Season’s Greetings: A Christmas Conundrum

So, as a bit of seasonal fun for all you Ayckbourn fans, a question. How many of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays have been set at or around Christmas?

That’s one to mull over your mulled wine.

They don’t have to be entirely set at Christmas, but Christmas must feature at some point. So how many plays do you think there are?

© Scarborough Theatre Trust

And – yes – there’s obviously one as it’s featured in the title! Three, six, nine plays even?

While you have a guess, let’s run through them and see how many you remembered and how close you came to the actual number.

For clarity, this is just the 83 full-length, canon plays and doesn’t include any of Alan’s other writing.

So, in alphabetical order….

Absurd Person Singular: Easy one this. Set in three kitchens over three Christmases. The second most obvious festive play of Alan’s.

A Brief History of Women: A very recent play, so perhaps not so obvious. The third act is set in December and centres around rehearsals for the Christmas panto and includes a wonderfully inappropriate song by the Dame.

Christmas V Mastermind: An early obscure one for the Ayckbourn Afficiandoes. This was Alan’s fifth play and featured the evil machinations of a evil genius trying to disrupt Christmas.

Dad’s Tale: Even earlier in the play canon, this is Alan’s third play and is set over a miserable Christmas in which imagination makes up for the lack of anything else to give or receive.

GamePlan: The first part of the Damsels in Distress trilogy encroaches upon Christmas in Act Two, Scene Two, which is set the week before complete with Christmas tree.

Improbable Fiction: The Literary mash-up play is set at a meeting of Pendon Writer’s Circle the week before Christmas.

Intimate Exchanges: One of the possible codas to the play which has multiple permutations is called A Midnight Mass and set on Christmas Eve.

Joking Apart: Alan’s play centred around the golden couple Anthea and Richard features an undoubtedly classic Ayckbourn scene on Boxing Day with a tennis match between Richard and Sven.

Life & Beth: One of Alan’s supernatural plays and this one sees an alternative Ghost of Christmas Past arrive on Christmas Eve in the form of Beth’s late husband Gordon.

Season’s Greetings: There are no prizes for guessing this one!

Suburban Strains: But I should probably award a prize for anyone who remembered scene 31 of Alan and Paul Todd’s musical is set at Christmas!

Sugar Daddies: It opens with ‘Santa Claus’ having nearly been knocked down. I think Christmas is a given here….

Time Of My Life: During Act 1, Adam and Maureen celebrate Christmas early on 20 December with a Christmas dinner at Essa de Calvi – quite possibly one of the last places anyone would rationally want to have a Christmas dinner!

Wildest Dreams: Alan Ayckbourn’s very dark play is centred around Christmas during the second act. Not that there’s much festive spirit!

I make that 14 plays. That’s quite a number really. Did you get them all? Did you spot any that I missed?

So how did you do?

14: Congratulations, that’s pretty amazing. Your New Year’s resolution should probably be not to visit quite so frequently….

10 – 13: Very respectable. A round of applause there as you’ve remembered some quite obscure Ayckbourn facts.

4 – 9: Average. You’ve remember the obvious ones probably and possibly a few slightly less well-known plays. Still a good score.

2 – 3: You weren’t really trying, be honest.

1: That’s rubbish. There’s one given away in the title of the blog!

0: Really? Really? Your New Year’s Resolution should be to visit far more regularly!

With that, it remains only for me to say Season’s Greetings and to wish everyone a happy new year! Thank you for supporting the blog and the website throughout the year.

Look forward to seeing you in 2020!

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