Alan Ayckbourn and Scarborough
Maybe it's part of my moving house six times in this twelve month period, but I've become enamoured of writers who become defined by a location. I appreciate that sense of identity with place - John Fowles in Lyme Regis, George Mackay Brown in Stromness, Paul Bowles in Tangiers. My own one hint of permanence remains our place in the French Pyrenees, a home for thirteen years now, somewhere that has changed around us but carries ancient rhythms. true home remains our place in Santa Fe, though for various reasons that is on the market at the moment.
So I was glad in visiting Scarborough to get to visit the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Alan Ayckbourn arrived in the town fifty years ago, and a current production sees the revival of his West End hit from forty years ago, Relatively Speaking.
It's curious how a play of 1967 is now a period piece, just as much as Noel Coward's plays. It's an engaging play still though, tightly written, a gentle farce of misunderstandings but characters drawn to have real pathos. I go to an evening of stand-up comedy, I laugh a lot, yet somehow I emerge drained rather than restored. A good evening of comedy theatre has a different effect, it does cheer me.
The play was originally written to cheer holidaymakers seeking to come in from the rain. That was even more necessary this summer. Ayckbourn's plays all get their first airing in this theatre-in-the-round which he built out of an old cinema. The theatre has a policy of producing nothing too daring, knowing its audience (unlike the Drum Theatre in Plymouth, which has a youth audience to appeal to and likes a sniff of danger). The evening was quite jolly and comfortable - and sold out.
By the way, if you head that way, I recommend the excellent Cafe Fish for a meal beforehand - worth a trip to Scarborough in itself.