- Alan Ayckbourn
name = Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE
birthdate = Birth date and age|df=yes|1939|4|12|def=yes
occupation = Playwright and director
nationality = British
period = 1959–
= 1959 "The Square Cat"
website = Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE (born 12 April 1939) is a popular and prolific English playwright.
Ayckbourn was born in
Hampstead, London. His mother Irene Worley ("Lolly") was a writer of short stories who published under the name "Mary James". His father, Irene's second husband Horace Ayckbourn, was an orchestral violinist, at one time deputy leader of the London Symphony Orchestra. His parents, who separated shortly after World War II, never married, and Ayckbourn's mother divorced her "first" husband to marry again in 1948. [ [http://biography.alanayckbourn.net/index.htm Biography at the Alan Ayckbourn website] accessed 14 September 2008] P. Allen, 2001]
Ayckbourn wrote his first play at Wisborough Lodge preparatory school when he was about 10. While at prep school as a boarder his mother wrote to tell him she was marrying Cecil Pye, a bank manager, and when he was at home for the holidays his new family consisted of his mother, his stepfather and Christopher, his stepfather's son by an earlier marriage. It seems Cecil and Irene were not a happy couple. Paul Allen has compared characters and themes in Ayckbourn's mature plays with his childhood experience of several unconventional relationships and an unhappy marriage. [P. Allen, 2001, Chapter 1]
Ayckbourn attended Haileybury, and while there toured Europe and America with the school Shakespeare company.
In 1957, Ayckbourn married Christine Roland, together having two sons, Steven and Philip. [P. Allen, 2001, p. 65-67, 69, 85] However, the marriage had difficulties which eventually led to their separation in 1971. Alan Ayckbourn said that his relationship with Christine became easy once they agreed their marriage was over. Around this time, he started to share a home with Heather Stoney, [P. Allen, 2001, p. 132] an actress he had first met ten years earlier. [P. Allen, 2001, p. 88] Alan eventually married Heather Stoney in 1997. [ [http://www.alanayckbourn.net/20%20Facts.htm 20 Facts about Alan Ayckbourn] accessed 27 June 2007] [P. Allen, 2001, p. 297-299]
Influence on plays
Since Alan Ayckbourn's plays started becoming established in the West End, interviewers have raised the question of whether his work is autobiographical.P. Allen, 2001, p. 123] There is no clear answer to this question. There has only been one biography, written by Paul Allen, and this primarily covers his career in the theatre. Ayckbourn has frequently said he sees aspects of himself in all his characters. For example, in "Bedroom Farce", he admitted to being, in some respects, all four of the men in the play. [P. Allen, 2001, p. 155] It has been suggested that, after Ayckbourn himself, the person who is used the most in his plays is his mother, particularly as Susan in "
Woman in Mind". [P. Allen, 2001, p. 3]
What is less clear is how much influence events in Ayckbourn's life have had on his writing. It is true that the theme of marriages in various difficulties was heavily present throughout his plays in the early seventies, around the time his own marriage was coming to an end. However, by this time, he had also witnessed the failures of his parents' relationships as well as those of some of his friends. Which relationships, if any, he drew on for his plays, is unclear. In Paul Allen’s biography, Ayckbourn is briefly compared to Dafydd and Guy in "A Chorus of Disapproval". Both characters feel themselves in trouble, and there was speculation that Alan Ayckbourn himself may have felt himself to be in trouble. At the time, he had reportedly become seriously involved with another actress, which threatened his relationship with Heather Stoney. [P. Allen, 2001, p. 209-210] But again, it is unclear whether this had any effect on the writing, and Paul Allen's view is that it is not current experience that Ayckbourn uses for his plays.
It could be that Ayckbourn had written plays with himself and his own issues in mind, but as Ayckbourn is portrayed as a guarded and private man, it is hard to imagine him exposing his own life in his plays to any great degree. In the biography, Paul Allen wrote, regarding a suggestion in "Cosmopolitan" that his plays were becoming autobiographical: "If we take that to mean that his plays tell his own life story, he still hasn't started."
