Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ayckbourn Moments: Gaslight

Ayckbourn Moments is a monthly feature highlighting photographs held in the Ayckbourn Archive illustrating significant events in Alan Ayckbourn's career.

Gaslight (1961)
Copyright: Studio Theatre Ltd
This week marks the anniversary of Alan Ayckbourn's professional directorial debut. On 29 June 1961, the first play to be directed by Alan opened at the Library Theatre, Scarborough.
The play was Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton and today's image features a scene from the play with Stanley Page (left) playing Rough and David Jarrett as the play's notorious protagonist Mr Manningham.
It was a highly significant moment for Alan Ayckbourn who has long considered himself first and foremost a director (which given how much time he spends directing per year as opposed to writing is understandable).
Alan Ayckbourn has always noted how his directing and playwriting basically grew in tandem and it is  perhaps significant that Alan began directing only two years after his first professional writing commission.
His interest in directing also signalled the end of his acting professional acting career; Alan began his professional career in theatre as an actor.
Since 1961, Alan has directed more than 350 professional productions from Scarborough to London to New York.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Most Performed Ayckbourn Plays - part 2

Last week, the blog revealed the play written by Alan Ayckbourn which had been performed the most by amateur companies since 1996.
It proved to be one of the most successful posts the blog has ever published! And we've had requests for more from the list.
So for today's blog, we'll count-down the most performed play from 11th position to 30th position and you can see whether your favourite Ayckbourn play has made it into the list. Once again, the figures are supplied by Samuel French, publishers of Alan Ayckbourn's plays.
You can recap positions 1 - 10 on the blog here.

Most performed Ayckbourn plays in amateur productions since 1996 (11-30)

11. Absent Friends
12. Communicating Doors
13. Ten Times Table
14. Living Together
15. It Could Be Any One Of Us
16. Tons of Money
17. A Cut In the Rates
18. Comic Potential
19. RolePlay
20. Woman In Mind
21. Snake In The Grass
22. Improbable Fiction
23. Countdown
24. Taking Steps
25. Time And Time Again
26. The Boy Who Fell Into A Book
27. Gizmo
28. Man Of The Moment
29. Time Of My Life
30. Invisible Friends

Were you surprised by any of these? Did you expect a favourite play to be in the top thirty that isn't there?
From the website's perspective, the popularity of Ten Times Table, which is hardly ever performed professionally, is a surprise as is the fact only one of the Damsels In Distress plays (RolePlay) features in the top 30. The rising popularity of Alan's adaptation of Tons Of Money (both by professionals and amateurs) is also unexpected.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Unseen Ayckbourn - revised and expanded - now available

Unseen Ayckbourn, the second book to be published by Alan Ayckbourn's official website is now available.
Unseen Ayckbourn cover
Unseen Ayckbourn is a completely revised, updated and expanded second edition of Sight Unseen, published in 2009. It is written by Alan Ayckbourn's archivist Simon Murgatroyd, who also created and administers www.alanayckbourn.net.
The book offers a fascinating insight into plays by Alan Ayckbourn which have been withdrawn or lost; unused concepts, ideas and titles for his plays; early versions and variants of existing plays as well as other miscellany relating to his plays.
The new edition also includes an extensive essay offering a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber's flop 1975 musical Jeeves, from the perspective of correspondence held in the Ayckbourn Archive.
There is also an exclusive transcript of Alan Ayckbourn talking about his early plays and his first steps as a writer alongside an up-to-date definitive play-list.
Unseen Ayckbourn has approximately twice the content of Sight Unseen and includes many new entries as well as revised entries for much of Sight Unseen's content including more quotes by Alan Ayckbourn and further extracts from the plays.
The book contains extensive quotes by Alan Ayckbourn on the various entries and many of the extracts have been published for the first time - and are exclusive to the 'Unseen' guides.
Unseen Ayckbourn is currently available from the publishers Lulu priced at £10 (plus p&p). If you'd like to know more or to order a copy, you can find details of Unseen Ayckbourn and a preview of the book by clicking here.

