Alan Ayckbourn: Chronology

The Chronology section offers a guide to Alan Ayckbourn's life and thoughts. Click on a year in the right-hand column to get more in-depth details for each year including quotes from the playwright
1939: Born 12 April in Hampstead to Irene Maud Worley (‘Lolly’) and Horace Ayckbourn.

1946: Attends Wisborough Lodge in Billinghurst, West Sussex.

1948: First 'published work' with the poem The Old House in The Lodgean school magazine.

1951: Receives a Barclays Bank scholarship to attend Haileybury & Imperial Service College in Hertford.

1954: First professional publication with the poem Dawn printed in the December edition of Young Elizabethan magazine.

1955: Tours Netherlands in a school production of Romeo and Juliet (would also tour eastern USA and Canada in Macbeth in 1956); Stephen Joseph founds The Library Theatre, Scarborough.

1956: Leaves Haileybury; first professional job as an actor with Sir Donald Wolfit's company at the Edinburgh Festival; joins Connaught Theatre, Worthing, as student assistant stage manager.

1957: Sees theatre-in-the-round for the first time (14 April); joins Studio Theatre Ltd at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, as acting stage manager preceded by work with the Leatherhead Theatre Club and followed by a winter season at Oxford Playhouse.

1958: Returns to Scarborough as actor; Stephen Joseph commissions his first play; proposes to Christine Roland.

1959: Premiere of first play The Square Cat on 30 July at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre (written as Roland Allen); plays Stanley in Harold Pinter's self-directed second production of The Birthday Party; marries Christine Roland.
Plays: The Square Cat; Love After All

1960: National Service at RAF Cardington, Bedfordshire (lasting just two days); returns to Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre, Scarborough.
Plays: Dad’s Tale

1961: Directorial debut with Gaslight at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre; taken on by the literary agent Margaret 'Peggy' Ramsay.
Plays: Standing Room Only

1962: Leaves Scarborough to become founder member of Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent; stops writing under the pseudonym Roland Allen.
Plays: Christmas V Mastermind; Countdown (one act)

1963: Directs one of his own plays for the first time with Standing Room Only; Directs the world premiere of one of his own plays for the first time with Mr Whatnot.
Plays: Mr Whatnot

1964: Mr Whatnot becomes his first play to transfer to the West End, closing quickly afterwards; leaves Victoria Theatre; final professional acting role in Two For The Seesaw at Rotherham;

1965: Joins the BBC in Leeds as a radio drama producer; Stephen Joseph directs the world premiere of Meet My Father (Relatively Speaking); Stephen Joseph is diagnosed with cancer and announces Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre will close due to lack of support from Scarborough Town Council.
Plays: Relatively Speaking

1966: Having been closed as a professional venue at the end of the 1965 season by Stephen Joseph, Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, hosts an amateur theatrical season.

1967: Relatively Speaking opens in London and is his first major hit; Stephen Joseph dies; Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre reopens as a professional venue; directs the world premiere of one of his own plays (The Sparrow) at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, for the first time; nominated for the Italia Prize for his radio production of Don Haworth's There's No Point Arguing The Toss.
Plays: The Sparrow

1968: Relatively Speaking becomes the first Ayckbourn play to be published.

1969: Writes for the ITV series Hark At Barker under the pseudonym Peter Caulfied as under contract with the BBC; an abridged production of Relatively Speaking becomes the first Ayckbourn play to be broadcast on television; appointed Director Of Productions for the 1969 Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre summer season.
Plays: How The Other Half Loves; Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations (children's play)

1970: Resigns from the BBC to concentrate on playwriting (23 June); How The Other Half Loves opens in the West End; appointed Director of Productions at Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre for a second year; directs Relatively Speaking for the first time with an amateur production in Leeds.
Plays: Family Circles

1971: How The Other Half Loves becomes the first Ayckbourn play to open on Broadway; nominated for the Italia Prize for his radio production of Don Haworth's We All Come To It In The End.
Plays: Time And Time Again

1972: Becomes Artistic Director of Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre, Scarborough; the noted London producer Michael Codron opens his first Ayckbourn play in the West End, Time And Time Again; Countdown is produced for television.
Plays: Absurd Person Singular

1973: Receives his first award with Absurd Person Singular winning the Evening Standard Award For Best Comedy; Samuel French Ltd publishes its first Ayckbourn play text with Time And Time Again.
Plays: The Norman Conquests (Table Manners; Living Together; Round And Round The Garden)

1974: Variety Club of Great Britain Playwright of the Year; The Norman Conquests opens to critical and commercial success in the West End; his first and only television screenplay Service Not Included broadcast; first major documentary on Alan Ayckbourn is screened on BBC2; threatens to leave Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre if Scarborough Town Council does not support the venue.
Plays: Absent Friends; Confusions; Service Not Included (screenplay)

1975: Breaks record for most productions running simultaneously both in the West End and on Broadway; first entry in Who's Who & Encyclopaedia Britannica; Chatto & Windus publish the first mass-market edition of an Ayckbourn play with The Norman Conquests; his first musical Jeeves (written with Andrew Lloyd Webber) is produced in the West End, closing soon afterwards; Relatively Speaking becomes the first of many Ayckbourn plays to be broadcast on BBC Radio.
Plays: Jeeves (with Andrew Lloyd Webber); Bedroom Farce

1976: Scarborough company moves from Theatre in the Round at the Library Theatre to the Theatre in the Round at Westwood (later renamed the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round), Scarborough; Time And Time Again is broadcast on television.
Plays: Just Between Ourselves

1977: First premiere at the National Theatre with Bedroom Farce - his first play specifically written for the end-stage; first London directing credit with Bedroom Farce; becomes Chair of the Drama Panel of Yorkshire Arts Association; The Norman Conquests is broadcast on television.
Plays: Ten Times Table

1978: Directs the West End premiere of one of his own plays for the first time with Ten Times Table; collaborates with Paul Todd to write his first musical revue, Men On Women On Men; Just Between Ourselves broadcast on television.
Plays: Joking Apart; Men On Women On Men (revue with Paul Todd)

1979: Steps down from Yorkshire Arts Association citing work commitments; writes the first of his 'chance' plays Sisterly Feelings.
Plays: Sisterly Feelings; Taking Steps

1980: Writes Suburban Strains with Paul Todd, his first full length musical since Jeeves; Taking Steps marks the final West End premiere of an Ayckbourn play not directed by the author himself.
Plays: Suburban Strains (with Paul Todd); Season’s Greetings; First Course (revue with Paul Todd); Second Helping (revue with Paul Todd)

1981: Premieres Way Upstream, which involves flooding the stage at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough; Conversations With Ayckbourn by Ian Watson is published - considered the first significant book about Alan Ayckbourn.
Plays: Way Upstream; Me, Myself & I (revue with Paul Todd)

1982: The National Theatre is literally flooded when the water tank for the transfer of Way Upstream splits spilling water into the bowels of the building; writes and produces his epic cycle Intimate Exchanges - a play with 16 possible permutations; featured in the first episode of the BBC arts programme Omnibus.
Plays: Intimate Exchanges; A Trip To Scarborough (adaptation)

1983: Arts Council Cultural Trends reports "Ayckbourn more popular than Shakespeare" (statistically the most watched and performed playwright in regional repertory theatres in the UK between 1981-1983).
Plays: It Could Be Any One Of Us; Incidental Music (revue with Paul Todd)

1984: A Cut In The Rates broadcast on television; the first UK tour of Way Upstream takes place - without water.
Plays: A Chorus Of Disapproval; The 7 Deadly Virtues (revue with Paul Todd); The Westwoods (revue with Paul Todd); A Cut In The Rates (one act)

