Essential Images: Time & Time Again

Essential Images is a regular feature on the Official Alan Ayckbourn Blog in which the playwright’s Archivist, Simon Murgatroyd, chooses a significant image from the Ayckbourn Archive relating to the plays.

This week, the image relates to his eleventh play, Time & Time Again, which opened at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, on 8 July 1971 and would subsequently open in the West End at The Comedy Theatre on 16 August 1972.

Essential Images: Time & Time Again by Simon Murgatroyd

Time & Time Again is – from an archivist’s perspective – quite a significant play in the Ayckbourn play canon.

Whilst historically it is regarded as the first of Alan’s tragi-comic plays and the first play to fully introduce what has been dubbed as the ‘Ayckbourn man’ with the inert central figure of Leonard being a forerunner of the chaotic individuals such as Sidney in Absurd Person Singular, Norman in The Norman Conquests and Dennis in Just Between Ourselves. It also has some interesting production firsts.

It is, as this week’s Essential Image below shows, the first Ayckbourn world premiere to have specific non-production, publicity images taken for it. There are several of these in archive, such as character shots of Christopher Godwin in football kit as Leonard.

Time & Time Again publicity image (© Haydonning Ltd)

The image above is of interest as it was intended for publicity purposes and depicts the moment – before the play begins – when the characters are attending the funeral of Leonard and Anna’s mother.

To say it meant to be a shot of the characters looking down at the grave of the mother, it’s actually taken on the roof of Scarborough’s public library! At the time, the library stood next to Christ Church – which can be seen in the background and which has been long since knocked down and replaced by an Iceland store.

The rooftop of Scarborough Library – aside from holding the workshop for the Library Theatre – was used frequently for photographs and a number of Library Theatre company photographs were taken there over the years. The recognisable backdrop of the church was also useful for certain publicity shots.

The photo features (left to right) Roger Kemp as Graham, Eve Shickle as Anna, Christopher Godwin as Leonard, Gil Osborne as Joan and Tim Meats as Peter.

Time & Time Again also marked a transition for Alan Ayckbourn in his plays becoming technically more challenging. This is reflected in a rare example of a photo of the period clearly showing the set of a world premiere production at the Library Theatre.

Time & Time Again – as Ayckbourn fans know – is the first of many Ayckbourn plays to have a water feature on stage, the rather murky garden pond which can be seen to the left of the photograph below.

Time & Time Again production image (© Haydonning Ltd)

This, infamously, leaked during its original run. Unfortunately the Library Theatre was based on the first floor of Scarborough Library in the Concert Room above the reading room, into which the water dripped overnight – much to the obvious chagrin of the Librarian!

There was also another incident in which too much chlorine was added to the water leading to the actors playing Leonard and Joan leaping out of it feeling as though their skin was burning during one performance!

This was the most ambitious production design for an Ayckbourn play at the Library Theatre yet and the photo shows the garden, the conservatory and the pond which feature in the play. Given the paucity of features, budget and equipment at the Library Theatre, it’s actually quite an accomplished set.

You can find out more about Time & Time Again at Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website by clicking here.

Article by Simon Murgatroyd and copyright of Haydonning Ltd, please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder. Photos are copyright of Haydonning Ltd and should not be reproduced.

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