A Brief History Of Women: History

A Brief History of Woman is Alan Ayckbourn's 81st play and will premiere on 5 September 2017 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. It will play in repertory alongside a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's Taking Steps.

Behind The Scenes: SJT Artistic Director Paul Robinson
“I met with Alan back in the summer of 2016 to discuss his new play, a crime drama. Alan famously and without fail puts pen to pencil following the final performance of the season and three weeks later produces the final draft of the play.
“Alan, as good as his word, starts work on a play about a female detective. Now I’m hugely excited about receiving the play. The famous three weeks pass and nothing. I’m a bit concerned, but I remember that Alan has delivered a play each year to the SJT for 60 years. A further two weeks pass. Nothing. Call me paranoid, but I start to wonder if my arrival on the scene has given him writer’s block for the first time in 60 years. A few more days pass. Nothing. I gently enquire as to how he is getting on. I don’t get an answer. But instead I’m asked to pay him a visit. By now, I’m convinced that I’ve broken Alan Ayckbourn.
“I arrive and sit down with Alan and his wife, Heth. They both look pained. I wait for the bombshell. ‘It’s a bit of an issue,’ he says. And then confesses, ‘I’m having a small crisis of confidence.’ Our proximity to the sea and my state of extreme anxiety forces me to wander if the RNLI do home visits. He says, ‘I’ve almost finished the crime play. But I’m having thoughts about another one.’ Despite the utter out of body experience of suddenly having a working relationship with one of my cultural heroes, what I do know is writers. And what I know about writers is that try as hard as you may - and I have - you will never stop them writing what they want to write, am I right? So my answer came loud and clear. ‘You must write the other play.’ They both smiled. ‘I think it’ll be with you soon,’ Alan says. ‘Well, don’t rush it,’ I offer, trying to sound breezy.
“Three weeks later, two plays arrive in my pigeon hole at the theatre. I didn’t break Alan Ayckbourn, in fact I think he just upped his game. So Alan’s new play
A Brief History of Women was delivered to me alongside another one.
“Which you’ll just have to wait to hear about.…”
Somewhat unusually, this is not the play which Alan Ayckbourn initially intended to write for the summer 2017 season at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. The original plan was for an entirely different - and completed - play called A Case Of Missing Wives; a police procedural inspired piece. Alan wrote this play during his customary autumn writing period before going to Bowness-on-Windermere for the in-the-round tour of his latest play, The Karaoke Theatre Company. Whilst in Bowness, he had second thoughts about A Case Of Missing Wives, deciding he was not altogether satisfied with it. At the same time, he had an idea for a second, totally unrelated play, which he decided to write when he returned to Scarborough.

He finished the first draft of
A Brief History Of Women on 5 December 2017. Once he had completed the play, he then decided to return to A Case Of Missing Wives, revising it to his satisfaction as this was the play he had originally told the Stephen Joseph Theatre he was going to write. He then offered either play to the Artistic Director, Paul Robinson, who chose A Brief History Of Women. It marks the first time that Alan Ayckbourn has written two plays at the same time not knowing which would be staged and whether the other will be also be staged at a later date.

The play was announced to the public at the Stephen Joseph Theatre as part of a summer season launch event, during which Paul Robinson recounted his experiences with the play (see right). Alan briefly summed the play up as:

“It’s a play about a man - it’s a bit autobiographical - who’s fairly ineffectual. His life has been radically changed by a series of women."

A Brief History Of Women spans 60 years of time - the longest period to date covered by an Ayckbourn play - over four acts. Each act is set 20 years apart from 1925 to 1985 with Anthony Spates raging from 17 to 77 during the course of the play. He begins life as a footman in a country manor house. During the course of the play, the Manor House is converted into a school, arts centre and, finally, a country house hotel; all of which employ Anthony from school master to administrator to retired hotel manager. Over the course of six decades, the play follows him and the remarkable women he has loved, left and lost over the years.

Alan has noted that it seemed fitting to be playing in repertory with
Taking Steps, a farce without doors and featuring imaginary floors. A Brief History Of Women is set on a single floor, but features imaginary doors.

Casting begin in March 2017 for the company of three men and three women; all play multiple roles with the exception of the actor playing Anthony Spates. It shares the same casting requirements as
Taking Steps.

Behind The Scenes: Alternate Titles
Alan Ayckbourn considered the title On The House before settling on A Case Of Missing Wives.
Further details to follow…

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.