Alan Ayckbourn: Archived Press Releases

This page contains archived press releases relating to previous significant news on Alan Ayckbourn, productions and associated events. Current press releases can be found here.

If you have an enquiry regarding Alan Ayckbourn or his plays, please contact Simon Murgatroyd at

World Premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's The Girl Next Door

The world premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's latest play - The Girl Next Door - marks Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre’s first in-house production of 2021.
The 85th play by the prolific dramatist, directed by the author, can be seen at the SJT from Friday 4 June to Saturday 3 July.
The Girl Next Door sees veteran actor Rob Hathaway stuck at home during the summer of 2020 with only his sensible older sister for company. Rob has little to do but relive his glory days when, as the star of the nation’s favourite TV period drama National Fire Service, he ruled the roost as George ‘Tiger’ Jennings: wartime hero, and living legend among firefighters.
Then one day Rob spots a stranger hanging out the washing in the adjoining garden. But the neighbours haven’t been around for months. So who is the mysterious girl next door? And why is she wearing 1940s clothing?
Alan Ayckbourn says: “I was born in 1939, so my earliest memories are of a sort of lockdown: of crowding into Anderson shelters or subway stations; of sleeping in deckchairs or on my mother’s lap. Things have come full circle for me.
The Girl Next Door is an affirmation of love across the generations – I hope it’s positive and hopeful for those today crawling out of their metaphorical Anderson shelters blinking into the light."
In a move designed to keep the show running if any of the company exhibit symptoms of Covid-19, the production will feature two separate casts.
The bulk of the shows will be performed by Bill Champion, Linford Johnson, Alexandra Mathie and Naomi Petersen who will make up a bubble with their stage management team.
But should any of that bubble show symptoms, the entire group will have to self- isolate - and a second bubble comprising Georgia Burnell, Michael Hobbs, Tayla Kovacevic-Ebong, Eliza McClelland and a second stage management team will be ready to step in. They will also perform the show on a number of dates throughout the run.
The SJT’s Artistic Director, Paul Robinson, says: “The safety of our audiences, staff and visiting freelancers, including the actors, is paramount.
“For this first show of 2021, which opens before the final step of the government’s roadmap on 21 June, we thought it was important to have a second team on hand in case of any problems.”
Written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, assisted by the SJT’s Associate Director (Carne Trust) Chelsey Gillard,
The Girl Next Door is designed by Kevin Jenkins with lighting design by Jason Taylor. Casting is by Sarah Hughes CDG.
The Girl Next Door can be seen in the Round at the SJT from Friday 4 June to Saturday 3 July. Tickets, priced from £10, are available from the box office on 01723 370541 and online at

Updated: 2 June 2021

Haunting Julia - A Chilling Audio Play For Christmas

Alan Ayckbourn's 1994 supernatural play Haunting Julia is being streamed this Christmas as a seasonal ghost story.

Following the success of the world premiere of his play
Anno Domino as an audio play during lockdown, the playwright has recorded Haunting Julia, which will be streamed by the Stephen Joseph Theatre throughout December and January.

As well as directing and producing the recording, Alan Ayckbourn is voicing all three male roles of Joe, Ken and Andy.

Haunting Julia was premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough, in 1994 and is about a grieving father, still trying to come to terms with the death of his musical genius daughter 12 years earlier. On the site of the room where she died, Joe meets with Julia's old boyfriend and a purported psychic to try and discover the truth behind Julia's death. But is he prepared to hear the truth and could Julia herself be behind unexplained recent events?

Haunting Julia is produced by Haydonning Ltd and will be streamed via the Stephen Joseph Theatre's website from 1 December 2020 until 31 January 2021. The stream will cost £12 to listen to and bookings are now open via the SJT website

This audio play will be available to bookers from 1 December 2020 until 31 January 2021. Once you have bought a ticket, you can listen as many times as you like during that time period.

Haunting Julia is written, performed and directed by Alan Ayckbourn with sound by Naomi Petersen and final mix by Paul Stear.

Updated on 31 December 2020

Alan Ayckbourn's Latest Play Premieres Online During Lockdown

The Stephen Joseph Theatre is proud to present the world premiere of a new play by Alan Ayckbourn - Anno Domino.

The show, which will be available as an audio recording exclusively on the SJT’s website from 25 May to 2 July, is the writer’s 84th, and will also mark his return to acting - 56 years after his last appearance on a professional stage.

The 81-year-old Olivier and Tony Award-winning author has teamed up with his wife, actress Heather Stoney, to record the new show.

