJT's Bistro during the day. There are also certain days when both parts can be seen during the same day.
From 16 September to 8 October, both parts come together and move upstairs at the SJT to The McCarthy, where the entire play can be seen in one evening as Consuming Passions.
Full details of the schedule can be found at www.sjt.uk.com alongside booking and other details. Tickets, priced from £10, are available from the Box Office on 01723 370541 and online at www.sjt.uk.com.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Radio Ayckbourn

Alan Ayckbourn can be heard on BBC Radio 3 every day next week as he talks about his Essential Classics.
The popular Radio 3 morning show, Essential Classics, will feature Alan at 10am from Monday to Friday taking to presenter Rob Cowan about his life and career in theatre over the past six decades.
The playwright will also be sharing a selection of his favourite classical music, including works by Janácek, Tallis and Bartók, in each programme.
Essential Classics featuring Alan Ayckbourn can be heard from Monday 18 to Friday 22 July from 10am to 10.30am; the entire programme runs from 9am to 12pm. Essential Classics can be heard on BBC Radio 3 and via BBC iPlayer.
If you're looking to know more about Alan Ayckbourn's latest work, The Karaoke Theatre Company, you can also hear the playwright talking about it on BBC Radio 4's Front Row, which is now available on BBC iPlayer.
Alan talks to Samira Ahmed about his new creation which involves audience participation and celebrates live theatre with a promise that no night will ever be the same!
Front Row with Alan Ayckbourn can be heard on BBC iPlayer by clicking here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Karaoke Theatre Company Is Here!

Alan Ayckbourn's The Karaoke Theatre Company opens tonight at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.
The Karaoke Theatre Company
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
The new work, described as "a party" by the playwright is a slick, fast-moving concoction of farce, comedy, drama and melodrama, all topped off with a dash of good old-fashioned stage magic.

The Karaoke Theatre Company
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
And for those who have also wanted to take the stage at the SJT, there's also the chance to participate in the action throughout the evening. It's a live performance with the emphasis very much on 'live' and where no night is guaranteed to be the same.
The Karaoke Theatre Company
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
The Karaoke Theatre Company is presented by the Stephen Joseph Theatre and Alan Ayckbourn and features Rachel Caffrey, Andy Cryer, Jessie Hart, Louise Shuttleworth, Leigh Symonds, Sarah Follon. The Designer is Kevin Jenkins with lighting by Tigger Johnson.
The Karaoke Theatre Company
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
The Karaoke Theatre Company can be seen at the SJT, in rep, from Friday 8 July to Friday 7 October. Tickets, priced from £10 to £24.50, are available from the Box Office on 01723 370541 and online at www.sjt.uk.com.
The Karaoke Theatre Company
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Michael T. Mooney Archive

Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website is delighted to announce it is collaborating with one of the world’s largest private collections of Alan Ayckbourn material.
Michael T Mooney, a devotee of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays, has been collecting material relating to Alan Ayckbourn’s entire career for more than two decades and he has given the website access to the extensive collection prior to it becoming part of Alan Ayckbourn's Archive.
Michael T Mooney with a photo of Alan Ayckbourn
from his extensive Ayckbourn collection.
Simon Murgatroyd, Administrator for Alan Ayckbourn’s Website and Archivist to the playwright, said he was delighted at the decision to move to the archive to the UK.
“I have known Michael for 15 years and I believe he has amassed one of the most significant private collections of material relating to Alan Ayckbourn in the world. Just opening the first box, there were discoveries relating to productions directed by Alan Ayckbourn of which there are no other records of. It is an extraordinary collection and I’m grateful to have the chance to work with it and share my discoveries on www.alanayckbourn.net."
Michael, who is based in New Jersey, first encountered Alan Ayckbourn’s plays through the television adaption of The Norman Conquests in the late 1970s. He went on to direct Ayckbourn plays - including several North American premieres - and has also acted as an Ayckbourn dramaturge for several companies. He has participated in several events involving the playwright in his home-town and has met the playwright on many occasions, most recently with his visit to the 59E59 Theaters in New York with the acclaimed productions of Hero’s Welcome and Confusions.
A rare flyer from the collection with
Betty Marsden in the Jeeves premiere;
she never appeared in the West End.
Of the donation of the archive, Michael said: “I was worried that if something should happen to me all of these items would probably go in a dumpster! After all, there are so few of us who value these things that it would be unlikely that they found a good home. I’ve been looking to divest myself of lots of “things” lately - and donating it all to the Ayckbourn Archive seemed the ideal solution!”
Michael, whose favourite Ayckbourn plays include The Norman Conquests, Family Circles and Body Language, believes Alan Ayckbourn is a playwright special for many reasons.
 “As a person who has been involved in the theatre all his life, I think Alan Ayckbourn is one of the most brilliant playmakers of our time. He challenges the dramatic form and the theatre-going experience, making it exciting to go see a play. He also manages to create real characters in relatable situations - no matter where you live, or what your domestic situation. As a director and playwright myself, I admire his economy of word - sometimes gaining the biggest laugh or tear with a single syllable. Lastly, it is most gratifying to appreciate the breadth of his work - ever changing over the last six decades - the mark of a true genius.”
The collection, which runs into thousands of pieces, includes programmes, flyers, cuttings, posters and other Ayckbourn ephemera covering Alan Ayckbourn’s entire career from his acting days during the late 1950s and early 1960s through his famed playwriting and directing career. It will be called The Michael T. Mooney Archive and, once collated, will eventually be placed within The Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York with some rarer pieces relating to the playwright's home theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre, going into The Bob Watson Archive at the venue.
The record cover for Cinderella's Star
Night, which includes a little known
Ayckbourn poem read by Ian McKellen.
Of the collection, Michael is hard-pressed to name a favourite item, but thinks is a fan of the very rare - and obscure!
“The best collectibles are the ones that even the Alan Ayckbourn archive didn’t have! I found a rare copy of the long playing record of Cinderella’s Star Night, a 1982 charity panto that featured Ian McKellen reading a poem by Ayckbourn. Another rare find was a handbill from 1975’s Jeeves that billed Betty Marsden as Aunt Dahlia, who was written out of the production prior to opening night! It’s also fun to discover foreign language collectibles.”
Material drawn from The Michael T. Mooney Archive will be added to www.alanayckbourn.net over the coming months and particularly notable items will be featured in a new regular feature on The Alan Ayckbourn News Blog.
You can find details of The Michael T. Mooney Archive and other Ayckbourn collections at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Kings of New York

Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre company has returned to the UK triumphant after a five-week off-Broadway residency in New York which saw them chosen as a critics’ pick in The New York Times and highly praised by The Wall Street Journal.
The SJT company took two shows, a revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1974 Confusions and his 2015 world premiere, Hero’s Welcome, to the annual Brits Off Broadway festival at New York’s 59E59 Theater - both shows had been part of last year’s summer season at the Scarborough Theatre, which marked the 60th anniversary of the Stephen Joseph Theatre - the New York trip, during which they could be seen at 59E59 between 27 May and 3 July, brought those celebrations to a close.
Richard Stacey & Evelyn Hoskins in Hero's Welcome.
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
The two shows broke their box office targets, and were highly praised by the New York media.
New York Times critic Ben Brantley highlighted both plays in his ‘NYT Critics’ Pick’ feature, saying of Hero’s Welcome: “So deft is Mr Ayckbourn’s dramatic shorthand that he can summon complete, quirkily detailed back stories for not one but three intersecting couples in a single, standard-length play. He manages to do so while engineering an elaborate plot, as full of twists and secrets as anything by Ibsen, in which everybody lies, including the British government.”
Of Confusions, he wrote: “These five one-acters also allow you to see clearly the basic building blocks from which Mr Ayckbourn constructs his more complex works. And even the silliest of them is steeped in the critical yet compassionate sensibility - call it sentimental cynicism - that is uniquely their creator’s.”
Meanwhile The Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout praised the ‘poignant drama’ of Hero’s Welcome, and the humour of Confusions, saying: “In recent seasons 59E59 Theater’s Brits Off Broadway summer festival has been doing theater-loving New Yorkers a signal service by importing Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, which Mr Ayckbourn ran for 37 years, to perform his stagings of his own plays.”
Elizabeth Boag, Stephen Billington & Russell Dixon
in Confusions.
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
He added: “This year’s fare includes the US premiere of Hero’s Welcome, his 79th play, and the New York premiere of Confusions, a 1974 mixed bill of interconnected one-act plays. Both are musts: Confusions is funnier than just about anything else to be seen on a New York stage right now, while Hero’s Welcome is one of the most poignant dramas that Mr Ayckbourn has given us.
“Has there ever been a playwright who directed his own works more skillfully and imaginatively? I doubt it.”
Hero’s Welcome and Confusions were performed in New York by the original Scarborough company: Stephen Billington, Elizabeth Boag, Russell Dixon, and Richard Stacey, plus, replacing original cast members Terenia Edwards and Emma Manton, who were unavailable for the New York tour, Evelyn Hoskins and Charlotte Harwood.
Alan Ayckbourn’s long association with the Stephen Joseph Theatre continues this summer. His new show, The Karaoke Theatre Company, previews in the Round from 8 July and plays in rep until 7 October, while his revival of the 1987 Evening Standard Best Comedy Award-winning Henceforward… can be see in the Round in rep from 8 September to 8 October.
Meanwhile, his brand new play Consuming Passions can be seen as single acts or together at lunchtimes and in the evenings in the theatre’s Bistro and McCarthy Theatre on various dates from 5 August to 8 October. For further information and dates, please visit www.sjt.uk.com

Friday, July 1, 2016

Archiving Ayckbourn: Henceforward... Revisited

Archiving Ayckbourn is a regular feature presenting a look at every Alan Ayckbourn play through an object held in the Ayckbourn Archive. Each week, the feature will chronologically move through the play canon highlighting an object, article, photograph or other archival object offering an insight into the play, the playwright or moments of significance.

The Archiving Ayckbourn column will be taking a short break until the autumn. With several new Ayckbourn productions about to be unveiled this summer at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and with the blog reporting more news as a result, the Archive feature will take a rest until a quieter time of the year.

Henceforward... (1987)
Although Archiving Ayckbourn featured Henceforward... several weeks ago, it seems a good idea to return to it as a prelude to this column's summer break.
Henceforward... is being directed by Alan Ayckbourn this summer at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in its first major revival since its West End production in 1988.
The original production opened in 1987 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, and was - at the time - one of the most technically ambitious plays staged at the theatre (allowing for Way Upstream!)
The photos below are rare images of a world premiere set for an Ayckbourn play being built at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round. There are very few photographs held in Ayckbourn Archive relating to building the sets at Alan Ayckbourn's home theatre.
Working on the original set for Henceforward...
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The Round space at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Wiring up the set
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The original production was designed by Roger Glossop, who is returning to design the 2016 revival in Scarborough. Within the photos, the tall gentleman in dungarees is Frank Matthews, the long-standing Master Carpenter of the company, who was responsible for many ingenious solutions to challenges posed by Alan Ayckbourn in his plays.
Looking at the images (click to enlarge), you can not only see the keyboards on which Jerome composes and later plays, but also the video monitors which were interspaced around the set and used for video calling (then distinctly science fiction, now just a fact of every day life).
Given the changes in technology, it will be fascinating to see what the revival of Henceforward... looks like later this year.
Henceforward... opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round on 30 July 1987 and was directed by Alan Ayckbourn. More details about the play can be found here.

Henceforward..., directed by Alan Ayckbourn, can be seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from 8 September - 8 October. Further information and booking details can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.