On leaving school at 17 his theatrical career started immediately, with an introduction to Sir
Donald Wolfitby his French master. Ayckbourn joined Wolfit on tour as an assistant stage manager and actor for three weeks.
In 1957, Ayckbourn was employed by the director Stephen Joseph as an acting stage manager (a stage manager with acting roles) at the Library Theatre, Scarborough. This employment led to Ayckbourn's first professional script commission, in 1958. When he complained about the quality of a script he was performing, Joseph challenged him to write a better one. The result was "The Square Cat", written under the pseudonym Roland Allen and first performed in 1959. [ [http://biography.alanayckbourn.net/BiographyBio.htm Alan Ayckbourn Biography ] ] [Library Theatre publicity leaflet, Summer Season 1959]
Ayckbourn has written and produced seventy-two full-length plays in Scarborough and London and is the artistic director of the
Stephen Joseph Theatrein Scarborough. All but four of his plays have received their first performance at this theatre. More than 40 have subsequently been produced in the West End, at the Royal National Theatreor by the Royal Shakespeare Companysince his first hit "Relatively Speaking" opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1967.
Major successes include "
Absurd Person Singular", " The Norman Conquests" trilogy, "Bedroom Farce", "Just Between Ourselves", "A Chorus of Disapproval", " Woman in Mind", "A Small Family Business", "Man Of The Moment" and "House" & "Garden". His plays have won numerous awards, including seven London Evening Standard Awards. They have been translated into over 35 languages and are performed on stage and television throughout the world.
Plays by Ayckbourn have also been filmed for cinema and television in English, French, Polish, German and Dutch among others. Ten of his plays have been staged on Broadway, attracting two Tony nominations. In 1991, he received a Dramalogue Critics Award for his play "
Henceforward...". Alan received the CBE in 1987 and was knighted in 1997.
Ronnie Barkerplayed Lord Slingsby-Craddock in the London production of Ayckbourn's "Mr Whatnot" in 1964, Ayckbourn collaborated on the scripts of Barker's television series for LWT "Hark at Barker" (in which Barker played Lord Rustless). Ayckbourn used the pseudonym "Peter Caulfield" because he was under exclusive contract to the BBCat the time. The London production of another early play, "Relatively Speaking" in 1967 helped to launch Richard Briers' career, and also featured Michael Hordernand Celia Johnson.
Although his plays have received major West End productions almost from the beginning of his writing career, and hence have been reviewed in British newspapers, Ayckbourn's work was for years routinely dismissed as being too slight for serious study. Recently, scholars have begun to view Ayckbourn as an important commentator on the lifestyles of the British
suburban middle class, and as a stylistic innovator who experiments with theatrical styles within the boundaries set by popular tastes. With a resumé of over seventy plays, of which more than forty have played at the National Theatre or in the West End, Alan Ayckbourn remains one of England’s most successful living playwrights. Despite his success, honours and awards (which include a prestigious Laurence Olivier Award), Alan Ayckbourn remains a relatively anonymous figure dedicated to regional theatre. [cite journal | last = Gibson | first = Melissa | title = Alan Ayckbourn: Grinning at the Edge | journal = Theatre Journal | date = 2002 | url = http://links.jstor.org | accessdate = 2007-12-10 ]
As well as writing, Ayckbourn also acts as director, both of his own plays and of other writers. In 1987 he directed four works in each of the auditoria of the Royal National Theatre, using a stock company for all four plays which included established performers like Michael Gambon, Polly Adams and Simon Cadell. Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge" was performed in the Cottesloe, the farce "Tons of Money" by Will Evans and Valentine (with adaptations by Ayckbourn) was performed in the Lyttelton, " 'Tis Pity She's A Whore" was performed in the Olivier and his own "A Small Family Business" was also performed in the Olivier. Ayckbourn later directed Gambon in a season at the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough that included "
Othello" and a revival of his own "Taking Steps". He announced in 1999 he would step back from directing other playwrights' work to concentrate on his own plays; the exception being in 2002 when he directed the world première of Tim Firth's "The Safari Party" - this is the only non-Ayckbourn play he has directed since Rob Shearman's "Knights in Plastic Armour" in 1999.
