It's a frequently asked question of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website, just how many plays has Alan Ayckbourn written?
The playwright's preferred answer is along the lines of, 'what does it matter?'; after all we don't generally feel the need to number the latest novel from prolific authors such as, say, Stephen King.
However, as the question repeatedly crops up throughout the playwright's career - and seems to have come up a number of times this summer - it is worth setting the record straight.
As of 23 September 2016, Alan Ayckbourn has officially written - and had produced - 80 plays.
This number represents the playwright's official full-length play canon carried by his official website www.alanayckbourn.net and agreed with the playwright himself.
In addition to these 80 plays, he has also written 11 revues, 5 one act plays, 5 adaptations, 1 screenplay, 1 narrative for voices, 1 book and a number of other miscellaneous works.
The official play list can be found below (click on a title to learn more about the play from Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website).
1959 The Square Cat (01)
1959 Love After All (02)
1960 Dad's Tale (03)
1961 Standing Room Only (04)
1962 Christmas V Mastermind (05)
1963 Mr Whatnot (06)
1965 Relatively Speaking (07)
1967 The Sparrow (08)
1969 How The Other Half Loves (09)
1970 Family Circles (10)
1971 Time And Time Again (11)
1972 Absurd Person Singular (12)
1973 Table Manners (13)
1973 Living Together (14)
1973 Round & Round The Garden (15)
1974 Absent Friends (16)
1974 Confusions (17)
1975 Jeeves / By Jeeves (18)
1975 Bedroom Farce (19)
1976 Just Between Ourselves (20)
1977 Ten Times Table (21)
1978 Joking Apart (22)
1979 Sisterly Feelings (23)
1979 Taking Steps (24)
1980 Suburban Strains (25)
1980 Season’s Greetings (26)
1981 Way Upstream (27)
1981 Making Tracks (28)
1982 Intimate Exchanges (29)
1983 It Could Be Any One Of Us (30)
1984 A Chorus Of Disapproval (31)
1985 Woman In Mind (32)
1987 A Small Family Business (33)
1987 Henceforward... (34)
1988 Man Of The Moment (35)
1988 Mr. A’s Amazing Maze Plays (36)
1989 The Revengers’ Comedies (37)
1989 Invisible Friends (38)
1990 Body Language (39)
1990 This Is Where We Came In (40)
1990 Callisto 5 / Callisto#7 (41)
1991 Wildest Dreams (42)
1991 My Very Own Story (43)
1992 Time Of My Life (44)
1992 Dreams From A Summer House (45)
1994 Communicating Doors (46)
1994 Haunting Julia (47)
1994 The Musical Jigsaw Play (48)
1995 A Word From Our Sponsor (49)
1996 The Champion Of Paribanou (50)
1997 Things We Do For Love (51)
1998 Comic Potential (52)
1998 The Boy Who Fell Into A Book (53)
1999 House (54)
1999 Garden (55)
2000 Virtual Reality (56)
2000 Whenever (57)
2001 GamePlan (58)
2001 FlatSpin (59)
2001 RolePlay (60)
2002 Snake In The Grass (61)
2002 The Jollies (62)
2003 Sugar Daddies (63)
2003 Orvin - Champion Of Champions (64)
2003 My Sister Sadie (65)
2004 Drowning On Dry Land (66)
2004 Private Fears In Public Places (67)
2004 Miss Yesterday (68)
2005 Improbable Fiction (69)
2006 If I Were You (70)
2008 Life & Beth (71)
2008 Awaking Beauty (72)
2009 My Wonderful Day (73)
2010 Life Of Riley (74)
2011 Neighbourhood Watch (75)
2012 Surprises (76)
2013 Arrivals & Departures (77)
2014 Roundelay (78)
2015 Hero’s Welcome (79)
2016 Consuming Passions (80)
Of course, an official list often raises even more frequently asked questions, many of which you can find answered at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website in the FAQs section by clicking here.
But if you're wondering why this year's plays are - or are not - in the list. Here's the quick answer. The Karaoke Theatre Company is not considered by the playwright to be one of his full-length plays because so much of the script is improvised on a nightly basis. The playwright estimates that at least half of the play may differ on any one night, which means there can never be a definitive text for the whole piece, only a guide.
As for Consuming Passions, the playwright considers this to be his 80th play. Although having two named parts - initially presented separately but now being performed together - it follows in the footsteps of The Revengers' Comedies in being considered a single play in two parts which can be performed separately or preferably together in which one continuous narrative is told in one space (as opposed to, say, House & Garden, which consists of two plays designed to be performed in two different spaces simultaneously with each other).
You can find a full index of everything Alan Ayckbourn has written at his official website by clicking here, from which list you can click on a title to find further details of every work created by the playwright since he began writing.
If you're still having trouble reconciling why a play may or may not be in the official list or why it's listed the way it is, it's probably best to heed the playwright's own advice at the start of this article and ask yourself, does it really matter anyway?
Just enjoy the plays.
Alan Ayckbourn's Karaoke Theatre Company and Consuming Passions can be seen in repertory at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until 8 October. Visit www.sjt.uk.com for more details and to book tickets.