Ayckbourn was due to direct the world premiere of a new play written by him,
Truth Will Out, alongside a new production of his 1976 classic Just Between Ourselves and SJT Artistic Director Paul Robinson’s production of The Ladykillers at the Scarborough theatre this summer.

However, after the SJT’s summer season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, Ayckbourn, a former radio producer, suggested a plan to debut an unseen play recorded by himself and Stoney to be presented online by the SJT.

Anno Domino looks at the break-up of a long-established marriage and the effect that has on family and friends.

In it, Ayckbourn and Stoney play four characters each, with an age range of 18 to mid-70s. It’s the first time they’ve acted together since Ayckbourn’s last appearance on a professional stage, in William Gibson’s two-hander
Two for the Seesaw at the Rotherham Civic Theatre in 1964.

After that, Ayckbourn pursued a hugely successful writing and directing career, while Stoney continue to act, appearing in many Ayckbourn world premieres. Her last full season as an actress was at the SJT in 1985, during which she appeared in the world premiere of Ayckbourn’s
Woman in Mind.

Alan Ayckbourn says: “The inspiration for
Anno Domino came from the idea that all relationships ultimately, however resilient they appear to be, are built on sand! And it only takes one couple to break up abruptly to take us all by surprise, then all of a sudden everyone is questioning their own unshakeable relationship.”  

The SJT’s Artistic Director, Paul Robinson, says: “We can’t wait for our audiences to hear
Anno Domino. We were all hugely disappointed to have to suspend our summer season. We were so looking forward to seeing the brilliant Just Between Ourselves - ‘the one with the car on stage’ - and the world premiere of Alan’s up-to-the-minute satire, Truth Will Out.

Anno Domino is one of Alan’s ‘lighter’ plays, a hopeful and rather joyous piece which will provide perfect entertainment in these troubled times. This is a hugely exciting and very contemporary response to the current situation, and shows yet again how Alan has always moved with the times.”

Anno Domino marks the first time Alan Ayckbourn has directed and performed in one of his own plays: it is written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, performed by Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney, and produced by Alan Ayckbourn with final mix by Paul Stear.

Posted on 15 May 2020

Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre to close during coronavirus

Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre is closing during the current coronavirus crisis, but is already making plans to be up and running again as quickly as possible once it’s able to.

Joint chief executives Caroline Routh and Paul Robinson say: “Like everyone else, we are in uncharted territory, but our current plans are based on probably being closed for most of the planned summer season, which means we’ll no longer be presenting
Just Between Ourselves, The Ladykillers or Truth Will Out this year. But we are already thinking about what might be possible should restrictions start to lift earlier than expected. We are extremely lucky in that we have a couple of shows which are ready, or almost ready, to go. Jim Cartwright’s TWO, our co-production with Hull Truck Theatre, had already opened there, so can be on our stage at relatively short notice, while Little Red Riding Hood, which was due to fill our Easter slot for families next month, is cast and the set is nearly complete - we just need a couple of weeks’ rehearsal.

“And while we couldn’t, of course, see an instant return to normal, we could start up our film programme again, schedule some pieces of visiting theatre, or stage a rehearsed reading or two, all of which will bring our building back to life quite quickly.”

The SJT’s box office team is being kept busy, working remotely to contact people who have booked tickets for the theatre’s upcoming spring and summer seasons.

Paul and Caroline say: “We’ve already contacted all those who’d booked tickets for shows and films during our initial week-long closure, and were amazed by how many of them refused a refund, preferring instead to donate the cost of their tickets or credit their account. It’s so touching to see how many people are showing faith in our future and are keen to support us – our heartfelt thanks to all of them. We aim to remain an essential part of the wider community in the borough of Scarborough throughout this period, and really look forward to welcoming you all back when our doors re-open.”

The SJT is now closed to the public, but until further notice the box office will be accepting phone and email enquiries from noon to 6pm, Mondays to Fridays.

The theatre will be posting regular updates on its website: and social media channels: @thesjt

