Thursday, January 19, 2017

Celebrate Alan Ayckbourn's 60th Anniversary at the SJT with an Exclusive Event

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.
This will be marked as part of the Inner Circle, a special event running at the theatre from 10 - 17 September 2017 celebrating the past, present and future of the theatre most associated with Alan Ayckbourn.
The event will be book-ended by two special Gala events with Alan Ayckbourn marking his long association with the company as well as the chance to see his latest play and his revival of one of his classic '70s plays.
The eight-day event will explore the history and future of the company with events ranging from discussion of the man who started it all and most inspired Alan Ayckbourn, Stephen Joseph, to seeing how his legacy of new writing is still central to the company by going behind the scenes of and seeing the world premiere of a new play by an exciting new writer.
A spokesman for Alan Ayckbourn said this promised to be a special week for fans of both Alan Ayckbourn and the theatre which launched his writing and director careers and which continues to promote the new writing legacy of Alan's most influential mentor, Stephen  Joseph.
“It seems very apt that as Alan Ayckbourn celebrates the 60th anniversary of his association with the Stephen Joseph Theatre, that the company is celebrating the past, present and future with this exciting event. Not only will it mark Alan's long-standing connection to the SJT with two special gala events, but also look back at the man who inspired him, Stephen Joseph, as well as the exciting new direction the SJT is taking as it moves forward under the new Executive and Artistic Directors, Steve Freeman and Paul Robinson. Whether you're interested in Alan Ayckbourn, the Stephen Joseph Theatre or just want to see behind the scenes at a major regional theatre, this will be an event not to be missed."
Places are strictly limited on this exclusive event which will include two gala events with Alan Ayckbourn, three performances at the SJT, and two Inner Circle evening meals alongside workshops, talks and other events going behind the scenes of the theatre during tech week for a new play. You'll also hear from writers, directors and designers and meet the people who bring the plays to the stage and who run a major regional theatre.
By supporting the Inner Circle, you not only get a chance for an exciting week being the scenes, but are also supporting the SJT's commitment to new writing, according to Executive Director Steve Freeman.
"By becoming part of the Inner Circle, you will make a crucial investment in new writing, nurturing promising talent and commissioning work, and you’ll get exclusive access to the season’s biggest events at the SJT."
A special early bird offer gives substantial discounts for anyone booking before 30 March 2017 and further details about how to book alongside more details of the Inner Circle event can be found at www.sjt.uk.com and Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Alan Ayckbourn's Roundelay in Huddersfield

The first amateur production of Alan Ayckbourn's 2014 play Roundelay takes place this month in Huddersfield.
Dick & Lottie - the only amateur company in the UK dedicated to Alan Ayckbourn's plays - will be tackling the play, which is notable for being different each night.
First seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2014, Roundelay consists of five short inter-related plays, the order of which are determined randomly by the audience each evening. This means there are a possible 120 permutations of the play!
Audience members are invited to draw five coloured balls just prior to each evening's performance which determines the order of the plays, affecting how the audience perceive the characters, the events in their lives and their motivations.
Tanya Phillips in rehearsals for Roundelay
This is a hugely ambitious undertaking by the company which is always determined to present the plays as the playwright intended - even if it means none of the actors will know who will be first on stage until 20 minutes before the show!
Richard McArtney and Mike Casey in rehearsals for Roundelay
The production is directed by John Cotgrave and the company has now performed 30 of Alan Ayckbourn's 81 plays since being formed in 2004.
The company features Mike Casey, John Cotgrave, Joe Geddes, Hannah Head, Richard McArtney, Tanya Phillips, Laura Roberts and Maria Sykes with music by Paul Chamberlain and set design by Richard McArtney.
Hannah Head during rehearsals for Roundelay
Roundelay can be seen at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, from Tuesday 24 to Saturday 28 January at 7.15pm with a 2pm Saturday matinee. Tickets are priced at £12 (£7 concessions).
The production will then tour to the New Wimbledon Theatre, London, from Tuesday 21 to Saturday 25 February at 7.15pm. Bookings for and further details about Roundelay can be made via www.dickandlottie.com.
Laura Roberts & John Cotgrave in rehearsals for Roundelay
Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website is the patron of Dick & Lottie and an article by Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist, Simon Murgatroyd, looking at Roundelay and Dick & Lottie's other productions in 2017 can be found here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

News & Listings: 16 January 2017

Ayckbourn Plays This Week & Coming Soon
19 - 28 January: Henceforward... at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)
24 - 28 January: Roundelay at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield (Amateur, produced by Dick & Lottie)
6 - 11 February: Henceforward... at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)

News Round Up:
> Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed revival of his classic 1987 play Henceforward... begins a short UK tour this week at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. Previously seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, last summer, the play is directed by Alan Ayckbourn and stars Bill Champion, Jacqueline King, Jessie Hart, Nigel Hastings and Laura Matthews. The tour will also visit the Royal & Derngate, Northampton (6 - 11 February), the Theatre Royal Windsor (13 - 18 February) and Cambridge Arts Theatre (22 - 25 February).
> The first amateur production of Alan Ayckbourn's Roundelay is taking place from 24 - 28 January at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield. The play which comprises of five interlinked plays, the order of which is determined randomly each night, is being presented by Dick & Lottie, the UK's only amateur company dedicated to the works of Alan Ayckbourn. Further details can be found at www.dickandlottie.com.
> Don't forget there's a new regular feature on the blog in which, every Friday, we mark the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre in Scarborough with a year-by-year feature.
> Unseen Ayckbourn: Illustrated Edition by Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd is now available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. Fully updated for 2017, this book explores the unseen, withdrawn and unpublished works of Alan Ayckbourn with illustrations for the first time.

