Friday, June 24, 2016

Archiving Ayckbourn: This Is Where We Came In

Archiving Ayckbourn is a regular feature presenting a look at every Alan Ayckbourn play through an object held in the Ayckbourn Archive. Each week, the feature will chronologically move through the play canon highlighting an object, article, photograph or other archival object offering an insight into the play, the playwright or moments of significance.

This Is Where We Came In (1990)
Having found success with his family plays with Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays and Invisible Friends, Alan Ayckbourn set about expanding their appeal in 1990.
To this end, he wrote This Is Where We Came In for Saturday matinees at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough; perhaps harking back to his love of film as a child and the Saturday mornings he spent at the cinema!
This Is Where We Came In is a play about story-tellers and the characters within the stories taking control of the stories and is one of the more performed and better known of Alan's family plays.
Except the play we know now isn't what was originally intended. It's not widely known that the play began life as a two part piece shown on alternate Saturdays and which could be seen in any order.
The cover of the original programme.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The interior of the original programme.
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
The item drawn from the Ayckbourn Archive this week is the programme for the original production, which is a rare piece of Ayckbourn ephemera (click on images to enlarge).
This programme shows how "the very first circular adventurous comical mystery play" was presented with the emphasis on people coming to see whichever parts they wanted, when they wanted.
Sadly, no manuscripts exist in archive for the original productions and this programme and a couple of images and press cuttings are all the material which exist for the world premiere production.
As a result, it's not known how much Alan changed of the play to make it into the play which is performed today and which was premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round during the following Christmas in 1991.
The play as it stands today has the circular feeling with the characters beginning each act back where they started and unaware of what has gone before, but does lead to a point where the storytellers wrest control of the narrative from the Storytellers. It's not clear how this would have worked with a two part play and whether more of a narrative was imposed on the play.
As it is, the programme stands as a very rare piece of Ayckbourn ephemera from the 1990s as well as showing Alan's continuing interest in promoting theatre for young people and pushing the directions such plays could go.
This Is Where We Came In opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round on 4 & 11 August 1990 and was directed by Alan Ayckbourn. More details about the play can be found here.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ayckbourn In The Summer

There's a quite a choice of Ayckbourn productions on offer this summer around the UK. The blog offers a quick guide to what's on where.

The Karaoke Theatre Company (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 8 July - 7 October)
Alan Ayckbourn's latest work premieres in early July at his home theatre promising something unlike anything he's ever written before. Join The Karaoke Theatre Company for an evening in which the audience are encouraged to take part in the fun. This is directed by Alan Ayckbourn and further details can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

Consuming Passions (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 8 July - 7 September)
Another new work from the playwright receiving its debut in Scarborough this summer. Consuming Passions consists of two one act plays (Premonitions and Repercussions). Described by Alan Ayckbourn as Alfred Hitchcock meets The Twilight Zone, it follows a woman who thinks she hears a murder being plotted - or has it happened or is it just in her imagination. The two plays are showing separately and in double bills throughout the summer. They are directed by Alan Ayckbourn and further details can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

Henceforward... (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 8 September - 8 October)
The first major UK revival of Alan Ayckbourn's dystopian, future-set classic since its award-winning and acclaimed West End premiere in 1988. Alan Ayckbourn directs the production which looks at the nature of creativity as a composer desperately tries to get access back to his estranged daughter to help compose his masterwork. The play recently ran for more than a year in to great success in Germany and promises to be a fascinating return to the future. Further details can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.

How The Other Half Loves (Duke Of York's Theatre, London, 7 July - 1 October)
Having been running in London for several months, this acclaimed revival of the classic 1969 play has just had its run extended by another 12 weeks along with a transfer of venues to the Duke Of York's Theater. The play is directed by Ayckbourn veteran Alan Strachan and features Nicholas Le Provost, Matthew Cottle, Jenny Seagrove, Jason Merrell,  Gillian Wright and Andrea Lowe. Further details can be found here.

Bedroom Farce (Theatre Royal Windsor, until 25 June).
You've not got long to catch this one, presented for just a week as part of the Theatre Royal's summer repertory season, this closes on Saturday and offers the chance to catch one of Alan Ayckbourn's perennially popular plays. Directed by Lillie Collier, this follows a highly successful return to rep theatre last year which also featured an Ayckbourn play. Further details can be found here.

Damsels In Distress (Pitlochry Festival Theatre, until 13 October)
Pitlochry Festival Theatre has been regularly producing Alan Ayckbourn's plays in recent years (including Improbable Fiction, A Chorus Of Disapproval and Communicating Doors) and this year is producing three with the Damsels In Distress trilogy; three plays featuring unrelated stories with the same cast and setting. This is a rare chance to see the acclaimed plays GamePlan, FlatSpin and RolePlay all performed together and to enjoy a showcase for actors. Further details can be found here.

