Next Stage Theatre Company proudly recognise Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s support as the company’s longest-serving Patron of 20 years, and wishes him many happy returns for his 80th birthday this week.
Sir Alan Ayckbourn was the Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre (SJT), Scarborough from 1972 - 2009, and is the author of many plays, more than half of which have been produced in the West End, including a number at the Royal National Theatre. Alan’s plays have been translated into over thirty languages and are performed world-wide on stage and television. He was the 1992 Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre at St Catherine’s College, Oxford and is the holder of several honorary degrees. He was awarded a CBE in 1987 and was knighted in 1997.
Sir Alan’s patronage with Next Stage has been highly supportive and encouraging. Aside from regular communications, he invited Next Stage to perform at the SJT in March 2000 and March 2001. The first play Next Stage took was Sir David Hare’s Skylight, the first Hare production to ever be staged at the SJT, and the second was Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills. Both productions were watched by Sir and Lady Ayckbourn during the company’s visits.
For Next Stage’s 25th Anniversary, Sir Alan has kindly written the foreword for the company’s Silver Anniversary book which records Next Stage's history from 1994 - 2019 and the near-200 productions that the company has staged. Next Stage has produced over 20 of Alan’s plays, including some of his more complex works such as Intimate Exchanges and House and Garden. Ayckbourn has always been extremely popular with Next Stagers and their audiences and the company has toured with Ayckbourn plays to New York, the Minack in Cornwall and various locations in the West of England.
In December 1994, Next Stage’s produced Woman in Mind by Alan Ayckbourn beginning a close relationship between the company and the playwright. In the next two years, NS performed A Chorus of Disapproval and Alan’s trilogy The Norman Conquests consisting of Table Manners, Living Together and Round and Round the Garden (revived in January 2014).
In June 1998 Next Stage produced Sisterly Feelings in Bath and then toured it to the Minack Theatre. June 2000 saw a production of A Small Family Business, and in September 2001 Intimate Exchanges was staged for the first time (variations revived in April 2008 and May 2016). Next Stage took a second Ayckbourn play to Cornish audiences in 2005 with The Champion of Paribanou and later that year produced a Supper Theatre Cabaret performance which consisted of Alan’s two plays: Drinking Companion and Between Mouthfuls. January 2008 saw the production of Improbable Fiction and two years later, Time of My Life.
May 2014 marked a very special month for Next Stage, as it was the company’s 20th birthday, and Sir Alan and Lady Ayckbourn came to celebrate with the company and audience and family members. Sir Alan and Lady Ayckbourn watched productions of House and Garden before attending a reception for the company at the Roman Baths. Later on in 2014, for their own 20th birthday in October, Next Stage Youth Theatre Company performed Invisible Friends as part of their celebrations.
More recent productions include Haunting Julia in October 2015, Absent Friends in September 2017, and Bedroom Farce in December 2018.