Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Alan Ayckbourn At The British Library

Tickets are now on sale for Eighty Plays On at the British Library where Alan Ayckbourn will be discussing his career as a playwright.
Copyright: Andrew Higgins
The event, organised in conjunction with the Royal Society For Literature, is taking place on Monday 22 May at 7pm in the Knowledge Centre at the British Library.
Alan Ayckbourn will be in conversation with Peter Kemp, Chief Fiction Reviewer for the Sunday Times, and will be discussing Alan Ayckbourn's long writing career, his themes as well as his influences, working practises and his constant desire to push the technical envelope in his plays.
Alan Ayckbourn has been writing professionally since 1959 and 2017 will see the premiere of his 81st play, A Brief History of Women. During his almost six decades of writing, he has been responsible for such classic and acclaimed plays as Relatively Speaking, Absurd Person Singular, The Norman Conquests, A Chorus Of Disapproval, Woman In Mind, A Small Family Business, Things We Do For Love, Comic Potential, House & Garden and Private Fears In Public Places.
Tickets are now on sale to the public and priced at £12 with concessions available. Further details and bookings can be made via the British Library website by clicking here.

Monday, February 20, 2017

News & Listings: 20 February 2017

Ayckbourn Plays This Week & Coming Soon
21 - 25 February: Roundelay at the New Wimbledon Studio Theatre (produced by Dick & Lottie)
22 - 25 February: Henceforward... at the Cambridge Arts Theatre (directed by Alan Ayckbourn)

News Round Up:
> Alan Ayckbourn's new play was announced last week by the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. A Brief History of Women is set over 60 years and follows an unremarkable man and the remarkable women who has loved, left and lost him over the decades all within a remarkable manor house which has seen and heard all these stories. It can be seen from 1 September - 7 October at the SJT, is directed by Alan Ayckbourn and further details can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.
> Alan will also be reviving his classic 1979 farce Taking Steps at the SJT this summer. The play can be seen from 13 July to 5 October and further details can also be found at www.sjt.uk.com.
> ALan Ayckbourn will be celebrating his 60th anniversary at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in September with two evenings called A Brief History of Plays. Each evening will look at 30 years of his career featuring reminiscences, anecdotes and extracts from many of the plays by members of his current and previous acting companies. The events take place on 11 and 17 September and further details can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.
> Chichester Festival Theatre has announced a major revival of Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests, one of his most popular and acclaimed works. The three plays can be seen between 18 September and 28 October and will be directed by Blanche McIntyre. Further details can be found at www.cft.org.uk.
> Alan Ayckbourn's 60th anniversary at the Stephen Joseph Theatre is also being celebrated as part of the eight-day Inner Circle event at the SJT in Scarborough. The week will be book-ended by the A Brief History Of Plays events and will also include a chance to see A Brief History of Women and Taking Steps as well as joining Alan Ayckbourn for dinner (subject to availability). The week offers a behind the scenes look at the SJT, offering a chance to join the theatre during tech week for a new play and to meet the people who bring the plays to the stage. Further details can be found at the SJT website here.
> If you missed Dick & Lottie's production of Roundelay at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in January, there's another chance with the production touring to the New Wimbledon Studio theatre from 21 - 25 February. Further details about the production and the only amateur company dedicated to Alan Ayckbourn's plays can be found here.
> There is 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.