1985: Wins his first Olivier Award with the Best Comedy Award for A Chorus Of Disapproval; Absent Friends and Absurd Person Singular broadcast on television.
Plays: Woman In Mind; Boy Meets Girl (revue with Paul Todd); Girl Meets Boy (revue with Paul Todd); Tons Of Money (adaptation)

1986: Begins a two year sabbatical from Scarborough as visiting director at the National Theatre; appointed Freeman of the Borough of Scarborough; Faber & Faber publishes its first Ayckbourn play text with A Chorus Of Disapproval; Season's Greetings broadcast on television.
Plays: Mere Soup Songs (revue with Paul Todd)

1987: Receives CBE; directs A View From The Bridge at the National Theatre to universal acclaim
Plays: A Small Family Business; Henceforward…

1988: Returns to Scarborough; writes his first family play since 1962 with Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays; Alan Strachan's Greenwich Theatre revival of How The Other Half Loves becomes the first Ayckbourn play to have a West End revival; Way Upstream broadcast on television.
Plays: Man Of The Moment; Mr. A’s Amazing Maze Plays

1989: Celebrates 50th birthday by writing the epic The Revengers' Comedies; the film of A Chorus Of Disapproval is released.
Plays: The Revengers’ Comedies; Invisible Friends; The Inside Outside Slide Show (children's play); Wolf At The Door (adaptation)

1990: Directs his first Shakespeare play Othello, starring Michael Gambon, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough; launches a £3.5m appeal (which will later rise to more than £5m) to convert Scarborough's derelict Odeon cinema into a state-of-the-art theatre; the BBC dedicates an Omnibus documentary to Alan Ayckbourn; Michael Billington's acclaimed Modern Dramatists - Alan Ayckbourn is published.
Plays: Body Language; This Is Where We Came In; Callisto 5

1991: Alan Ayckbourn's literary agent Margaret Ramsay dies on 4 September; the Sunday Times names Alan Ayckbourn as one of the '1,000 makers of the 20th century'.
Plays: Wildest Dreams; My Very Own Story

1992: Appointed Cameron Macintosh Visiting Professor of Contemporary Theatre, at Oxford University; collaborates with John Pattison on their first musical Dreams From A Summer House.
Plays: Time Of My Life; Dreams From A Summer House (with John Pattison)

1993: Receives Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Lifetime Achievement Award; the Royal Shakespeare Company stages its first Ayckbourn play with Wildest Dreams.

1994: Receives Montblanc de la Culture Award for Europe; the film of Smoking / No Smoking (Intimate Exchanges), directed by Alain Resnais, is released; television's The South Bank Show broadcasts the first of two masterclasses with Alan Ayckbourn; named Yorkshire Man Of The Year - despite not coming from Yorkshire!
Plays: Communicating Doors; Haunting Julia; The Musical Jigsaw Play (with John Pattison)

1995: Directs his final play at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, with Betrayal by Harold Pinter.
Plays: A Word From Our Sponsor (with John Pattison)

1996: Receives the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Best West End Play for Communicating Doors; Scarborough company moves to the Stephen Joseph Theatre; revises and revives Jeeves with Andrew Lloyd Webber to By Jeeves with great success.
Plays: The Champion Of Paribanou; By Jeeves (revised with Andrew Lloyd Webber)

1997: Knighted 'for services to theatre'; marries Heather Stoney; receives Lloyds Private Banking Playwright of the Year; receives first Moliére Award for Best Comedy for Communicating Doors; funding crisis at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
Plays: Things We Do For Love

1998: Leads resignation of entire Drama Advisory Panel of the Arts Council in protest at new policies being instigated by the Government.
Plays: Comic Potential; Cheap And Cheerful (revue with Denis King)

1999: Adapts Ostrovsky's The Forest for the National Theatre; announces he will no longer direct plays by other writers; National Theatre survey of 800 theatre professionals places him as the 14th most influential playwright of the century and The Norman Conquests as one of the hundred greatest plays of the century; celebrates his 60th birthday by writing House & Garden; Ayckbourn plays are included in the National Curriculum for the first time; his mother Irene Maud Worley dies.
Plays: House & Garden; Callisto#7 (revised); Gizmo (children's play); The Forest (adaptation)

