As one of Britain's most performed playwrights, Sir Alan Ayckbourn has, to date, written 75 plays. Almost all received their first performance at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Yorkshire, with more than 35 of his works being subsequently staged in the West End, at the National Theatre or by the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has held the record for the most plays being produced simultaneously in the West End. Major successes include Relatively Speaking, How the Other Half Loves, Absurd Person Singular, Bedroom Farce, A Chorus of Disapproval, A Small Family Business, Henceforward..., Comic Potential, Things We Do For Love and House & Garden.
In 2009, Matthew Warchus' hit in-the-round production of The Norman Conquests, first seen at the Old Vic, transferred to Broadway, earning a Tony for Best Revival of a Play. Christmas 2010 saw the National Theatre's staging of his 1980 play Season's Greetings to great acclaim and a revival of Absent Friends began at the West End's Harold Pinter Theatre. Although he stepped down as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2009 (a post he held for 37 years), he continues to guest direct there; with recent productions of Dear Uncle (his adaptation of Uncle Vanya) and Neighbourhood Watch. Ayckbourn has also written plays for children, which include Mr. A's Amazing Maze Plays, Invisible Friends and The Boy Who Fell Into A Book. As an accomplished director, he also directed productions of A View From The Bridge, starring Michael Gambon, and the US premiere of his and Andrew Lloyd Weber's musical, By Jeeves. His plays have been translated into 35 languages, won numerous awards nationally and internationally, and have been performed worldwide on stage and television. In recent years, he has been inducted into American Theatre's Hall of Fame, received the 2010 Critics' Circle Award for Services to the Arts and became the first British playwright to receive both Olivier and Tony Special Lifetime Achievement Awards. He was knighted in 1997 for services to the theatre. The Guardian Theatre Critic Michael Billington once said of Ayckbourn that he "has the limitless capacity for surprise...instead of repeating old formulas, he is consistently taking off in new directions."
Of his own work, Ayckbourn once said "In a lot of my writing, people are watching things which have happened to them, happened to other people. A lot of the time they are laughing with relief at the recognition of themselves. And often with my plays they are able to say: 'Well at least we're not as bad as that.'"
To learn more about Sir Alan Ayckbourn, visit his official website at AlanAyckbourn.net
Directed by Ensemble Member
Eclipse Theatre opened the 2013 Alan Ayckbourn season with his black comedy, Woman in Mind. The comic poet of middle class life, always so very funny, goes deeper and darker in this triumphant play about a housewife named Susan who is married to a boring cleric named George. After getting knocked out by stepping on the tines of a garden rake, Susan experiences hilarious hallucinations in which her oppressive and boring everyday life is replaced by a fantasy in which she is an ideal wife and mother with an ideal family. While her real family treats her with condescension and apathy, her fantasy family dresses in lovely white, always drinks champagne, lives in a stately home, and tells her that she is wonderful. Eventually, the fantasy family becomes nightmarish and Susan begins to realize that she is going mad. Eclipse Ensemble Member and Goodman Theatre Associate Producer Steve Scott directs.
Directed by guest artist
The Ayckbourn season continued with his hilarious classic comedy, Bedroom Farce. Trevor and Susannah's marriage is on the rocks. They inflict their miseries on their nearest and dearest: three couples whose own relationships are tenuous at best. Taking place in the three beleaguered couples' bedrooms during one endless Saturday night of co-dependence and dysfunction--beds, tempers, and domestic order are ruffled, leading all the players to a hilariously touching epiphany. Remy Bumppo Theatre's new Artistic Director and Jeff Award Winning Actor Nick Sandys makes his Eclipse Theatre directorial debut.
Directed by guest artist
The Ayckbourn season concluded with the Chicago premiere of Haunting Julia. Julia Lukin was a musical prodigy who committed suicide 12 years earlier. Her father Joe has never come to terms with her death, and in the Julia Lukin Centre For Performing Studies, he hopes to discover what happened by meeting with a psychic, Ken, and Julia's boyfriend, Andy, who was the last person to see her alive. The men meet in Julia's preserved bedroom and Joe reveals that he believes Julia is trying to contact him, haunting him in order to explain what happened. Between the three men, the story of Julia's life and death is gradually revealed. As each of the men's feelings and recollections come to light, Ken believes Julia is poised to appear. Former Shattered Globe Artistic Director and Jeff Award Winning artist Kevin Hagan returns to Eclipse to direct the thrilling conclusion to the Alan Ayckbourn season.