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Sir Alan Ayckbourn


Alan Ayckbourn is the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre and one of the world’s most popular and prolific professional playwrights. He has written 70 full plays and more than 20 other revues and plays for children. He is also an internationally acclaimed director, who Arthur Miller said directed the definitive version of his play "A View From The Bridge".

Alan was born in Hampstead, London, on 12 April, 1939. His mother was the novelist Mary ‘Lolly’ James and his father Horace Ayckbourn, lead violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra. Alan was educated at Haileybury public school in Hertford. At 17, he left school and joined the theatre impresario Sir Donald Wolfitt’s acting company for three weeks, working as an assistant stage manager for the production "The Strong Are Lonely".

From there he went on to a stage management job at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, before moving to the Thorndike Theatre, Leatherhead. He would also act at both theatres.

Directing Debut

Alan directed his first play in 1962, "Gaslight", at the Library Theatre and continued writing, producing "Meet My Father" for Scarborough in 1965. This would be a turning point in Alan’s life. In 1967, the play – retitled "Relatively Speaking" – opened in the West End and was a phenomenal hit. Alan has also directed the West End premieres of his plays since 1975.

Alan is internationally renowned for his writing and plays such as "The Norman Conquests" trilogy are regarded as classics of 20th century British theatre. His plays are often described as being middle-class and suburban, although this is a rather dated view of his work.

He has become a passionate advocate of writing for young people and has written more than a dozen full length plays for families and young people and a number of one-act plays for children.

Alan is also committed to theatre-in-the-round, for which he has written the vast majority of his plays.

More than half his plays have gone on to London to be produced in the West End or at the National Theatre. At one point, he held the record for having the most professional productions of his work being performed simultaneously in the West End ("The Norman Conquests", "Absurd Person Singular" and "Absent Friends"). His work has been translated into more than 40 languages and his plays are regularly performed throughout the world.

Multi-Award Winner

He has received more than 25 awards and honours including an Olivier and a Moliere, playwright of the year and the British Guild of Writers’ Lifetime Achievement Award. The 1992 Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University, he is now Visiting Professor at the University of Hull. In 1994, he received a Montblanc de la Culture Award for Europe for ‘establishing a thriving theatrical tradition in Scarborough and for his dedication and commitment to it’. In addition to holding a number of honorary degrees, he was appointed a CBE in 1987 and in 1997 was knighted for services to the theatre.

In February 2006, Alan suffered a stroke but by September of the same year was directing his latest play "If I Were You" and co-directing a revival of "Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays" at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

This biography is taken from Mr Ayckborn's official website (see link at the end of this page) and was written by Simon Murgatroyd.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd 2006

Collectables Signed By Sir Alan Ayckbourn