2000: Directs House & Garden at the National Theatre - two plays performed simultaneously in two auditoria by the same cast; collaborates with Denis King on their first musical Whenever.
Plays: Virtual Reality; Whenever (with Denis King)

2001: Receives Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence; directs on Broadway for the first time with By Jeeves; first Ayckbourn And The Round event at Scarborough; official biography - Grinning At The Edge - by Paul Allen published.
Plays: Damsels In Distress (GamePlan; FlatSpin; RolePlay)

2002: Directs world premiere of Tim Firth's The Safari Party, his final non-Ayckbourn directed play; his first book The Crafty Art Of Playmaking is published; is officially launched; By Jeeves is broadcast on television (Canada) and released on DVD.
Plays: Snake In The Grass; The Jollies; The Princess And The Mouse (children's play)

2003: Announces he will no longer allow his new plays to be produced in London's West End; collaborates with the National Youth Music Theatre to stage Orvin - Champion Of Champions.
Plays: Sugar Daddies; Orvin - Champion Of Champions (with Denis King); My Sister Sadie; The Ten Magic Bridges (for children)

2004: Receives Variety Club Of Great Britain Lifetime Achievement Award.
Plays: Drowning On Dry Land; Private Fears In Public Places; Miss Yesterday; Miranda’s Magic Mirror (for children)

2005: Directs the American premiere of Private In Public Places at the Brits Off Broadway Festival to critical acclaim; the Stephen Joseph Theatre celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Plays: Improbable Fiction; The Girl Who Lost Her Voice (for children)

2006: Suffers a stroke (21 February); returns to the Stephen Joseph Theatre to direct If I Were You in September; the film of Private Fears In Public Places, directed by Alain Resnais, is released
Plays: If I Were You

2007: Announces decision to step down as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre (1 June); directs American premiere of Intimate Exchanges at the Brits Off Broadway; Absurd Person Singular opens to acclaim at the Garrick Theatre, London, the first Ayckbourn play to open in London's West End since 2002; Alan Ayckbourn's second, long thought lost play Love After All is found by Simon Murgatroyd and the British Library.

2008: The Norman Conquests is revived by Matthew Warchus at The Old Vic, London, to unanimous critical acclaim; the Stephen Joseph Theatre dedicates its summer season to Alan Ayckbourn to mark his final year as Artistic Director.
Plays: Life & Beth; Awaking Beauty (with Denis King)

2009: Steps down as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre; inducted into the American Theater's Hall Of Fame; his 2008 revival of Woman In Mind transfers to London; receives the Olivier Award's Special Award; BBC Radio broadcasts a major tribute to mark 70th birthday; The Norman Conquests win a Tony for Best Revival; directs American premiere of My Wonderful Day at the Brits Off Broadway festival.
Plays: My Wonderful Day

2010: Receives Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre; receives Critics' Circle Award for Services To The Arts; Season's Greetings revived at the National Theatre; directs acclaimed revival of Taking Steps at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond; first Ayckbourn Weekend event is launched; Season's Greetings become the first Ayckbourn play to be published digitally.
Plays: Life Of Riley

2011: Premieres Dear Uncle, an adaptation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya; The University Of York acquires the Ayckbourn Archive for the nation; directs American premiere of Neighbourhood Watch at the Brits Off Broadway festival; the BBC dedicates an episode of the Arts documentary series Imagine to Alan Ayckbourn.
Plays: Neighbourhood Watch; Dear Uncle (adaptation)

2012: Premieres his 76th play, Surprises, as well as directing the 40th anniversary revival of Absurd Person Singular as part of the London 2012 Festival; Alan Ayckbourn tops the What's On Stage Jubilee Playwrights Poll; Jeremy Herrin revives Absent Friends and Trevor Nunn revives A Chorus Of Disapproval; BBC HardTALK and Sky Arts' In Confidence feature Alan Ayckbourn.
Plays: Surprises