Relatively Speaking (on tour from 30 August)
Alan Ayckbourn's breakout comedy, Relatively Speaking, is touring from August with Liza Goddard and Robert Powell starring. Confirmed venues include: Grand Opera House, Leeds; Theatre Royal, Brighton; Oxford Playhouse; Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury; Richmond Theatre; The Lowry, Manchester; Malvern Theatre; MK Theatre, Milton Keynes and Bath Theatre Royal. Further details are expected to be announced soon.

Woman In Mind / Invisible Friends (Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, 13 - 17 September)
Dick & Lottie, the UK's only amateur company dedicated to Alan Ayckbourn's plays and of which Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website is the patron, is presenting the first ever UK double bill of these plays looking at what happens when a child and an adult's fantasy lives run rampant. The week will also feature a talk with Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist discussing the plays on 17 September.

Further details about forthcoming productions of Alan Ayckbourn's play and performance dates can be found at www.alanayckbourn.net.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Damsels In Distress at Pitlochry Festival Theatre

There's a rare opportunity to see all three of Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed Damsels In Distress plays at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre this summer.
The theatre, which most recently staged Alan Ayckbourn's Improbable Fiction last summer, is producing GamePlan, FlatSpin and RolePlay this summer in repertory until 13 October.
Damsels In Distress consists of three plays which share the same company and same set, but which are otherwise unrelated. Premiered in 2001 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, the three plays drew critical acclaim before transferring with the Scarborough company to the West End in 2002.
Although the plays are popular, it is relatively rare for them all to be produced together as the playwright intended, which makes Pitlochry Festival Theatre's productions a treat for Ayckbourn fans.
The plays are directed by Richard Baron and feature Owen Aaronovitch, Gemma McElhinney, Kirsty Mackay, David Mahoney, Amanda Osborne, Christopher Price & Stephanie Willson.
GamePlan (now running until 12 October) follows teenager Sorrell's attempts to help her Mum's financial difficulties by offering 'adult services'. Of course, things cannot possibly go to plan for Sorrell and her best friend Kelly when they find themselves with a dead body on their hands.
Owen Aaronovitch, Kirsty Mackay & Gemma McElhinney
in GamePlan.
FlatSpin (now running until 12 October) follows cleaner Rosie, between jobs as an actress, and introduced to Sam, who thinks she's the owner of the flat she's cleaning. As the two become involved, it seems no-one is what they seem and for Rosie, that means a whole world of danger.
Kirsty Mackay, Gemma McElhinney & Owen Aaronovitchin FlatSpin.
RolePlay (running from 23 June to 13 October) sees newly-engaged Justin and Julie-Ann preparing a very special dinner for their families. But when former lap dancer Paige Petite literally falls onto their balcony, this is going to be a dinner no-one is going to forget in a hurry.
Director Richard Baron (left) in rehearsals for RolePlay with
Stephanie Wilson, Christopher Price and Kirsty Mackay.
The final play of the trilogy, RolePlay, opens at Pitlochry Festival Theatre on Thursday and then runs in repertory with GamePlan and FlatSpin until 13 October.
Forth further details and booking information, visit www.pitlochryfestivaltheatre.com.


Friday, June 17, 2016

How The Other Half Loves West End run extended

Good news for Ayckbourn fans, the West End revival of the playwright's classic How The Other Half Loves has been extended.
The acclaimed production will also be moving homes following its initial run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket closing on 25 June, the production will move to the Duke Of York's Theatre from 7 July to 1 October.
Gillian Wright & Nicholas le Provost in How The Other Half Loves
Copyright: Alastair Muir
This the first major West End revival of How The Other Half Loves since its London premiere in 1970. Directed by Alan Strachan, the production has received critical acclaim.
The transfer will see all but one of the current company remain with the production with Tamzin Outhwaite being replaced by Andrea Lowe.
The rest of the company consists of Nicholas Le Prevost, Jason Merrells, Jenny Seagrove, Matthew Cottle and Gillian Wright.
The comedy premiered in Scarborough in 1969 and follows three couples, one of which is drawn into the lies surrounding an affair. It is famous for its staging in which two sets share the same space with events happening in separate places - and occasionally different times - taking place simultaneously.
How The Other Half Loves can be seen at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 25 June (click here for details) and then at the Duke Of York's Theatre from 7 July to 1 October (click here for details).

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Alan Ayckbourn's The Karaoke Theatre Company

Further details about Alan Ayckbourn's latest work have been announced.
Alan Ayckbourn with The Karaoke Theatre Company
Copyright: Tony Bartholomew
Alan Ayckbourn's The Karaoke Theatre Company gives you the chance to sample the work of this exciting and groundbreaking group which has taken everywhere it’s visited by storm - live theatre at its very best, with a strong emphasis on the ‘live’!
This inventive and versatile company presents a slick, fast-moving concoction of farce, comedy, drama and melodrama, all topped off with a dash of good old-fashioned stage magic.
In a programme note which he has kindly written for the show despite their subsequent rejection of his skills, Alan Ayckbourn describes his early meeting with the members of The Karaoke Theatre Company and his later fall from grace:

“[They] went into a huddle for a moment or two.  And when they’d done they said: “Sorry, we feel we don’t really need a director.”
And I said: “Oh, I see.  But I thought all this was partly my… ”
And they said: “Yes, well, thanks but we’ve decided we can do without one after all.”
And I said: “Ah, well you’ll still need a writer, though, won’t you?”
And they all said: “Nar!  It’s an improv show, isn’t it?  We make it up as we go along.”
And I said rather lamely: “Yes, OK. I’ll be off, then. Cheerio!”
And they said: “No, you can’t go!  Not yet – it’s your round, isn’t it?”

The members of The Karaoke Theatre Company are:
Karen Drake: Founder member of the company. Along with her partner, performer Oliver Nelson, was part of the acclaimed Frenzied Flywheel company. Formerly trained as a dancer and then went on to study at Mountview Academy; she has worked in countless theatres up and down the UK and mainland Europe. Karen is probably best known as solicitor Dorothy Cartwright, an ‘occasional regular’, in the daytime TV series, Legal Wrangles. Karen wishes to dedicate her performance to her mentor and hero, Rachel Caffrey.
Anna Raleigh: Anna trained in France originally studied mime at the École Mondieu Dramatique in Marseille where she won the coveted Prix Gesticulaire, the first British student to do so, before moving to London where she attended the East 15 Acting School. Anna is an accomplished musician and for some years was lead vocals, harmonica, and percussion with the former techno group Eclectic Mouse Droppings. Anna was recently pipped at the post by Louise Shuttleworth for the Radio Times ‘Best TV Receptionist’ award.
Rufus Wellington: Studied engineering at Leeds University before studying drama at Hull.  Whilst at Hull he won the National Student Drama Festival’s prestigious award for Most Original New Performer for his one-man show, Saintly Scumbag (which he based on the life of Leigh Symonds) which he also wrote, directed and designed. Since then he has toured extensively around the UK and Europe, primarily promoting and pioneering new work. Rufus is proud to have been in at the very beginnings of the KTC.
Alyssia Cook: Hails from Buckinghamshire. Originally from a theatrical family, Alyssia trained at the Rose Bruford College before joining the KTC.  This is her first professional engagement and Alyssia cannot imagine a more exciting start to her career. She wants to say a huge thanks to the KTC for making her feel so looked after, and to Jessie Hart, her acting coach, for her inspiration.
Oliver Nelson: Co-founder of the KTC.  Along with partner, Karen Drake, was formerly half of the fringe award winning Frenzied Flywheel company.  Oliver started his career as illusionist, The Miraculous Marvin, working mainly in clubs and in cabaret on cruise ships around the globe where he first met Karen. In between stage work which is his first love, Oliver has made several featured appearances in films and TV and, amidst all his other talents, is a skilled Level 4 castanet player, having been taught by Andy Cryer.
Edie Hardy: Edie trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she studied stage management.  After leaving Guildhall she was given her first professional job by producer Sarah Follon, which gave Edie her foot in the theatre door. She has now worked in all branches of theatre backstage work, including sound, lighting, prop making and costume maintenance throughout the UK. She has been with the KTC since its inception and cannot imagine a better job.
Karen, Anna, Alyssia, Rufus, Oliver and Edie wish to give special thanks to Alan Ayckbourn for all his help with the idea.
The Karaoke Theatre Company can be seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough, from Friday 8 July to Friday 7 October (in repertory). Tickets, priced from £10 to £24.50, are available from the Box Office on 01723 370541 and online at www.sjt.uk.com.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Archiving Ayckbourn: Body Language

Archiving Ayckbourn is a regular feature presenting a look at every Alan Ayckbourn play through an object held in the Ayckbourn Archive. Each week, the feature will chronologically move through the play canon highlighting an object, article, photograph or other archival object offering an insight into the play, the playwright or moments of significance.