In February 2006, he suffered a
stroke, and states on his website that "I am making a good recovery from my recent stroke. I received an overwhelming number of get-well cards and good wishes. I was extremely touched by the love and concern shown by so many friends, acquaintances and occasionally complete strangers", adding "Rest assured I'll be back." In September 2006 he returned to work and premièred his 70th play "If I Were You" at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on 17 October 2006.
He announced on 1 June 2007 that he would retire as artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2008. (The actual handover date to the new Artistic Director, Chris Monks, is 31 March 2009), [http://www.alanayckbourn.net/NewsCalender.htm] but would continue to direct premières and revivals of his work at the theatre.
Honours and awards
* 1973: Evening Standard Award, Best Comedy, for "
Absurd Person Singular"
* 1974: Evening Standard Award, Best Play, for "
The Norman Conquests"
* 1977: Evening Standard Award, Best Play, for "Just Between Ourselves"
Honorary degreeof Doctor of Letters (Litt. D.) from University of Hull
* 1985: Evening Standard Award, Best Comedy, for "A Chorus of Disapproval"
Laurence Olivier Award, Best Comedy, for "A Chorus of Disapproval"
* 1987: Evening Standard Award, Best Play, for "A Small Family Business"
* 1987: Plays and Players Award
* 1987: Honorary degree of (Litt. D.) from Keele University
* 1987: Honorary degree of (Litt. D.) from
University of Leeds
* 1987: Commander of the
Order of the British Empire(CBE)
* 1989: Evening Standard Award, Best Comedy, for "
* 1990: Evening Standard Award, Best Comedy, for "Man of the Moment"
* 1997: Knight Bachelor
To date, Alan Ayckbourn has written 72 full-length plays. [cite book|first=Paul|last=Allen|title=A Pocket Guide to Alan Ayckbourn's Plays|publisher=Faber & Faber|year=2004|isbn=0-571-21492-4] [Plays list on official site http://plays.alanayckbourn.net/]
There are seven one-act plays written by Alan Ayckbourn. Five of them ("Mother Figure", "Drinking Companion", "Between Mouthfuls", "Gosforth’s Fete" and "A Talk in the Park") were written for "
Confusions", first performed in 1974.
The other two one-act plays were:
* "Countdown", first performed in 1962, most well-known as part of "Mixed Doubles", a set of short one-act plays and monologues contributed by nine different authors.
* "A Cut in the Rates", performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1984, and filmed for a BBC documentary.
Film adaptations of Ayckbourn plays
Plays adapted as films include:
A Chorus of Disapproval", directed by Michael Winner;
* "Intimate Exchanges" filmed as "
Smoking/No Smoking" in 1993 by director Alain Resnais, featuring Pierre Arditiand Sabine Azéma;
Private Fears in Public Places" filmed as " Cœurs" also by Alain Resnais in 2006.
* [http://www.alanayckbourn.net The official Alan Ayckbourn website]
*imdb name|id=0043697|name=Alan Ayckbourn
*ibdb name|id=3933|name=Alan Ayckbourn
* [http://www.faber.co.uk/author_detail.html?auid=121 Alan Ayckbourn on the Faber and Faber website]
* [http://www.americantheatrewing.org/downstagecenter/detail/alan_ayckbourn Alan Ayckbourn] - "Downstage Center" interview at American Theatre Wing.org
NAME= Ayckbourn, Alan
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Playwright and director
DATE OF BIRTH= 12 April 1939
PLACE OF BIRTH= London
DATE OF DEATH=
PLACE OF DEATH=
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