Note: Some of the new material in Unseen Ayckbourn was previously published in the now withdrawn 2011 iPad exclusive edition of Unseen Ayckbourn.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Most Performed Ayckbourn Play

Despite minor technical hitches and a day later than planned, today we can reveal the answer to what is the most performed Ayckbourn play by amateur companies since 1996.
There's been a great response to the original post (despite the email issue!) and we've had some great suggestions - and some strangers ones too.
Before we reveal the winner and the top 10 plays, here's some of the thoughts you've submitted.
The most popular suggestion was How The Other Half Loves, which is 6th in the list with a number of people opting for Absurd Person Singular (9th).
A Chorus Of Disapproval (8th) was - understandably - popular as was Bedroom Farce (3rd). More obscure suggestions include Way Upstream (35th), The Revengers' Comedies (49th) and GamePlan (34th).
Surprisingly, no-one suggested the second most performed play which over the years has become a stalwart of amateur companies: Confusions.
Only one person managed to name the most performed play - although only as a possibility rather than their actual answer. So hats off to John Chapman for at least getting close to the answer.
And the answer is - drum roll, please - to the most performed Ayckbourn play by amateurs since 1996...

Ernie's Incredible Illucinations

Did that surprise you? It's a play that isn't obvious until you think about it and then, when you realise how many schools and colleges must perform the play each year (and have done since the early '70s), that it's obviously going to be by far and away the most performed Ayckbourn play.
The top ten* Ayckbourn plays are:

1) Ernie's Incredible Illucinations
2) Confusions
3) Bedroom Farce
4) Season's Greetings
5) Relatively Speaking
6) How The Other Half Loves
7) Table Manners
8) A Chorus Of Disapproval
9) Absurd Person Singular
10) Round And Round The Garden

* In the original list, The Norman Conquests is number 2 but this figure is an aggregate of its individual plays and does not reflect the number of times the trilogy as a whole has been performed.
Thanks to Samuel French for providing these figures and we'll look at the rest of the top 20 (and some notable other plays) in a future column - as well as looking at which 20 Ayckbourn plays featured in the 200 most performed amateur productions of 2012. Watch this space!
Thanks to everyone who submitted their thoughts and suggestions on the most performed play!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Email issues and Most Performed Play Guesses

Apologies to anyone who has been trying to email the blog with regard to Tuesday's question about the most performed Ayckbourn play as there has been issues with the email.
As a result of this, we're going to run the article tomorrow regarding the most performed Alan Ayckbourn by amateur companies since 1996 tomorrow instead of today.
If you would still like a chance to submit your ideas, please email admin@alanayckbourn.net - hopefully this time there won't be any email issues!
So tomorrow (Friday 21 June), we will reveal the most performed Ayckbourn play since 1996 and there's still time to send your own suggestions in!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What do you think is the most performed Ayckbourn play?

Updated with new email address.

The blog has a brain-teaser for you today and you've got 72 hours to mull it over before we reveal the answer!
The publisher Samuel French - publishers of the acting editions of Alan Ayckbourn's plays - has been doing some research in the lead up to the soon-to-be-launched Celebrating Ayckbourn page on the Samuel French website.
They've compiled a list of the most performed Ayckbourn plays by amateur companies since 1996, so here at the blog we thought we'd pose our readers a teaser.

Which Ayckbourn play has been performed the most by amateur companies since 1996?

You can find a complete list of applicable play titles at the Samuel French website by clicking here. The play can be any one of these listed be they full-length plays, musicals, one act plays or revues.
We'll give you one clue - for those of you who think we may be cheating! - it's not The Norman Conquests, because that wouldn't really be fair having three plays count as one!
If you want to send us your suggestions with your reasoning (or just your suggestions), then please feel free to email admin@alanayckbourn.net and if anyone gets it right (or gets it wrong but with very good reasoning!), we'll put your names on the blog when we reveal the answer on this blog on Friday morning.
So what do you think? Which Ayckbourn play is the most popular? Come back on Friday to find out!

Don't forget Samuel French still wants to hear from amateur companies who have photos or interesting stories about past productions of Alan Ayckbourn's plays for the Celebrating Ayckbourn page. You can find full details at the Samuel French Facebook page here.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Neighbourhood Watch released for amateur production

Alan Ayckbourn's 75th and much acclaimed play Neighbourhood Watch has now been released for amateur production.
Neighbourhood Watch, first performed in 2011 before transferring to both New York and London, has been one of the most requested Ayckbourn titles for performance in recent years and can now be licensed for performance via Samuel French.
The play is available from Samuel French currently as a pre-publication manuscript (a spiral bound copy of the play) as the acting edition of Neighbourhood Watch has not yet been published.
Neighbourhood Watch is a play for a company of four men and four women and is a single location play set in the living room of a house on an estate. The play centres on an innocent mistake on the estate,  which leads to an alarming escalation of events as the residents of Bluebell Hill Development takes extreme measures to protect themselves.
You can find out more about ordering and licensing Neighbourhood Watch via the Samuel French website by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Changes

If you regularly visit the blog, you may have noticed a bit of a change this morning!
As part of the re-design of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website at www.alanayckbourn.net, we're relaunching the blog today with a new look and a new(-ish) direction.
The blog will in the future be less news-orientated and will instead concentrate on articles about Alan Ayckbourn and his plays expanding on and complementing material held at www.alanayckbourn.net.

Ayckbourn News
From today, coverage of news stories relating to Alan Ayckbourn will be moved to either the Alan Ayckbourn Twitter page (see the Twitter feed in the right hand column) or via the soon-to-be-relaunched News page at www.alanayckbourn.net.
If a story requires particular in-depth attention and further details, we'll cover it on this blog but for most news, you'll be able to see links to the stories via the Twitter feed on this page or at www.alanayckbourn.net.

Blog Updates
Although it has been always been the intention to keep the blog regularly updated, it's no longer feasible to update it daily, so we'll be moving to two or three updates a week.
Mondays will have a round-up of historical Ayckbourn events for that week, a listing of major Ayckbourn productions / events for the coming week as well as a round-up of any news from the previous week.
During the rest of the week, there will be at least one feature on Alan Ayckbourn such as the Ayckbourn Articles and Ayckbourn Moments features and we'll still be running Ask The Archivist for anyone who wishes to submit their Ayckbourn-related questions via admin@alanayckbourn.net.

Productions
The blog will also be focusing less on forthcoming productions. Professional productions for the coming week will be listed every Monday, but for the latest news on forthcoming Ayckbourn productions the best place to visit is the What's On guide at www.alanayckbourn.net.

Past Blog Entries
Although the archived blog entries have now been slimmed down, the blog has retained most of the major Ayckbourn features from the past two years. Features will be kept permanently on the blog in the future, but any news stories will be removed after a month on the blog.

Thank you for your continued support of the blog and Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Production Spotlight: Time Of My Life (Scarborough)

