Alan Ayckbourn Biography

Biography (Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Alan Ayckbourn was born in Hampstead, London, on April 12, 1939, to Horace and Irene Worley Ayckbourn, his father the first violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra and his mother a novelist and short-story writer for popular women’s magazines. In 1943, when he was five, his parents were divorced and his mother married Cecil Pye, a manager for Barclays Bank. Winning a Barclays Bank scholarship, Ayckbourn attended Haileybury School in Hertfordshire, where, during the next five years, he became interested in drama, touring in Holland as Peter in Romeo and Juliet and in the United States and Canada as Macduff in Macbeth.

Thus began Ayckbourn’s lifelong affair with the theater. He left school with “A” levels in English and history and, at seventeen, joined Sir Donald Wolfit’s company at the Edinburgh Festival as acting assistant stage manager. He also worked in summer theater at Leatherhead and then at Scarborough’s Studio Theatre (under Stephen Joseph, son of actress Hermione Ferdinanda Gingold), writing plays even as he was initiated into the production rites of professional theater.

In 1959, Ayckbourn married actress Christine Roland, had a son (Steven Paul), and saw two of his plays (The Square Cat and Love After All) produced in Scarborough under the pseudonym of Roland Allen. In 1962, his second son, Nicholas Phillip, was born, and in 1964, Ayckbourn’s Mr. Whatnot opened at the...

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Alan Ayckbourn Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

One of the most inventive dramatists of his day, Alan Ayckbourn (AYK-bawrn) has been compared to Neil Simon for his hilarious and prolific output of popular plays.{$S[A]Allen, Roland;Ayckbourn, Alan}

Ayckbourn’s father, Horace, was a violinist for the London Symphony Orchestra; his mother, Irene, was a writer of romance fiction known by her pen name, Mary James. His parents divorced by the time he was four years old; when Ayckbourn was seven, his mother married a Sussex bank manager. There were no siblings, though he had a stepbrother who was several years younger. In an interview, he later said that his early life was not completely happy, elaborating that “the air was often blue, and things were sometimes flying across the kitchen.” Ayckbourn escaped some of his tempestuous home life when he began to attend boarding school at the age of seven, though he returned home on weekends. By the age of eleven, when he won a scholarship to a prestigious preparatory school, he was already writing plays for himself as an actor. While in school, he briefly toured Europe, Canada, and parts of the United States with a youth theater group.

In 1956, at the age of seventeen, Ayckbourn, having decided to become an actor, began to work in repertory theater. Of this time he once said that “I never, in all my years of acting, was ever unemployed.” During this period, he married Christine Roland, with whom he had two children.

Ayckbourn eventually found an artistic home with the Stephen Joseph Company in Scarborough. Joseph, the son of the well-known British actress Hermionie Gingold, had great respect for playwrights, and he encouraged Ayckbourn to write. One of Ayckbourn’s early experiences at that theater was playing a role for, and working closely with, Harold Pinter on The Birthday Party (1958). His brief relationship with Pinter influenced many of his views on the creation of character and dialogue. The fact that the Stephen Joseph Company...

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Alan Ayckbourn Biography (Drama for Students)

Alan Ayckbourn Published by Gale Cengage

Alan Ayckbourn was born April 12, 1939, in the London suburb of Hampstead. His parents divorced in 1943, and his mother, a writer of romantic fiction, later remarried. Ayckbourn grew up in Sussex, which he features as the setting for many of his plays. During high school he devoted most of his time to acting in and writing plays. At the age of seventeen he left school and started a career in the theater. After a few years working as an assistant stage manager and actor for Sir Donald Wolfit’s touring company, Ayckbourn began a fruitful relationship with the Studio Theater Company in Scarborough, a small resort town in the South of England.

There, Ayckbourn worked for Stephen Joseph, an innovative stage manager who had introduced the concept of theater-in-the-round to England. (Ayckbourn modeled the character of Llewellyn in A Chorus of Disapproval on Joseph.) Ayckbourn soon started writing plays for the company. He left to work as a drama producer for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). After Joseph’s death in 1970, Ayckbourn returned to Scarborough to become the company’s director of productions. He renamed the theater the Stephen Joseph Theater-inthe- Round.

In 1997, Ayckbourn fought a protracted battle with the Scarborough Town Council over funding for the faltering theater. He himself had already contributed 400,000 pounds from his own pocket, which was topped by a two million pound grant from the British National Lottery. He requested a five-year, 50,000 pound per year grant. The dispute was dubbed the battle of the ‘‘luvvies versus lavvies,’’ because opponents of Ayckbourn’s request claimed that funding the theater would necessitate closing the town’s public toilets. Ayckbourn fought a public relations campaign; when he was knighted by the Queen later that year, he won the battle. The Scarborough public toilets also managed to stayed open. Alan Ayckbourn

Ayckbourn writes light comedies about middle class morals and manners. His first major success was Relatively Speaking, which opened in March, 1967, around the same time that Tom Stoppard’s more structurally innovative absurdist farce Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead opened at the National Theater. For some time, Ayckbourn’s adherence to the genre of light comedy damaged his reputation in comparison to innovators such as Stoppard Harold Pinter (The Birthday Party), and Joe Orton (What the Butler Saw). But he has always been popular with audiences, and critics have gradually come to praise his dramatic talents.

Ayckbourn has now written more plays than Shakespeare, and, according to Simon Trussler in the Cambridge Illustrated Hisory of the British Theatre, his sell-out seasons at the National Theater demonstrate a box-office appeal ‘‘unequalled since Shakespeare.’’ He has also written a great many adaptations for the stage (including an acclaimed version of Russian playwright Alexander Ostrovsky’s play The Forest [1870] staged at the National Theater in the mid-1990s). He is also a respected director; he directed the premiere of A Chorus of Disapproval in 1984, and in 1987 he directed an awardwinning production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge.