Today marks Alan Ayckbourn’s birthday and to celebrate the day, we’ve got 20 essential facts about Alan Ayckbourn and his life.
Alan Ayckbourn in 20 Facts by Simon Murgatroyd
- Alan Ayckbourn was born on 12 April, 1939 to Irene Maud Worley (better known as ‘Lolly’ and who also wrote under the pen-name of Mary James) and Horace Ayckbourn in Hampstead.
2. Alan attended school at Wisborough Lodge and then Haileybury.
3. Alan’s professional career began as an acting stage manager (a stage manager who also acted) with Donald Wolfit’s company for a three week engagement at the Edinburgh Festival in 1956.
4. Alan’s early career saw him work as an acting stage manager at the Connaught Theatre (Worthing), the Leatherhead Theatre Club, the Oxford Playhouse and the Library Theatre (Scarborough). He joined the latter in 1957.
5. Alan’s professional acting career ran from 1956 to 1964 and encompassed approximately 70 different roles – the majority performed in-the-round.
6. Alan’s professional playwriting career began in 1959 with The Square Cat (having confronted Stephen Joseph about the perceived quality of his role in David Campton’s Ring Of Roses). As of 2022, Alan has written 87 full-length plays.
7. Alan married his first wife Christine Roland in 1959; together they had two sons Steven and Philip. Alan’s second marriage was to Heather Stoney in 1997.
8. Alan’s first production as a professional director was Gaslight at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1961. Since then he has directed more than 350 productions in the UK and abroad, including the London premieres of 32 of his plays in the West End or at the National Theatre.
9. In 1962, Alan moved with the Studio Theatre Company to the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent. He both directed and acted there, as well as premiering two new plays, before leaving the company in 1964.
10. From 1965 to 1970, Alan worked as a radio drama producer for the BBC, based in Leeds.
11. Alan’s first major West End success was Relatively Speaking in 1967; as of 2022, 39 of Alan’s plays have been produced in London (not including fringe venues).
12. Alan Ayckbourn became the Artistic Director of the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1972. He stepped down from the position (of what is now the Stephen Joseph Theatre) on March 31 2009. He was appointed Director Emeritus in 2018.
13. In 1974, Alan held the record for having the most plays running simultaneously in the West End with Living Together, Table Manners, Round And Round The Garden, Absurd Person Singular and Absent Friends. Only Andrew Lloyd Webber since has had more productions running concurrently.
14. The Variety Club named Alan ‘Playwright of the Year’ in 1974; between 1973 and 2022, Alan has received more than 35 major theatre awards including an Olivier Special Award in 2009 and the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement In Theatre in 2010.
15. In 1975 Alan wrote his first play intended for end-stage performance (Bedroom Farce); although he is primarily associated with the Round, he has written five plays intended for the end-stage: Bedroom Farce, A Small Family Business, Haunting Julia, Things We Do For Love and Virtual Reality. (For the record Jeeves and House were also first performed in the end-stage, but were not specifically written for end-stage performance)
16. In 1976, Alan and the Library Theatre company moved to the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round (based at Scarborough’s former Boys’ Grammar School). In 1996, he would again move the company to the Stephen Joseph Theatre (based at Scarborough’s former Odeon cinema).
17. From 1986 to 1988, Alan was invited by Sir Peter Hall to form his own company at the National Theatre. He directed A Small Family Business, A View From The Bridge, Tons Of Money and ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore.
18. In 1992, Alan was appointed Cameron Macintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre, at the University of Oxford.
19. Alan was awarded a CBE (Companion of the Order of the British Empire) in 1987. Ten years later to the day, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II ‘for services to the theatre.’
20. Although known as a playwright, he published his debut novel The Divide in 2019; previously he had also written the factual The Crafty Art of Playmaking in 2002.
Fatuous fact: It has been reported that Alan Ayckbourn is one of the most performed living playwrights in the world. There is actually no plausible way to prove this statement. But he is undoubtedly very, very popular….
Article by Simon Murgatroyd and copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do no reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.