Friday, February 17, 2017

60 Years At The SJT: 1966 - 1968

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: 1966 - 1968
Between 1965 and 1970, Alan Ayckbourn was employed by the BBC and worked as a Radio Drama producer based in Leeds.
As a result of this, Alan spent very little time in Scarborough, particularly between 1965 and 1968 when he contributed just two plays to the Library Theatre: Relatively Speaking and The Sparrow.
The latter premiered in 1967 and marked Alan's most substantive involvement with the company since he had left in 1962. The Sparrow marked the first time Alan had directed one of his own plays in Scarborough and saw him return at a strange time for the Library Theatre.
John Nettles, Pamela Craig & Robert Powell in The Sparrow.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The theatre had just re-opened following a 20 month break. At the end of the 1965 summer season, the Artistic Director Stephen Joseph had announced the closure of the Library Theatre.
The company had not performed the following summer and it was only through the efforts of the theatre manager, Ken Boden, that the venue had relaunched as a professional venue in 1967.
By this point, Stephen was also terminally ill having been diagnosed with cancer and had already stepped down as chairman of Scarborough Theatre Trust - the company was soon to lose its founder.
Alan, who had a close bond with Stephen and still regards him as his most influential mentor, spent much time during the summer of 1967 with Stephen.
He also directed The Sparrow, which was a very different beast to Relatively Speaking. Alan was determined not to mine the same vein merely repeating what he had already done, so wrote a London-set suburban comedy that owed more to Harold Pinter than the high comedy of Relatively Speaking.
Robert Powell & Heather Stoney in The Sparrow.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The play performed well in Scarborough, but although his West End producer Peter Bridge did option it, it was without much enthusiasm as he was looking for the next Relatively Speaking and The Sparrow was never going to be this.
Alan has always wondered whether The Sparrow actually deserved a bit more attention - and to be fair, it has only had three weeks of life having never been performed again after its initial production at the Library Theatre.
The production was notable in another way though for its rather extraordinary cast. The male leads unknown at the time, but both destined for notable success. The first was Robert Powell, who not long after The Sparrow would be cast as the lead in the hit TV series Doomwatch - and would be propelled to international fame in the title role of Jesus of Nazareth in 1977.
“The girl's role in Relatively Speaking is the least fun to do and, probably out of guilt, I tried to remedy this by writing a wonderful vehicle for a girl in my next one. Pamela Craig was marvellous as Evie and the play was a great Scarborough success. It was John Nettles' first job, long before he became the sleuth from Jersey [referring to the British TV detective series Bergarac]. Bob Powell became a national TV star in Doomwatch about three months after he'd finished playing Tony."
Robert Powell & Alan Ayckbourn during the
late 1970s in Scarborough.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The other actor, making his professional theatre debut, was John Nettles. John is perhaps best known for his roles in the TV shows Bergarac and Midsomer Murders, but - like Robert - has also had a varied and acclaimed theatre career.
The cast also featured Pamela Craig and Heather Stoney, who 20 years later would marry the playwright, but who also holds the record as having appeared in more Ayckbourn world premieres than any other female actress.
For Alan, it was a year of mixed feelings. In March, Relatively Speaking opened in London and was greeted with the reception a playwright could only dream of. He was propelled to instant fame and the play was a genuine West End phenomenon. But then in October, Stephen Joseph died and there is no doubt this did effect Alan.
It also had a profound effect on the Library Theatre, for even though Alan was not involved in the 1968 season, the Scarborough Theatre Trust had, naturally, begun to seriously discuss the succession.
Very quickly attention began to focus on someone who had not only made his name in theatre, but would also honour Stephen Joseph's legacy and could take the company forward.
Alan was about to take his first steps running a theatre company.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Norman Conquests At Chichester Festival Theatre

It's promising to be a busy year for Ayckbourn fans with the announcement of a revival of one of his most popular works, The Norman Conquests.
Following yesterdays announcement by the Stephen Joseph Theatre of Alan Ayckbourn's new play and his revival of Taking Steps, Chichester Festival Theatre has announced a major revival of his acclaimed trilogy The Norman Conquests.
The trilogy will be presented at the CFT from 18 September - 28 October and will be directed by Blanche McIntyre, who has worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Donmar Warehouse amongst others.
The Norman Conquests is a classic trio of interconnecting plays, seen from hilariously differing perspectives, is performed by one ensemble of actors. Each play can be enjoyed as a single performance or seen as one event in any sequence, either over different days or on trilogy days.
Norman would like to seduce Annie, though he’s married to her sister, Ruth. He’s also got his eye on Sarah, though she’s married to Reg - who is Annie and Ruth’s brother. Tom, from next door, isn’t married to anyone: though he too nurses secret hopes beneath his stoical surface.
With pungent wit and sparkling ingenuity, Alan Ayckbourn fashions the thwarted desires and bittersweet absurdity of family life into a comic masterpiece.
Premiered at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1973, The Norman Conquests went on to an award-running transfer in the West End in 1974 and then to Broadway in 1975. perennially popular since then, the trilogy shot back to prominence in 2008 with the Old Vic's critically acclaimed revival directed by Mathew Warchus, which went onto a Tony Award-winning transfer to Broadway in 2009.
The Norman Conquests is a much loved piece by Alan Ayckbourn and this promises to be a significant revival of the trilogy by Chichester Festival Theatre.
The trilogy can be seen between 18 September and 28 October and further details including the schedule for the three plays and the trilogy days can be found at www.cft.org.uk.