Alan Ayckbourn

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Alan Ayckbourn is known primarily for his plays.


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A farceur of contemporary suburbia, Alan Ayckbourn enjoys distinction not only as a prolific writer of entertaining, well-made plays during a stage revolution when the pièce bien faite was out of fashion but also as a dramatist who, beginning in 1959, has averaged one play a year, claiming to have surpassed even William Shakespeare in the sheer quantity of plays written by the early 1990’s. His early reputation as a commercial dramatist, however, changed with the times and the development of his own style and themes, so that he has enjoyed productions of his plays even at the prestigious National Theatre in London. A critic of contemporary society’s greed, he has increasingly honed his farce into black comedy, earning for it the label of “theater of embarrassment.” In 1987 Ayckbourn was awarded a royal honor as Commander of the British Empire, and in 1997 he was knighted for services to the theater.

In 1992 he was appointed Cameron Mackintosh professor of contemporary theater at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford. Among other awards he has received are the Montblanc de la Culture Award for Europe and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Lifetime Achievement Award. He has received several honorary degrees, and his work has been translated into more than forty languages.


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Allen, Paul. Alan Ayckbourn: Grinning at the Edge. New York: Continuum, 2002. A biography that looks at the playwright’s life and works. Based on more than twenty years of interviews with Ayckbourn and of his friends and acquaintainces. Photographs. Index.

Billington, Michael. Alan Ayckbourn. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. A chronological analysis by a leading critic and scholar of Ayckbourn’s plays, from his earliest unpublished works to The Revengers’ Comedies.

Dukore, Bernard. Alan Ayckbourn: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1992. A compilation of lively, analytical articles on Ayckbourn’s plays in terms of their stylistic and thematic characteristics, as well as their effectiveness onstage. Includes an interview with Ayckbourn, a complete chronology, and an extensive bibliography.

Holt, Michael. Alan Ayckbourn. Plymouth, England: Northcote House, 1999. One of the British Council’s Writers and Their Works series, it is a sensible introduction. It contains a biography, bibliography, and commentary on the plays up to Things We Do for Love.

Kalson, Albert E. Laughter in the Dark: the Plays of Alan Ayckbourn. Cranbury, N.J.: Associated University Press for Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1993. The first chapter is biographical, then aspects of Ayckbourn’s theater are explored, including chapters on technique; men’s and women’s roles; and moral, social and political aspects. There is a separate chapter on Absent Friends. The best full study of the dramatist.

Page, Malcolm. File on Ayckbourn. London: Methuen Drama, 1989. A compilation of biographical information, production and publication data, synopses and comments on each play, interview excerpts, and a bibliography.

Watson, Ian. Conversations with Ayckbourn. Rev. ed. London: Faber & Faber, 1988. Unified into what seems to be an autobiography, Ayckbourn’s comments range over the achievements of his entire career. Includes useful play synopses and chronology.

White, Sidney Howard. Alan Ayckbourn. Boston: Twayne, 1984. A chronological discussion of Ayckbourn’s plays, tracing the dramatist’s progress from farce to plays of character up to 1972. Includes a chronology, a bibliography, and an index.

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