Alan Ayckbourn Has Surprises Up His Sleeve; His 76th Play Premieres July 12 in England

News   Alan Ayckbourn Has Surprises Up His Sleeve; His 76th Play Premieres July 12 in England
Alan Ayckbourn directs the world premiere of his 76th play, Surprises, for The Stephen Joseph Theatre, his longtime artistic home in Scarborough, England. The co-production with Chichester Festival Theatre plays SJT July 12-29 and returns Sept. 11-Oct. 13.

Alan Ayckbourn
Alan Ayckbourn Photo by Tony Bartholomew

The play is about "love stories yet to happen in a future filled with surprises," according to the company, of which Ayckbourn used to be artistic director. "Who is the amorous stranger, Titus, who materializes in young Grace's bedroom? Can she believe he is who he says he is? For her parents, Franklin and Martha, does love everlasting still hold true if death is postponed indefinitely? Can lawyer, Lorraine, who prides herself on her infallibility, have finally discovered the ideal partner, one who is also never wrong? Will lonely secretary Sylvia, after unhappy affairs with everyone from deep sea divers and space shuttle pilots, ever find her Mr. Right?"

Ayckbourn, the author of Absurd Person Singular, The Norman Conquests and Bedroom Farce, said in a statement, "I describe it as a play with its head in the future, but with its heart in the past. Surprises is essentially several love stories but love stories that have a spin on them. It's science fiction but used as an allegory — as most good sci-fi is — to reflect what's happening today. It's about longevity. The chances of people living longer and longer as the centuries go by are increasingly plausible and certainly quite interesting dramatically."

The production stars Ayesha Antoine, Bill Champion, Laura Doddington, Sarah Parks, Ben Porter and Richard Stacey, all recently of Alan Ayckbourn's 40th anniversary production of Absurd Person Singular at SJT.

The designer is Michael Holt. The lighting designer is Jason Taylor.

Absurd Person Singular and Surprises are part of the London 2012 Festival, a nationwide festival which continues through Sept. 9 and features leading artists from around the world. The two plays will also play at Chichester Festival Theatre from Aug. 8-Sept. 8 before returning home to Scarborough. Most of Ayckbourn's 76 plays premiered at the SJT. More than half have subsequently been staged in the West End or at the National Theatre. They have been translated into 35 languages, are performed throughout the world and have received many national and international awards. In 2009 he was awarded The Laurence Olivier Awards' Special Award. In 2010 he received a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre.

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