Absurd Person Singular at 50

Fifty years ago this week, Alan Ayckbourn’s play Absurd Person Singular premiered in Scarborough.

It would go on to become regarded as one of the most significant British plays of the late 20th century and, inarguably, is one of Alan Ayckbourn’s greatest creations.

Ray Jewers & Philippa Urquhart in the world premiere of Absurd Person Singular in 1972 (© Haydonning Ltd)

The play opened on 26 June 1972 at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, and was directed by the playwright himself alongside a company consisting of Matyelok Gibbs, Christopher Godwin, Ray Jewers, Jennifer Piercey, Piers Rogers and Philippa Urquhart.

The following year it would premiere in London at the Criterion Theatre and would become the longest running Ayckbourn play in the West End to date. Directed by Eric Thompson, it starred Michael Aldridge, Richard Briers, David Burke, Anna Calder-Marshall, Sheila Hancock and Bridget Turner.

In 1974, Eric Thompson would redirect it in New York at the Music Box Theatre where it also became the longest running Ayckbourn production on Broadway ever. It featured

Subsequently, it has been revived both in the West End and in New York and has been performed prolifically throughout the world. It has been adapted for television and radio and has been translated into more than 20 languages.

Quite simply, it is one of Alan Ayckbourn’s most enduring, popular and acclaimed works.

For the 50th anniversary of the play, Alan Ayckbourn’s website, the Borthwick Institute at the University of York and the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, will all be marking the event.

World premiere poster for Absurd Person Singular at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1972 (© Scarborough Theatre Trust)

First up is the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s celebration this Sunday on the actual anniversary. The afternoon will begin with the playwright’s Archivist, Simon Murgatroyd, introducing the play. This will be performed by an exclusive rehearsed reading of the play, led by Alan Ayckbourn with a hand-picked company of actors: Elizabeth Boag, Bill Champion, Russell Dixon, Linford Johnson, Alexandra Mathie and Naomi Petersen.

The reading will be followed by a question and answer with Alan Ayckbourn and the company and tickets are still available for both events priced at £5 for the talk and £15 / £35 for the rehearsed reading. Full details can be found at the SJT website by clicking here.

Later in the year, Simon Murgatroyd will be working with the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the university of York to highlight Absurd Person Singular within the Ayckbourn Archive and present the ongoing findings from some significant recently discovered & previously unseen material relating to the play.

Full details relating to this will be carried on this blog and Alan Ayckbourn’s website soon.

Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website – which includes this blog, the Ayckbourn YouTube Channel and the Alan Ayckbourn Podcasts – will be celebrating the anniversary with new material throughout the coming twelve months.

The Absurd Person Singular section of the official website will host new material relating to the play including a now launched Archive page, produced in association with the Borthwick Institute, which can be seen here.

Poster for the West End premiere of Absurd Person Singular at the Criterion Theatre in 1972.

A number of new videos on the Ayckbourn YouTube Channel will explore the background to and history of the play with the playwright’s Archivist, Simon Murgatroyd, exploring the rich history of the play from its writing in Scarborough to the extraordinary story of its journey to New York to its huge impact and continued popularity.

This blog will also be printing original articles as well as reproductions of interviews and material by Alan Ayckbourn to celebrate this anniversary.

Simon Murgatroyd also hopes to be presenting other talks this year in Scarborough about other aspects of the play’s long and varied history.

It’s going to be an exciting year ahead for anyone interested in Alan Ayckbourn and this classic play. Watch this space for news as it’s announced or visit Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website or visit the Ayckbourn YouTube Channel.

You can also contact Simon by emailing him at enquiries@alanayckbourn.net.

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