Essential Images is a regular feature which looks at each of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays through a single, significant photograph from its original production.
Essential Images: Love After All by Simon Murgatroyd
What is essential to remember when looking at all Alan’s earliest plays is he still considered himself an actor, not a writer. His writing was merely a sideline and a way of showcasing his skills as an actor.
Which brings us to our Love After All image – not actually from its 1959 premiere but its 1960 revival. We have David Campton (right) and a fine looking lady played by Alan Ayckbourn on the left…
But before we dwell on that, let’s rewind slightly to 1959. Alan wrote Love After All with the intention that he would play the lead role of Jim Jones in the Edwardian-set farce. This was a romantic hero who adopts outrageous disguises in order to get to the girl he wants and a happy ending.
However, the National Service called and Alan had to give up the role as it clashed with his call-up. As it was, Alan only lasted three days in the National Service before being signed out with a dodgy knee from an old cricket injury.
Love After All was a great success though during Christmas 1959 and the Library Theatre’s Artistic Director – and Alan’s mentor – Stephen Joseph made the decision to revive it the following summer, meaning Alan was finally able to take his place in the lead role.
Just for comparison, here’s Barry Boys in the role in the 1959 world premiere in the same scene.
What’s interesting about these photos – aside from the fact that it’s the only known photo of Alan Ayckbourn in a dress! – is it’s an example of something that would only happen once in Alan Ayckbourn’s career.
This being that he rewrote an entire play at the behest of a director.
When Love After All opened during Christmas 1959 at the Library Theatre, it was directed by Clifford Williams and was, by all accounts, a very successful production. When it was revived the following year, a different director was appointed – according to some accounts an unwelcome addition to the company dropped in by the Arts Council.
The director Julian Herington didn’t particularly like the original play, but being stuck with it made several demands of Alan including making it a contemporary play, changing the names of the characters and altering several plot points. The difference in costumes between the two photos highlights the differences.
Alan – being inexperienced as a writer and having been with the company for only two years – agreed to the changes, later reflecting, “I don’t think the play actually gained from what we did to it.” Herington, meanwhile, apparently blew the entire season’s budget on just his two productions that summer and would never work with the Scarborough company again.
This is the only time Alan rewrote an existing play at someone else’s behest and which was also performed. Perhaps fortunately for Alan – unfortunately for Ayckbourn researchers! – no surviving copies of this revised script are believed to exist. Only one original manuscript actually survives from the original 1959 production and no-one has subsequently found a manuscript from the 1960 revival.
Alan has occasionally wryly noted this was because he destroyed them all…
Two years later, Alan would write Standing Room Only and when optioned for London, his producer Peter Bridge would demand changes on a regular basis to suit whichever star he was trying to woo for the role. The difference being none of these scripts were ever performed. When Standing Room Only was eventually revived, any alterations were purely the author’s own and not as a result of Bridge’s requests.
Love After All emphasises the point that at this very early stage in his writing career, Alan was more interested in the roles he was writing for himself rather than the play itself. It would be another several years before he would consider himself a writer first and foremost and that the priority was the play itself rather than the showcase for his acting skills.