Posted on 23 March 2020

Alan Ayckbourn: Director Emeritus

Sir Alan Ayckbourn has been appointed Director Emeritus of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, recognising his long association with the company.
It marks the first time such an appointment has been made by the Stephen Joseph Theatre and recognises Sir Alan's many achievements with the SJT as well as his commitment to the stage and regional theatre.
The accolade was announced on 20 April 2018 at the SJT and Sir Alan admitted it was something he was very proud to receive.
“I’m delighted to accept the title of Director Emeritus of the SJT - even though I had to ask what ‘Emeritus’ meant!”
Director Emeritus is an honorary accolade which denotes the perpetual status of an individual who has moved an organisation to new heights. In this case, it recognises Sir Alan's more than six decades work with the company and his many contributions and achievements.
Artistic Director Paul Robinson said it right to recognise the achievements of Sir Alan and his long-standing and ongoing relationship with the SJT.
"It is my pleasure to announce that Alans has been appointed Director Emeritus. On one level it recognises the huge debt the Stephen Joseph Theatre owed him, a debt of sixty years and counting of distinguished service. It is not just about the past. It also serves as to recognise that the relationship with the theatre is closer than ever, thriving in fact. We are looking forward to working with Alan in ever new and exciting ways in the future.:"
Sir Alan Ayckbourn joined what was then the Library Theatre in Scarborough in 1957 as an acting stage manager. His first play,
The Square Cat, premiered there in 1959 and he began directing professionally with the company in 1961. Following the death of the company's founder and Alan's most influential mentor, Stephen Joseph, in 1967, he was appointed the Artistic Director off the company in 1972. He retired from the role in 2009 after 37 years guiding the company.
During his time as Artistic Director, he was responsible for the move of the company to the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round at Westwood and, in 1996, moving the company to its first permanent and present home, the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Of his 82 plays (as of 2018), 78 have been premiered with the company where he continues to premiere and direct his work.

Updated on 19 May 2018.

Alan Ayckbourn to launch his first novel, The Divide, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre

Renowned playwright Alan Ayckbourn will launch his first-ever novel, The Divide, at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre on Thursday 12 September.
Published by PS Publishing,
The Divide is a fable that unflinchingly examines a dystopian society of brutal repression, forbidden love and seething insurrection.
The celebrated novelist Soween Clay-Flyn recalls a period in recent history based on documents of the time, including her own personal diary as a young girl who lived through it and survived to tell the tale.
In the aftermath of a deadly contagion which has decimated the population, contact between men and women has become fatal.
Under the dictates of an unseen authoritarian leader known as The Preacher, an unthinkable solution has been enforced.
Soween and her older brother Elihu grow up learning the ways of their tightly controlled society. Then to Soween's alarm, Elihu, as he reaches pubescence, risks not only fatal disease but also threatens to ignite a bloody revolution.
Alan Ayckbourn says: “This is a new experience for me. Eighty-three plays, God knows how many nerve-racking theatre press nights and now this. The very first book launch of my very first novel.
“Lord, the things you take on at 80!”
Nicky Crowther, of PS Publishing, says: “Straddling literary genres for almost a quarter century during which time we have championed work by some of the finest talents in the business, PS Publishing is proud to announce The Divide, the debut novel from Alan Ayckbourn, one of the world’s most gifted playwrights.”
The Divide will be launched at a free-to-attend event at the SJT from 4.30pm to 6.30pm on 12 September, in between performances of Alan’s two shows at the SJT this summer, Season’s Greetings (matinee) and Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present (evening).
The author will be on hand to sign copies of the book, which will be available at the event in a hardcover at £20 (discounted from £25); subsequently, a paperback and a signed limited edition hardcover will also be made available.
The Divide can be ordered from PS Publishing Alan Ayckbourn's in hardcover and softcover.

Updated on 11 September 2019

Alan Ayckbourn Celebrates 80th Birthday & 60th Playwriting Anniversary With New Play

A brand new play from celebrated author Alan Ayckbourn has opened at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre.
Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present is the author’s 83rd play, and premieres in the year that marks his 80th birthday.
Directed by the author, it is performed by a cast of four: Jamie Baughan, Jemma Churchill, Russell Dixon and Naomi Petersen. Design is by Kevin Jenkins and lighting design by Jason Taylor. The Associate Sound Designer is Paul Stear.
It’s Micky’s 80th birthday, and he and his wife Meg are awaiting the arrival of their son, Adrian, and his new (and latest!) fiancée, Grace.
Adrian has, according to his parents, a certain reputation regarding women, and they feel meek, mild-mannered Grace should surely be warned of this. But are things really as they appear? As birthday follows birthday, the truth is finally revealed about Adrian, the suburban closet Lothario.
Alan Ayckbourn says: “It’s no coincidence that this is a special year for me, being my 80th. I like to pin things on anniversaries, and I thought ‘why not birthdays?’
“But it’s a bit conventional to have one person maybe having his 20th birthday and his 50th and then 80th birthdays, so I thought it would be fun to do it backwards.
“Usually in plays, we see the cause first and the effects follow on, but in this case, we see the effect first and our first question is, just how did we get there?
“It’s really a story about a man who’s trying to deal with and understand women; it's a sort of companion piece to my 2017 play, A Brief History Of Women.”
Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present can be seen in the Round at the SJT, in rep, until Saturday 5 October 2019. Tickets, priced from £10, are available from the box office on 01723 370541 and online at
It will
then tour to The New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme, from 8 - 26 October and The Old Laundry, Bowness-on-Windermere, from 13 - 16 November.
Updated on 2 September 2019

World premiere and classic revival at the Stephen Joseph Theatre during summer 2019

Alan Ayckbourn will direct the world premiere of his new play, Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present and a revival of Season's Greetings at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, this summer. Season's Greetings will be in repertory until 28 September and Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present will be in repertory until 5 October.

