Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ask The Archivist: 28 February 2012

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd. 
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.  

Question: Yesterday's Week In History has inspired this week's question - I thought The Norman Conquests was the first television adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, do you have any further details on Relatively Speaking in 1969 and were there any other plays broadcast before The Norman Conquests?

Answer: Relatively Speaking was the first television broadcast of an Ayckbourn play and was shown on 2 March, 1969; two years after the play had opened in the West End. The production starred Celia Johnson (who had been in the West End production) as Sheila and Donald Sinden as Philip - although now more famously known as an actor, he had in fact directed the first national tour of Relatively Speaking in 1968. The roles of Greg and Ginny were played by John Stride and Judy Cornwell. The play was truncated and ran to only 50 minutes and was directed by Herbert Wise, who would direct several other Ayckbourn television broadcasts including The Norman Conquests.

That is literally all that is known about the broadcast as no copy of it is known to have survived. Unfortunately, the BBC did not implement an archival policy for its broadcasts until 1978, which resulted in a vast swathe of recorded drama from the 1960s and and 1970s being lost (the cost of recording programmes meant the tapes were frequently re-used and recorded over). In 2011, researchers behind the BBC's Imagine documentary on Alan Ayckbourn undertook a diligent search of the BBC Archives for Ayckbourn related material and confirmed that no copy of Relatively Speaking (1969) survived in archive.

Relatively Speaking is one of three television adaptations of Alan Ayckbourn's plays to have been broadcast before The Norman Conquests in 1977. The second was his short play Countdown (originally written for the play Mixed Doubles). This one act play was recorded in its entirety and broadcast as part of the arts programme Full House. It featured Clive Dunn and Sheila Hancock and although it has never been repeated, it is believed to still exist in the BBC archives. In 1976, Casper Wrede directed a television version of Time And Time Again, featuring Tom Courtenay reprising his acclaimed West End role of Leonard. Produced by Anglia Television, very little is known about this production and it is not believed to have survived in archive and is presumably now lost for posterity.

For completist's sake, there was also Service Not Included, which was broadcast in 1974; this was not an adaptation of an existing Ayckbourn play, but remains to this day, Alan's only produced screenplay.

To find out more about the television adaptations of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, visit the TV, Film & Radio section of Alan Ayckbourn's website.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ask The Archivist: 22 February 2012

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd. 
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.  

Question: A spin-off from last week's question about Alan Ayckbourn's directing career: which single play has Alan Ayckbourn directed the most times?

Answer: This answer might surprise many readers as the play Alan has directed the most productions of is his and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical By Jeeves.

Alan originally directed By Jeeves in 1996 for its world premiere at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, before redirecting it for its West End transfer later that year at the Duke Of York's Theatre. The same year also saw Alan hop across the Atlantic to direct it at the Norman Terris Theatre in Connecticut. He then re-directed this production the following year at the John F Kennedy Centre in Washington. Flash forward to 2001 and Alan directed By Jeeves at Pittsburgh Public Theatre before it moved to Broadway in 2002, where Alan directed it at the Helen Hayes Theatre. He also co-directed the 2001 CBC television production of the play with Nick Morris.

Other notable plays he has directed multiple productions of are Absurd Person Singular (the Library Theatre, Scarborough, 1972; Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, 1989; Whitehall Theatre, London, 1990; Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 2012); Woman In Mind (Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, 1985; Vaudeville Theatre, London, 1986; Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 2008; Vaudeville Theatre, London, 2009); Way Upstream (Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, 1981; Alley Theatre, Houston, 1982; National Theatre, London, 1982; Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 2009).

To find out more about Alan Ayckbourn's directing career, visit the Directing section of his website.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ask The Archivist: 17 February 2012

Ask The Archivist is a regular feature allowing you to put your Alan Ayckbourn related questions to the playwright's archivist Simon Murgatroyd. 
If you have a question regarding any aspect of Alan's work, email it to: ayckbourn@gmail.com (labelled Ask The Archivist) and we'll publish any interesting questions.  

Question: Following yesterday's article on Alan Ayckbourn directing Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge, how many plays by authors other than himself has Alan directed?

Answer: Quite a lot is the quick answer! The more accurate answer is Alan Ayckbourn has directed approximately 100 professional productions of plays by authors other than himself.

One of the reasons Alan Ayckbourn's production of A View From The Bridge is so notable is it really is the point when the majority of critics - probably theatre-goers too - realised what a good director Alan was. In context, the London-centric view of Alan at the time was Alan was a successful playwright who happened to direct his own plays in London. The truth - which few critics noted - was A View From The Bridge merely demonstrated in London what visitors to Alan's home theatre in Scarborough had known for years, that Alan was an accomplished and very experienced director of a wide body of work.

Alan's professional directorial debut came in 1961 at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, with Patrick Hamilton's thriller Gaslight. He would direct 14 plays in Scarborough and Newcastle-under-Lyme before he directed the world premiere of one of his own plays for the first time. By the time Alan directed A View From The Bridge, he had directed approximately 65 professional productions of plays by writers other than himself. By that year (1987), including his own work, he had directed approximately 130 professional productions. As of 2012, Alan has directed 100 productions of plays by writers other than himself and - including his own work - directed approximately 275 professional productions since he first started directing in 1961.

The body of work he has directed includes a plethora of diverse authors including - but not limited to - Chekhov, Ibsen, Shakespeare, Harold Pinter, Arthur Miller, Herb Gardner, J.B.Priestley, Noel Coward, Anouilh, Ben Travers, George Bernard Shaw, Neil Simon, John Ford, Alan Plater, Somerset Maugham, Peter Tinniswood, Stephen Mallatratt and Tim Firth.

You can find out more about Alan Ayckbourn's career as a director at Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website here.

To submit your question to Ask The Archivist, email Simon Murgatroyd at: ayckbourn@gmail.com labelled Ask The Archivist.