Ayckbourn Chronology: 1976

Notable Events

During 1976, Alan Ayckbourn…

directed his final play at the Library Theatre with Just Between Ourselves which featured a Morris Minor on stage; the stage problematically being on the first floor of Scarborough's public library….

moved the Scarborough company from the Library Theatre to a 'temporary' home, the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round (at that point called Theatre in the Round at Westwood). Although intended to be a short-term solution to finding a new home, the company stayed there for 20 years.

directed Mr Whatnot at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, making its debut in the town more than a decade after being written.

saw New York's 45th Street renamed Ayckbourn Alley for a day on 28 January to mark the achievement of having four plays running simultaneously on Broadway (The Norman Conquests trilogy & Absurd Person Singular).

saw Time & Time Again adapted for television, starring Tom Courtenay and directer by Casper Wrede. It is broadcast on ITV and never repeated.

was featured in the ITV documentary series, The Playwrights and the BBC series Arena.

saw Samuel French publish Ernie's Incredible Illucinations.

World Premieres

Just Between Ourselves
28 January: The Library Theatre, Scarborough

Notable Ayckbourn Productions

Absurd Person Singular (Tour)
3 February: UK tour produced by Michael Codron
Confusions (West End premiere)
19 May: Apollo Theatre, London
Mr Whatnot (Revival)
26 October: Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round

Professional Directing

Just Between Ourselves
Mother Country
Mr Whatnot *
The Caretaker *

† The Library Theatre, Scarborough
* Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough

Plays In Other Media

Time & Time Again
Television: 18 May, ITV


"I dictate [the plays] straight to a lady on a typewriter. I write out a script in long hand, which is a sort of master plan of all the scenes and construction, and then I start dictating. Often things get hopelessly out of hand. Speeches take off, characters take off and they are a series of improvisations. It's quite interesting to work that way. At least everything I've said is spoken once, even if it's only by me and if I can say it, then an actor can say it."
(The Times, 5 January 1976)

"I have evolved ways of writing which I think most actors cotton on to, which includes breaking every rule in the grammatical book that has ever been invented. My use of the full stop, my English master would thoroughly disapprove of. There is no point in putting a semi-colon in the script, an actor doesn't know what it's there for, whether it's a long pause or a short pause. In general I tend to write in straight fragmented ways in order to bring over a sense of the dialogue, which I hope, rather like a musician might read, an actor can read. Unless you've got some knowledge of theatre it tends to look a bit odd. One word, full stop, which looks very strange."
(The Times, 5 January 1976)

"I feel more productive now than I've ever been. I am aware that unless you are very careful you can flog a thing to death. I feel that every play I write is going to be a better one than the one before and not just the same as the one before, otherwise there's no point in going on with it. I have a company who have been doing a lot of my plays for a long time and I have this sort of thing with them, where I would like to give them something which stretches them."
(The Times, 5 January 1976)

"I pretend not to pay any attention to what critics say. There's always that old joke that if a critic writes something nice about you he becomes very good. If he writes something bad he's obviously gone off. I think you are often worried if someone actively dislikes something you've done and look for the reason for it. I am probably more sensitive than a lot of people. A lot of my colleagues don't seem to read critics, which is almost as bad as reading them all. I'm wary of them. I was equally wary when I got all those lovely reviews for the
The Norman Conquests, because there was no way to go but down…. I do listen to the critics that I think are worth listening to, but I don't know that they have any positive contribution to make to what you are doing. By the time they've written their review a person like me is probably two or three plays ahead, and it is a little bit late to be able to do anything about it. If they say 'I wish he'd write a serious play' and you've got two more comedies queuing up in the West End, you say that's too bad, I'm going to get two more bad reviews from this man because I haven't taken his advice."
(The Times, 5 January 1976)

"I'm usually against whichever government is in at the time, simply because it often seems so incompetent. In general I try to reflect the sort of people I know, who are also a bit like this. They don't vote and they have wild prejudices occasionally which are not based on any deep-thought reason…. My characters tend to live rather from day to day, which I think most people do. They are that great big body in the middle in this country who are don't knows. They are not just the middle class, they go right through the class structure. They just say what's going on now."
(The Times, 5 January 1976)

Stephen Joseph took me under his wing. He had that ability to bring out talents people didn't know they had."
(The Times, 5 January 1976)

"I used to start with a situation and develop the characters from there, but now I do it the other way round and begin with characters. You could say I've moved away from situation comedy to character comedy."
(Yorkshire Evening Press, 16 January 1976)

acted in most of my early plays, which I don't recommend because you can't blame anyone if it doesn't work. If you're the actor, you can always blame the script. If you're the playwright, you can blame the actors. If you're both, you can't blame anyone but yourself: I'm sorry, it's rotten - and it's my fault."
(Washington Star, 22 February 1976)

"I talk to everyone. I talk to inanimate objects. As a writer, one is allowed to have conversations with oneself. What's considered sane in writers is mad for the rest of the human race."
(TV Times, 13 May 1976)

"I started exploring character and, when you do that, you're dealing with human nature. And, it's inevitable you hit on the darker side."
(TV Times, 13 May 1976)

"I have a built-in cut-off. I can be left. I'm quite happy to sit. If someone goes away and leaves me on my own they can come back days later and find me in the same place. Perhaps I've opened the odd tin of beans. I like the idea of non-productivity. I adore men who make battleships out of matchsticks."
(TV Times, 13 May 1976)

"I imagine I must be a disappointment. I'm afraid I'm one of those people who's a bit like everyone else. I think of the marvellous remark about 25 minutes after the person's left the room."
(Over 21, May 1976)

"Although I brood a lot over a play, I find the actual writing very, very depressing, and get it over in five or six days, writing right up to rehearsals. But then the
directing, which is a direct extension of the writing, means I continue to develop, well, discover the characters as I go along. I don't mean that I re-write - but I work out the stage directions."
(Over 21, May 1976)

"I always try to write about people to whom thing happen apparently by chance, life's onlookers who cannot do anything about controlling things and just have to cope. I hope they're recognisable but I don't consciously search for Mr Average."
(Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, May 1976)

"I am now moving towards my idol Chekhov who wrote the most perfect comedies of understanding."
(Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, May 1976)

"I'm not really in control these days of how they [the plays] turn out. I just sit down and write. My plays are getting darker and, from my point of view, better."
(Manchester Evening News, 19 August 1976)

"I'm not politically anything really. I just wrote about people as I see them."
(Liverpool Echo, August 1976)

"I badly need the theatre. I am excited by it and I love working in it. I am only a part-time writer - it only occupies my physically for about a week a year - and I'd be bloody bored for the other 51 weeks without the theatre."
(Sunday Times, December 1976)

"I get upset with people who think I am making an awful lot of money because if you live in this country you don't, you really don't. I'd be a lot richer living abroad, but I don't like abroad much."
(Sunday Times, December 1976)

Editor's note: During much of the 1970s, the UK was working under Prime Minister Harold Wilson's 'progressive tax' system which featured a top rate of income tax at 83% with a 15% surcharge on 'un-earned income' resulting in a 98% tax rate for high earners.]
All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd and copyright of Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.