Season’s Greetings, written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn (Thursday 25 July to Saturday 28 September)
When families get together to celebrate a special occasion, there's a danger that all hell will break loose. Particularly if you happen to be trapped for several days with all your relatives and copious amounts of alcohol...
Neville and Belinda are hosting their extended family over a long weekend. The presence of two tyrannical uncles – Bernard, whose ham-fisted annual puppet shows are a source of dread to young and old alike, and TV addict Harvey – promises to stir up trouble from the start. And that’s before you add to the mix broken toys, creaking marriages and guest novelist Clive, whose relationship with Belinda’s sister Rachel is going nowhere, causing him to look for love elsewhere.
Directed by the author, this is the first time that the Stephen Joseph Theatre has staged Season’s Greetings since its premiere here in 1980 – a rare opportunity to see a sparkling new production of a classic Ayckbourn comedy.

Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present, written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn (Wednesday 4 September to Saturday 5 October)
It’s Mickey’s 80th birthday and he and his wife Meg are awaiting the arrival of their son, Adrian, and his new (and latest!) fiancée, Grace. Adrian has, according to his parents, a certain reputation regarding women and they feel meek, mild-mannered Grace should surely be warned of this.  
But are things really as they appear? Be prepared, as birthday follows birthday, to be amazed as the truth is finally revealed about Adrian, the suburban closet Lothario!
As ingenious in its construction as any of his previous plays, Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present is the 83rd play from one of Britain’s greatest playwrights in a year that he celebrates not only his own 80th birthday, but also the 60th anniversary of his playwriting debut – The Square Cat, his first professionally-produced play, opened at Scarborough’s Library Theatre on 30 July 1959.

Tickets for all the shows are priced from £10, and will go on sale from Friday 1 March (with priority booking for the theatre’s membership scheme, The Circle, from Friday 15 February) and can be booked at the box office on 01723 370541 or via the website:

Updated on 2 September 2019

Faber Publishes Sixth Volume Of Alan Ayckbourn's Plays With A New York Twist

New York casts an influence over the sixth volume of Alan Ayckbourn's collected plays, which will be published by Faber in August.
Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 6 is released on 2 August and collects five of the playwright's plays including his most recent success A Brief History Of Women (2017) alongside Time Of My Life (1992), Neighbourhood Watch (2011), Arrivals & Departures (2013) and Hero's Welcome (2015).
Each of the plays has been a critical success in New York with their premiere productions in the city directed by Alan Ayckbourn at the annual
Brits Off Broadway festival at the 59E59 Theaters between 2011 and 2018 featuring the original company from his home theatre, the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough.
A Brief History Of Women was seen in May 2018 at the 59E59 Theatres and garnered acclaim from the New York Times' critic Ben Brantley who noted: "Mr. Ayckbourn’s enduring and infectious affection for theater permeates every scene." The production broke attendance records at the 59E59 and continues a hugely successful affiliation between Alan Ayckbourn, the Stephen Joseph Theatre and the 59E59 Theaters which began in 2005.
The other plays within the collection also received critical and popular acclaim during their transfers to New York and
Neighbourhood Watch and Arrivals & Departures are considered two of the playwright's finest work of this decade; Neighbourhood Watch is currently proving to be immensely popular and is the most produced Ayckbourn play by amateur companies in the UK over the past year.
This is the sixth volume of Alan Ayckbourn's plays to be published by Faber since 1998 and it will be published in softback on 2 August and as a digital ebook on 23 August. Running to 512 pages, it will be priced at £18.99 for the softback and £17.99 for the ebook.