There’s a welcome revival of an early '90s Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph Theatre this summer. Time Of My Life was first seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, the company's former home in Scarborough, in 1992 and presented a year later in the West End at the Vaudeville Theatre. This will be its first major revival directed by the author.
John Branwell, Ben Porter & Sarah Parks in Time Of My Life.
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
It is Laura Stratton’s birthday and, to celebrate the event, her husband Gerry, their two sons and their partners are gathered for an evening out in the family’s favourite restaurant. The dinner turns out to be a significant moment in all their lives with repercussions for years to come.
Alan Ayckbourn says: “This is one of my very JB Priestley-esque plays. It deals with time and is very much about living for the moment: how we sometimes fail to realise where we are in our lives - if only we had stopped and just looked around for a moment.”
Richard Stacey and Emily Pithon in Time Of My Life.
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew.
Time Of My Life is directed by Alan Ayckbourn and stars John Branwell, Rachel Caffrey, Sarah Parks, Emily Pithon, Ben Porter, James Powell and Richard Stacey. Design is by Jan Bee Brown with lighting design by Tigger Johnson.
Although this is the first time Alan Ayckbourn has returned to the play since its London premiere, Time Of My Life has proved to be one of the playwright's most enduring success from the '90s and has been frequently revived in recent years both in the UK and abroad.
James Powell, Ben Porter & Rachel Caffrey in Time Of My Life.
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
All three shows will then tour to the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, from 7 to 26 October, and to The Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-on-Windermere, from 4 to 16 November.This revival Time Of My Life is the first of three Ayckbourns at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, this summer. The other two are world premieres: Arrivals & Departures can be seen on various dates from 1 August to 6 October, and Farcicals (two short, one-act, linked pieces: The Kidderminster Affair and Chloƫ With Love) can be seen on various dates from 30 August to 4 October).
Further details about all these plays, schedules and booking information can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Ayckbourn Articles: The Victoria Theatre and Mr Whatnot

In the run-up to Alan Ayckbourn's 75th birthday in April 2014, a monthly feature reproduces articles by the playwright highlighting his life in theatre through the years.
Last month we looked at Alan Ayckbourn's thoughts on his first production as a professional director in 1961. This month we move forward to 1962 and 1963 and what would turn out to be a pivotal time in Alan Ayckbourn's career - although at the time it looked as though his path was not in theatre. In 1962, Alan helped found the Victoria Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent and the following year wrote Mr Whatnot, his first play to transfer to the West End and very nearly his last. Here Alan discusses both Mr Whatnot and the Victoria Theatre.

Mr Whatnot was first produced in Stoke-on-Trent at the Victoria Theatre in 1963. I had been working there for over a year since the theatre first opened in 1962.
Before the Victoria opened, we used to tour from Scarborough to Newcastle-under-Lyme - a stone’s throw from Stoke. While we were there Stephen Joseph began, as he always did, to investigate the possibility of a permanent home. The town council did actually agree to build him a purpose-built theatre, but that fell through, and instead he found the derelict Victoria Cinema at Stoke, which he designed and converted with next-to-no money into an in-the-round space.
Stephen promptly went off to Manchester University to teach though and left the Victoria Theatre in the hands of Peter Cheeseman and he and I shared most of the directing in the first year. He was also the Theatre Manager - really the Artistic Director - and I was actor, director and writer! It was exhausting and I only lasted two years!
By the second year, I remember I didn’t have any money and, at one point, was sharing the same cheese roll as Peter (who didn’t have any money either)! In fact, we were a whole gang of rather shabby characters, most of whom had been working together for about eighteen months - a rather long period for any company outside the National Theatre or Royal Shakespeare Company.
Being, as it were, company playwright, the time seemed ripe to create a vehicle which might best express the personality of the group. We’d already nearly massacred a couple of shows trying to project some sort of group image and it seemed a far better plan to work on something specially constructed to foster this.
Mr Whatnot, more or less, sprang out of ideas we’d already been exploring, purely intended for fun and to reduce the theatre sound man to nervous hysteria.
Following a fair success at Stoke, the producer Peter Bridge picked it up for the West End and I left the Victoria Theatre to go to London because everyone was telling me this is it, Mr. Whatnot will be  a huge success. The play received an ornate, rather glittery production in the West End and was universally hated by every newspaper except The Scotsman. It was an absolute disaster, only ran for three weeks and closed to very hostile reviews.
I vowed I wasn't going to write anymore - wasn’t going to go back into theatre - and this was the end! An offer came to join the BBC as a Radio Drama Producer in Leeds and I went there for five years, never intending to write for theatre again.
Of course, I did.

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce this article without permission of the copyright holder.