Sponsoring A Play On Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website
If you have a favourite Ayckbourn play, there's opportunity to be associated with it via Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website. Every Play on the site is open to sponsorship for a nominal fee - to help with the costs of running the website and domain costs - and which gives the sponsor (individuals only, not businesses) a credit on every page relating to the specific play. You can find out more about sponsoring a play and which plays are still available by clicking here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

60 Years At The SJT: 1958

2017 marks the 60th anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn joining the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1957. Alan has been indelibly associated with the company since that time as actor, writer, director and Artistic Director.
To mark this anniversary, the blog will be running a weekly feature highlighting each year's significant achievements and events relating to Alan Ayckbourn alongside notable photos.

60 Years At The SJT: 1958
Alan Ayckbourn had joined the Library Theatre company in Scarborough in 1957, but following the summer season, he had worked as an actor during the winter at the Oxford Playhouse.
However, the Library Theatre's Artistic Director, Stephen Joseph, asked Alan to return to Scarborough the following summer with the promise of more acting roles as well as increased stage management responsibility. Alan agreed and this, essentially, laid the foundations for his long-standing commitment and dedication to the company and the town.
Stephen Joseph & Alan Ayckbourn (back row, centre)
with the 1958 Library Theatre company.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Alan stayed with the company for both its summer and winter seasons appearing in three of the six summer plays and all three of the winter plays; the winter seasons at the Library Theatre had only been launched the previous year and demonstrated the town's early support of the company.
His first play of the season, Captain Carvallo, was notable for it being the first time he acted alongside Christine Roland; a new actress to the company who Alan would marry the following year.
At the time, Alan was already engaged though to a stage manger with the company, although it was not to be a long engagement. Alan's biographer, Paul Allen, writes of the story that the engagement was called off during the 1958 autumn tour and that the next day, partly persuaded as a means to get the company publicity, Alan proposed to Christine with the same ring!
Alan Ayckbourn & Christine Roland in Captain Carvallo.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Alan and Christine appeared in four plays together that year and had became close friends as a result of this. She accepted the proposal with them moving into a small flat for Christmas.
Professionally, this season saw Alan moving into more than the walk-on parts of the previous summer and the start of some good notices in the press; although Alan himself has always considered himself as purely an able actor.
"I lacked an awful lot of technique, but what I lacked in technique, I made up an awful lot in sincerity and because I knew better than to show my lack of technique, I kept very still on stage. I got a lot of reviews: “His lizard-like stillness” and of course, as one knows later on, if you stop waving your arms around and you just sit still, just flick your eyes round, you can pull focus that way just as well."
After playing Private Gross in Captain Carvallo, he was Constable Williams in Dial M For Murder and then appearing as the valet, Pasquin, in Marivaux's Love And Chance, he got his first notable review with the Scarborough company from the Yorkshire Post.
"Mr Alan Ayckbourn enjoys every moment of his promotion from valet to master but never believes in it that his performance is a constant joy."
HIs work during the summer season led to Alan being promoted to full-time actor for the winter season; although he undoubtedly also helped with stage management given the nature of the company at the time.
The increase of roles also led to increased notice in reviews. He played Alfred in Jean Jacques Bernard's Martine ("handled with carefully rough edges by Alan Ayckbourn"), Eric In David Campton' Ring Of Roses ("Alan Ayckbourn burbled amusingly into oblivion") and Abrahm in Kataev's Squaring The Circle ("Alan Ayckbourn, as Abrahm, is also slightly too enthusiastic").
An illustration by J. Morton Stanley for the Birmingham Weekly
Post of the play Martine with Alan Ayckbourn (second from left).
Copyright: Birmingham Weekly Post
But this was not enough for the young actor, he felt he was capable of much more than the roles he was being offered and, following Ring of Roses, he made his now famous approach to Stephen Joseph.
"I was in a play directed by Stephen and I'd been complaining about the quality of the script. So Stephen challenged me to write a better one - on condition that I took the main role myself. He was a wise man. It's one thing to write a play and throw it to a bunch of actors to die in, but quite another to appear in it oneself"
Alan Ayckbourn (left) in Ring Of Roses, the play which
launched an extraordinary writing career.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The result was Alan's first play, The Square Cat, but that's part of the next article alongside his experiences with a extraordinary young writer / director, who came to Scarborough during Christmas to direct one of his own plays with Alan appearing in a lead role.
Christmas 1958 would lead to an pivotal six month period for Alan Ayckbourn and the story of how he went from being directed by Harold Pinter to writing his first play.