Posted on 14 June 2018

Alan Ayckbourn’s A Brief History of Women triumphs in New York

Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre company has returned from New York after a triumphant and record-breaking run with Alan Ayckbourn’s A Brief History of Women, which wowed audiences and critics alike.
The show, which was first seen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre during summer 2017, was part of the annual
Brits Off Broadway festival organised by 59e59 Theaters. It was seen at the theatre - located at 59 East 59th Street - throughout May, attracting nearly 6,300 theatre-goers, a record for an SJT production in New York: the company has been part of the prestigious festival on six previous occasions since 2005.
And the show was a hit with the reviewers, too, taking the prestigious ‘Critics’ Pick’ slot in The New York Times, and receiving praise from leading critic Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal, who said: “The play contains a brief speech so charged with the truth of a lifetime’s experience that it took my breath away… beautifully wrought and unexpectedly poignant… It’s by turns madly funny and touching enough to draw tears.”
Brian Beirne, Managing Director of 59E59 Theaters, said: “59E59 Theaters has had the pleasure of hosting the Stephen Joseph Theatre on multiple occasions during its annual celebration of the best of contemporary British theater in New York City, Brits Off Broadway. Their productions are often the highlight of the season and the members of their acting ensemble are beloved by our audiences.”
Stephen Freeman, Chief Executive of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, said: “I’m delighted that
A Brief History of Women has done so well in New York - in fact we smashed our box office targets! Taking a play to New York enables us to fly the flag for Scarborough stateside. People are often surprised when they hear about us transferring a show for a month’s run off Broadway and there aren’t many other theatres across the North doing the same. Taking a production there not only makes a financial contribution to the theatre, but it also raises the profile of our work internationally. The success of this latest show builds on strong links with our New York partners and we are already in discussion with them about a return visit. Each year we receive many international visitors to the SJT and that benefits the tourist economy of Scarborough. This latest venture has strengthened our reputation and international relationships which demonstrates the vital role we play in showcasing the region and as a key player in the local economy.”
American audiences saw the original Scarborough production of
A Brief History of Women with cast members Russell Dixon, Antony Eden, Frances Marshall, Laura Matthews, Laurence Pears and Louise Shuttleworth. The show was written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, with set and costume design by Kevin Jenkins and lighting design by Jason Taylor.

Updated on 1 June 2018.

Alan Ayckbourn's The Divide To Premiere At The Edinburgh International Festival & The Old Vic

Alan Ayckbourn is to make his Edinburgh International Festival debut with a world premiere staging of a radical departure from anything he has previously created.
The Edinburgh International Festival and The Old Vic are co-producing
The Divide by Alan Ayckbourn, a tale for our own turbulent times that unflinchingly examines a dystopian society of brutal repression, forbidden love and seething insurrection which marks a significant departure from the playwright's previous work.
Previously only seen in a single fund-raising reading at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Alan was unsure it would ever be performed and is delighted that not only will it be staged in an ambitious two-part production but that it will also mark his debut at the Edinburgh International Festival.
"This is a real surprise. I wrote
The Divide under very extraordinary circumstances and, as a result, I said - at it’s only public reading - that this is something you’re probably not going to see again," said Alan.
"I just wanted to write something I couldn’t even see myself directing. I just let my mind go into free fall. I think it shows enormous courage and touching faith in
The Divide, that director Annabel Bolton and The Old Vic have picked it up and run with it. God help her! I think its a very brave thing to do and I’m looking forward to seeing what she and her team create."
A century from now, England is recovering from a great disease. Contact between men and women is fatal. They live on separate sides of the Divide. Men wear white as a mark of their purity. Women - still infected - wear black as a sign of their guilt and sin. Gay relationships are the norm; heterosexuality is a perversion.
Brother and sister Elihu and Soween grow up in post-catastrophic Sarum, slowly learning the ways of the misogynistic, bullying society around them. But when Elihu falls for the daughter of two radical mothers, he risks not only fatal disease, but also inciting a bloody revolution.
Drawing on a vast repository of diary and journal entries, newspaper articles, transcripts and council minutes, Ayckbourn’s epic dystopian fantasy brings together forbidden love, brutal repression and insurrection in a richly imagined work that looks back to George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Aldous Huxley and even Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass.
The Divide will feature Clare Burt, Sophie Melville, Sian Thomas and Finty Williams alongside Jake Davies, Erin Doherty, Thusitha Jayasundera, Richard Katz, Clare Lawrence Moody, Weruche Opia, Martin Quinn and Letty Thomas.
The production's creative team includes: Annabel Bolton (director); Laura Hopkins (designer); Christopher Nightingale (composer); Will Stuart (MD); David Plater (lighting); Bobby Aitken (sound); Ash J Woodward (video).
The Divide marks the first time an Ayckbourn work has been presented as part of the Festival, Alan actually began his professional theatre career at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1956, as an acting stage manager for Sir Donald Wolfit’s production of Fritz Hochwälder’s The Strong Are Lonely.
Following its premier at the Edinburgh International Festival from 8 - 20 August 2017,
The Divide will transfer to The Old Vic as part of its biennial celebrations from 1 - 10 February, 2018.

Updated on 27 October 2017.

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