A Brief History Of Women: Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes offers a glimpse at some rarely known facts regarding the writing of Alan Ayckbourn's plays with material drawn from the Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York and the playwright's personal archive.
  • A Brief History Of Women was actually not the play Alan Ayckbourn originally wrote for the summer 2017 season at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. He initially wrote a play called A Case Of Missing Wives, which was based around a police procedural, and finished the first draft of this on Sunday 16 October. However, very soon afterwards, Alan had an idea for another play which he felt might be even more suited to the summer season and wrote a completely different play, A Brief History of Women, finishing the first draft on 5 December 2016. The story of this was recounted by the Stephen Joseph Theatre's Artistic Director, Paul Robinson, at the launch of the theatre's summer season on 15 February 2017.
“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 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.…”
  • The play is set in a manor house, which changes use over the decades from home to school to arts centre to hotel. It's worth noting that the previous home of the Scarborough company - the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round - began life as a manor house before becoming a Boys' school before becoming a theatre. After the theatre left, the building became a dedicated further education campus but, as of writing, it is for sale with plans to convert it into either flats or a hotel.
Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.