Frequently Asked Questions: The National Theatre

This page contains FAQs concerning Alan Ayckbourn and association with the National Theatre. If there is a question not listed here which you feel should be listed, please contact the website via the Contact Us page.
1) When did Alan take a sabbatical from the Stephen Joseph Theatre to join the National Theatre?
2) What was Alan’s connection to the Stephen Joseph Theatre during this period?
3) What plays did he direct at the National Theatre during his sabbatical?
4) Is it true he considered not returning to Scarborough after the sabbatical?
5) Which Ayckbourn plays has the National Theatre produced?

1) When did Alan take a sabbatical from the Stephen Joseph Theatre to join the National Theatre?
Alan’s sabbatical from the Stephen Joseph Theatre Theatre was from 1986 to 1988. During this period he became a company director at the National Theatre and had his own acting company within the complex.

2) What was Alan’s connection with the Stephen Joseph Theatre during this period?
Alan remained the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round and this position was listed in programmes during the period. Robin Herford was also appointed Artistic Director and managed the day-to-day running of the theatre and seasonal programming decisions. During the one full year he was away (1987), Alan still wrote and directed Henceforward… for Scarborough.

3) What plays did Alan direct for the National Theatre during this sabbatical?
The National Theatre's Artistic Director Peter Hall originally arranged for Alan to direct three plays in each of the National Theatre’s auditoria. This was later extended to four plays. The plays were Tons Of Money (Lyttelton), A View From The Bridge (Cottesloe), A Small Family Business (Olivier) and ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore (Olivier). A View From The Bridge would also transfer to the West End - at the Aldwych Theatre - which meant Alan had to recast A Small Family Business during the latter part of its run. He also presented his revue Mere Soup Songs as a late night revue in the Lyttelton buffet restaurant.

4) Is it true Alan considered not returning to Scarborough after the sabbatical?
No. This was originally reported by Michael Coveney in the Financial Times during November 1986, but appears to have been reported on the basis of rumour and gossip rather than actual facts. Alan had made it clear in interviews prior to leaving that he would return to Scarborough in 1988, a point given extra weight as he remained Artistic Director throughout his sabbatical period. The fact that Alan had also committed himself in 1986 to writing and directing a new play in Scarborough, Henceforward..., for the 1987 season also suggests he was committed to Scarborough.
Possibly as a riposte to Coveney's statement, Alan made it clear in the February 1987 issue of
Plays International his full intentions: "I have every intention of returning to Scarborough in 1988 and indeed we are already beginning to think of what will be in the repertoire there then."
The final nail in the coffin of this myth is that Alan also announced he would direct his new play
Man Of The Moment for the 1988 Scarborough season while he was still at the National Theatre in 1987. Without any substantive evidence to prove otherwise, the 'news' was probably based on gossip, rumour and the fact the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round's relationship with Scarborough Council was going through a rocky patch at the time. To this day, there has been given no credible or reliable source given for this story.

5) Which Ayckbourn plays have been produced at the National Theatre?
The following Ayckbourn plays have been produced at the National Theatre: Bedroom Farce; Sisterly Feelings; Way Upstream; A Chorus Of Disapproval; A Small Family Business (originally in 1987 and revived in 2014); Invisible Friends; Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays; House & Garden; Season's Greetings. The revues Me, Myself And I and Mere Soup Songs have also been produced at the National Theatre.
Of these productions, all were directed by Alan Ayckbourn with the exception of
Season's Greetings in 2010 and A Small Family Business in 2014.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd.