Frequently Asked Questions: London and the West End

This page contains FAQs concerning Alan Ayckbourn and his plays in London If there is a question not listed here which you feel should be listed, please contact the website via the Contact Us page.

1) What was the first Alan Ayckbourn play to be produced in London?
2) How many and which Ayckbourn plays have been produced in London's West End?
3) Which of the London premiere of his plays has Alan Ayckbourn directed?
4) Which London production had the longest run?
5) Which London production had the shortest run?
6) How many of the London produced plays have also had London revivals?
7) What was the West End record Alan Ayckbourn held? Are there any other West End records he holds?
8) Why did Alan Ayckbourn quit London in 2003 and decide to no longer let his new work be produced in the West End?
9) Which plays have been produced at the National Theatre?
10) Which plays have been performed in London's fringe theatres, but not the West End?

1) What was the first Alan Ayckbourn play to be produced in London?
The first Ayckbourn play to be produced in London was Mr Whatnot. This was premiered at the New Arts Theatre on 6 August 1964 with Ronnie Barker playing Lord Slingsby-Craddock and Peter King reprising the role of Mr Whatnot, which he created at the world premiere at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke On Trent, in 1963. Reviews for Mr Whatnot were generally mediocre to awful and the play closed on 22 August 1964. Alan's second London production was Relatively Speaking, which received an altogether different kind of reception!

2) How many and which Ayckbourn plays have been produced in London?
As of 2016, Alan has had 39 plays produced in London's West End (this does not include fringe productions or revivals; see question 4 concerning revivals). For consistency's sake, a London premiere is considered as taking place in a West End venue as defined by the Society Of London Theatre (which includes West End theatres as well as significant venues such as the National Theatre and the RSC at the Barbican). These plays are:

1964:
Mr Whatnot (New Arts)
1967:
Relatively Speaking (Duke Of York's)
1970:
How The Other Half Loves (Lyric)
1972:
Time And Time Again (Comedy)
1973:
Absurd Person Singular (Criterion, transferred to Vaudeville)
1974:
Table Manners (Globe)
1974:
Living Together (Globe)
1974:
Round And Round The Garden (Globe)
1975:
Absent Friends (Garrick)
1975:
Jeeves (Her Majesty's)
1976:
Confusions (Apollo)
1977:
Bedroom Farce (National, transferred to Prince Of Wales)
1977:
Just Between Ourselves (Queen's)
1978:
Ten Times Table (Globe)
1979:
Joking Apart (Globe)
1980:
Sisterly Feelings (National)
1980:
Taking Steps (Lyric)
1982:
Way Upstream (National)
1982:
Season's Greetings (Apollo)
1984:
Intimate Exchanges (Ambassadors)
1985:
A Chorus Of Disapproval (National, transferred to Lyric)
1986:
Woman In Mind (Vaudeville)
1987:
A Small Family Business (National)
1988:
Henceforward… (Vaudeville)
1990:
Man Of The Moment (Globe)
1991:
Invisible Friends (National)
1991:
The Revengers’ Comedies (Strand)
1993:
Mr A’s Amazing Maze Plays (National)
1993:
Time Of My Life (Vaudeville)
1993:
Wildest Dreams (Royal Shakespeare Company, The Pit)
1995:
Communicating Doors (Gielgud, transferred to Vaudeville)
1996:
By Jeeves (Duke Of York's, transferred to Lyric)
1998:
Things We Do For Love (Gielgud, transferred to Duchess)
1999:
Comic Potential (Lyric)
2000:
House (National)
2000:
Garden (National)
2002:
GamePlan (Duchess)
2002:
FlatSpin (Duchess)
2002:
RolePlay (Duchess)
2017:
The Divide (The Old Vic)

3) Which of the London premieres of his plays has Alan Ayckbourn directed?
Using the list from Question 2, Alan Ayckbourn has directed every West End premiere of his plays except for: Mr Whatnot (1964); Relatively Speaking (1967); How The Other Half Loves (1970); Time And Time Again (1972); Absurd Person Singular (1973); The Norman Conquests (1974); Absent Friends (1975); Jeeves (1975); Confusions (1976); Just Between Ourselves (1977); Taking Steps (1982). Alan Ayckbourn's dis-satisfaction with the 1982 West End production of Taking Steps is cited as the reason why Alan insisted that subsequently only he would direct the West End premieres of his plays.

4) Which London production had the longest run?
Statistically - for length of time the play was produced - Bedroom Farce had the longest run of Alan Ayckbourn's London productions. The play opened at the National Theatre before transferring to The Prince Of Wales Theatre as well as touring to America, including Broadway. It ran in London between 16 March 1977 and 29 September 1979. However, Bedroom Farce was in repertory so it may not have amassed the single most number of performances. The longest continuous run of a play was Absurd Person Singular which ran from 4 July 1973 to 1 November 1975, starting at the Criterion Theatre before transferring to the Vaudeville Theatre.

5) Which London production had the shortest run?
The play with the shortest run in London is not, as one might suppose, Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber's flop 1975 musical Jeeves which ran from 22 April to 24 May 1975. The shortest run of an Ayckbourn play was in fact Mr Whatnot, which ran from 6 to 22 August 1964 at the New Arts Theatre.

6) How many of the London produced plays have also had West End revivals?
There have been a number of separate revivals of Alan Ayckbourn plays in London (these being entirely new productions rather than revivals or transfers of the original London production). The revivals are:

1988:
How The Other Half Loves (Duke Of York's)
1990:
Absurd Person Singular (Whitehall)
2002:
Bedroom Farce (Aldwych)
2007:
Absurd Person Singular (Garrick)
2008:
Table Manners (Old Vic)
2008:
Living Together (Old Vic)
2008:
Round And Round The Garden (Old Vic)
2009:
Woman In Mind (Vaudeville Theatre)
2010:
Bedroom Farce (Duke of York's Theatre); Season's Greetings (National Theatre)
2012:
Absent Friends (Harold Pinter Theatre); A Chorus Of Disapproval (Harold Pinter Theatre)
2013:
Relatively Speaking (Wyndham's Theatre)
2014:
A Small Family Business (National Theatre)
2016:
How The Other Half Loves (Theatre Royal Haymarket)

7) What was the West End record Alan Ayckbourn held? Are there any other West End records he holds?
In 1975, Alan Ayckbourn held the record for the most productions taking place in the West End simultaneously with Absurd Person Singular, Table Manners, Living Together, Round And Round The Garden and Absent Friends. Although Alan does not hold any other official records, there is another probable record as it seems unlikely that any other playwright has had so may different plays produced in the West End (39 different plays as of 2013).
It has also been suggested that Alan Ayckbourn is unique in having plays running simultaneously at the National Theatre, in the West End and on the London fringe. This took place during between 21 May and 13 June 1987 when
A Small Family Business was at the National Theatre, Woman In Mind was at the Vaudeville Theatre and the revue The Westwoods was running at the Oxford Arms, Camden. It is not known for definite whether Alan is unique in this achievement, but it is notable nonetheless.

8) Why did Alan Ayckbourn quit London in 2003 and decide to no longer let his new work be produced in the West End?
In 2002, the London premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's Damsels In Distress trilogy was staged at the Duchess Theatre. Prior to the production, there had already been discussions whether only one of the plays should open in London - which Alan had firmly refused, insisting all three plays transfer to London or none at all. During the run of the trilogy, while Alan was in holiday in France, the producers took the trilogy out of repertory without consulting Alan. The run was reduced to daily performances of RolePlay with the only opportunity to see the entire trilogy confined to just Saturdays (it has since been suggested this was always the intention of at least one of the producers in order to concentrate on what was perceived as the strongest of the plays).
Although the producers argued this was done for financial reasons with
RolePlay being the most popular production, Alan was unhappy with the decision and the way the plays, his company and himself had been treated and the trilogy closed shortly afterwards. This proved the major motivation for Alan to announce he was quitting the West End and, as a result, ending a professional relationship with the producer Michael Codron which had existed since 1972.
In addition to this, a revival of
Bedroom Farce at the Aldwych Theatre in 2002, directed by Loveday Ingram, was perceived by Alan as being extremely unsatisfactory. These factors, combined with Alan's dissatisfaction and long-held views about how the West End operates and its over reliance on 'star' actors, led him to announce he would no longer bring his new plays to London or allow them to be produced in the West End.
This led to a period of four years when no Ayckbourn plays were produced in the West End, ending in 2007 when the producer Bill Kenwright was given permission to revive
Absurd Person Singular at the Aldwych Theatre.
This was followed in 2008 by the critically acclaimed revival of
The Norman Conquests at The Old Vic and there has been at least one major West End revival of an Ayckbourn play every year since. Alan Ayckbourn has confirmed he is now happy to allow revivals of his established work in London, but he has no intention off letting his new and recent plays be produced in the West End unless he has full control over the production.

9) Which plays have been produced at the National Theatre?
The National Theatre has produced: 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. Further details of Alan Ayckbourn's association with the National Theatre can be found in the National Theatre FAQ page by clicking here.

10) Which plays have been performed in London's fringe theatre, but not the West End?
A number of Alan Ayckbourn's plays have been performed in London, but not in the West End. For consistency, a London fringe venue is considered one recognised by the Society Of London Theatres, but which the Society does not classify as being in the West End.

1978:
Family Circles (Orange Tree Theatre)
1981:
Suburban Strains (The Roundhouse)
1983:
Making Tracks (Greenwich Theatre)
2005:
Private Fears In Public Places (Orange Tree Theatre)
2010:
My Wonderful Day (Richmond Theatre)
2011:
Snake In The Grass (The Print Room)
2011:
Haunting Julia (Riverside Studios)
2011:
Drowning On Dry Land (Jermyn Street Theatre)
2011:
Life Of Riley (Richmond Theatre)
2012:
Neighbourhood Watch (Tricycle Theatre)
2012:
The Boy Who Fell Into A Book (Soho Theatre)
2013:
Surprises (Richmond Theatre)

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd