Alan Ayckbourn is to make his Edinburgh International Festival debut with a world premiere staging of a radical departure from anything he has previously created.
The Edinburgh International Festival and The Old Vic are co-producing The Divide by Alan Ayckbourn, a tale for our own turbulent times that unflinchingly examines a dystopian society of brutal repression, forbidden love and seething insurrection, which marks a significant departure from the playwright's previous work.
"This is a real surprise. I wrote The Divide under very extraordinary circumstances and, as a result, I said - at it’s only public reading - that this is something you’re probably not going to see again," said Alan.
"I just wanted to write something I couldn’t even see myself directing. I just let my mind go into free fall. I think it shows enormous courage and touching faith in The Divide, that director Annabel Bolton and the Old Vic have picked it up and run with it. God help her! I think its a very brave thing to do and I’m looking forward to seeing what she and her team create."
A century from now, England is recovering from a great disease. Contact between men and women is fatal. They live on separate sides of the Divide. Men wear white as a mark of their purity. Women - still infected - wear black as a sign of their guilt and sin. Gay relationships are the norm; heterosexuality is a perversion.
Brother and sister Elihu and Soween grow up in post-catastrophic Sarum, slowly learning the ways of the misogynistic, bullying society around them. But when Elihu falls for the daughter of two radical mothers, he risks not only fatal disease, but also inciting a bloody revolution.
Drawing on a vast repository of diary and journal entries, newspaper articles, transcripts and council minutes, Ayckbourn’s epic dystopian fantasy brings together forbidden love, brutal repression and insurrection in a richly imagined work that looks back to George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Aldous Huxley and even Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass.
Alan Ayckbourn has produced 80 internationally acclaimed stage works including Absurd Person Singular, The Norman Conquests and A Chorus of Disapproval.
Matthew Warchus, Artistic Director for the Old Vic, said it was hugely exciting for the Old Vic and the festival to be working together to bring The Divide to the stage.
"The Old Vic was in residence at the very first Edinburgh International Festival and it’s with great pleasure and hugely fitting that we celebrate our respective milestones by collaborating again to co-produce the world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s ambitious and exciting new work, The Divide."
Although The Divide marks the first time an Ayckbourn work has been presented as part of the Festival, Alan actually began his professional theatre career at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1956, as an acting stage manager for Sir Donald Wolfit’s production of Fritz Hochwälder’s The Strong Are Lonely.
In The Divide, Ayckbourn deliberately pushes himself in an entirely new direction and it receives its first ever staging in a co-production with the Edinburgh International Festival and London’s The Old Vic, directed by Annabel Bolton, associate director of The Old Vic. A gala, one-off semi-staged reading of The Divide previously took place at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in September 2015, but this marks the world premiere of a staged production of this epic work in two parts.
Further details and bookings can be found at the Edinburgh International Website here (Part 1) and here (part 2) and you can find out more about the history of The Divide at Alan Ayckbourn's official website here.
Bookings open to the general public from 25 March 2017 with booking for patrons and friends of the Festival open now.
The Divide: Part 1 (click here for bookings and details)
Preview 8 August at 2pm; , 11-13, 15, 17, 19 & 20 August at 2pm; 16 & 18 August at 7.30pm.
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
The Divide: Part 2 (click here for bookings and details)
Preview 9 Aug at 7.30pm; 11-13, 15, 17, 19 & 20 August at 7.30pm; 16 & 18 August at 2pm
The Divide is a play written in two parts. It is recommended seeing both parts in order to get the best possible experience. Running time is approximately three hours per performance.