2013: Writes Farcicals - his first one act plays not commissioned to be part of another play or event; Relatively Speaking is revived in the West End; directs North American premiere of Sugar Daddies at ACT, Seattle; Surprises nominated for UK Theatre Awards' Best New Play.
Plays: Arrivals & Departures; Chloë With Love (one act); The Kidderminster Affair (one act)

2014: The film of Aimer, Boire et Chanter (adapted from Life Of Riley), directed by Alain Resnais, premieres at the Berlin Film Festival; National Theatre revives A Small Family Business and it becomes the first Ayckbourn play to be streamed live to cinemas; Time magazine names Arrivals & Departures as one of its top ten shows of 2014.
Plays: Roundelay

2015: Stephen Joseph Theatre celebrates its 60th anniversary; Relatively Speaking celebrates 50th anniversary; Menier Chocolate Factory revives Communicating Doors; writes his first novel, The Divide - a special gala reading is arranged for the SJT's 50th anniversary.
Plays: Hero's Welcome

2016: Tours Hero's Welcome and Confusions to the Brits Off Broadway festival, New York; awarded Oxford Literary Festival Honorary Fellowship; How The Other Half Loves has its first major West End revival since 1970; writes his first play with improvisational elements with The Karaoke Theatre Company.
Plays: Consuming Passions; The Karaoke Theatre Company (live entertainment); No Knowing (one act)

2017: Celebrates his 60th anniversary with the Stephen Joseph Theatre company with a two part gala event, A Brief History of Plays; The Divide marks the first Ayckbourn work at Edinburgh International Festival; revives By Jeeves to mark the 25th anniversary of the Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-on-Windermere.
Plays: A Brief History of Women

2018: Appointed Director Emeritus of the Stephen Joseph Theatre; The Divide staged at The Old Vic; A Brief History Of Women transfers to the 59E59 Theaters, New York for the Brits Off Broadway festival; recipient of The Oldie Of The Year Awards - Oldie Drama King Of The Year.
Plays: Better Off Dead

2019: Celebrates his 80th birthday and his 60th playwriting anniversary; celebrated his anniversaries with 80 Years Young event at the Stephen Joseph Theatre; his first novel, The Divide, published; Standing Room Only given its first public performance since 1966 by Dick & Lottie theatre company.
Plays: Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present

2020: Truth Will Out is announced by the SJT but cancelled due to the global Covid-19 pandemic; Anno Domino - featuring Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney in all roles - is premiered online during the theatre lockdown; By Jeeves live-streamed on YouTube as part of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Shows Must Go On!; directs and performs in an audio recording of Haunting Julia.
Plays: Anno Domino

2021: The Girl Next Door, written during the 2020 Covid lockdown, is premiered as the only in-house summer production at the SJT due to Covid-19 theatre restrictions and becomes the first Ayckbourn directed in-the-round production to be filmed.
Plays: The Girl Next Door

2022: All Lies premieres at The Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-on-Windermere; the first Ayckbourn play not to premiere in Scarborough since 1987. The 50th anniversary of Absurd Person Singular is marked with the playwright leading a rehearsed reading of the play; Bedroom Farce adapted for radio by BBC Radio 4; inaugurates the Portholes in Time project in Scarborough.
Plays: All Lies; Family Album

2023: Truth Will Out - his canceled 2020 play - is premiered as a rehearsed reading as part of a fundraising event; The Ayckbourn Collection is donated to Scarborough Museums and Galleries; almost 60 years after its premiere, Relatively Speaking has its first major French production Une Situation Délicate.
Welcome to the Family; Constant Companions; Truth Will Out (rehearsed reading)

2024: Will premiere his 90th play, Show & Tell.
Show & Tell
The concise chronology is copyright of Simon Murgatroyd and should not be reproduced without permission. All research for this section is also by Simon Murgatroyd and should be credited if reproduced.