Body Language (1990)
There's a piece of little-known history attached to the world premiere of Body Language at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round in 1990.
It marked the first time a member of the Royal family had visited the venue, when Princess Alexandra visited the company for a charity fund-raising evening.
The event itself was in aid of Sight Savers, an international charity founded by Sir John Wilson, who grew up in Scarborough. Sir John attended the event, which was particularly pertinent as he was blinded as a 12 year old pupil in the former school that the theatre had moved into in 1976.
The Princess - first cousin to Queen Elizabeth II - met members of the company including the two stars Lia Williams and Tam Hoskins, as can be seen in the photograph below.
Copyright: Scarborough Evening News / Andrew Higgins
The photograph by Andrew Higgins was taken for the Scarborough Evening News report on the event. Princess Alexandra had previously seen Ayckbourn plays in London and met the playwright several years earlier at the National Theatre.
Although the Royal family had been reported as being the West End productions of Alan's plays ever since his first major hit, Relatively Speaking, this marked the first time a member of the Royal family had attended the world premiere production of one of his plays.
Body Language opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round on 21 May 1990 and was directed by Alan Ayckbourn. More details about the play can be found here.

If you'd like to meet Alan Ayckbourn, join him in rehearsals for his latest play and get the chance to put your own questions to him, click here to find out about the Premier Patrons week at the Stephen Joseph Theatre from 27 June to 2 July.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Archiving Ayckbourn: Invisible Friends

Archiving Ayckbourn is a regular feature presenting a look at every Alan Ayckbourn play through an object held in the Ayckbourn Archive. Each week, the feature will chronologically move through the play canon highlighting an object, article, photograph or other archival object offering an insight into the play, the playwright or moments of significance.

Invisible Friends (1989)
Invisible Friends marked Alan Ayckbourn's second foray into family plays and it was arguably even more successful than his first, Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays.
Premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough, the play took advantage of its open staging to present a variety of practical effects including a room which cleans itself up and the audience making a vase move of its own accord.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn
The item (click on image to enlarge) held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the University of York featured here is a drawing by Alan Ayckbourn of the layout of the original set at Scarborough; it was produced for the designer Roger Glossop for guidance for the 1991 revival of the play at the National Theatre.
This is an excellent example of one of Alan Ayckbourn's many composite sets, here featuring multiple rooms and both floors of Lucy's house.
Although it does not detail all the practical effects used within the play, Alan has marked the back door (which closes off its own accord in the play) and the cupboard used for another trick.
The set is also a rare example of Alan moving beyond the stage space into one of the seating blocks in order to realise the second floor of the house. For the original production in-the-round, most of one of the seating blocks was removed, making this a three-sided production; quite rare for an Ayckbourn play with only the original productions of Making Tracks and Sisterly Feelings being staged in a similar manner.
From the 1990s onwards, examples of Alan's drawings of sets become less and less common within archive and this is a relatively rare example of the playwright's own concept from the past 30 years which has survived.
Invisible Friends opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round on 23 November 1989 and was directed by Alan Ayckbourn. More details about the play can be found here.

If you'd like to meet Alan Ayckbourn, join him in rehearsals for his latest play and get the chance to put your own questions to him, click here to find out about the Premier Patrons week at the Stephen Joseph Theatre from 27 June to 2 July.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Alan Ayckbourn's The Karaoke Theatre Company begins rehearsals

Rehearsals for Alan Ayckbourn's latest work began yesterday at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.
The director and his acting company were joined by company staff for the first read-through of Alan Ayckbourn's The Karaoke Theatre Company, which is running at the SJT from July to October.
The first read-through of Alan Ayckbourn's The Karaoke
Theatre Company at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
Copyright: Rebecca Winder
The Karaoke Theatre Company is a complete departure for the playwright and the course of the evening's events will be influenced by the audience with no performance ever the same.
The piece is something which the playwright has been working towards for a number of years and he promises will be unlike anything else he has written.
"Its 's an idea I’ve carried around in my head for a long time and it continues in my pursuit of the idea that theatre is live - and there’s nothing more live than The Karaoke Theatre Company! I’ve been working over the years towards defying the Stephen Joseph Theatre - and the audience - to know exactly what’s going to happen on any one night of my shows and The Karaoke Theatre Company is certainly never going to be same any single night."
The read-through saw director and writer Alan Ayckbourn leading his company of Andy Cryer, Jessie Hart, Leigh Symonds, Louise Shuttleworth and Rachel Caffrey through the script with contributions from the rest of the SJT company! The production has been designed by Kevin Jenkins with lighting by Tigger Johnson and casting by Sarah Hughes.
Alan Ayckbourn's The Karaoke Theatre Company can be seen in repertory at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from 8 July to 7 October. Further details and booking information can be found at www.sjt.uk.com.