Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE (born April 12, 1939) is a popular and prolific English playwright. He is frequently citedcitation needed as the second most-performed English language playwright, after William Shakespeare.
Ayckbourn was born in London. His mother Irene Worley was a writer of short stories who published successfully under the name of "Mary James". His father, Irene's second husband Horace Ayckbourn, was a distinguished orchestral violinist, at one time deputy leader of the London Symphony Orchestra. His parents, who separated shortly after World War II, never formally married, and Ayckbourn's mother divorced her first husband in order to marry again in 1948.
Ayckbourn wrote his first play at prep school when he was about 10. While attending prep school as a boarder his mother wrote to him to tell him she was getting married to Cecil Pye, who was a bank manager, and when he was at home for the holidays his new family consisted of his mother, his stepfather and Christopher, his stepfather's son by an earlier marriage. It seems Cecil and Irene were not a happy couple. Paul Allen has compared characters and themes in Ayckbourn's mature plays with his childhood experience of several unconventional relationships and an unhappy marriage.
He attended Haileybury, and while studying there he toured Europe and America with the school Shakespeare company. On leaving school at 17 his theatrical career started immediately, with an introduction to Sir Donald Wolfit by his French master. Ayckbourn joined Wolfit on tour as an assistant stage manager and actor.
By 1957, Ayckbourn was acting with the director Stephen Joseph at Scarborough. In 1959 he played Stanley in the second production of writer-director Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party.
After Ronnie Barker played Lord Slingsby-Craddock in the London production of Ayckbourn's Mr Whatnot in 1964, Ayckbourn collaborated on the scripts of Barker's television series for LWT Hark at Barker (in which Barker played Lord Rustless). Ayckbourn used the pseudonym "Peter Caulfield" because he was under exclusive contract to the BBC at the time. The London production of another early play, Relatively Speaking in 1967 helped to launch Richard Briers' career, and also featured Michael Hordern and Celia Johnson.
Ayckbourn has written and produced some sixty plays in Scarborough and London and is the artistic director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Almost all of his plays receive their first performance at this theatre. More than 25 have subsequently been produced in the West End, at the Royal National Theatre or by the Royal Shakespeare Company since his first hit Relatively Speaking opened at the Duke of York's Theatre in 1967.
Major successes include Absurd Person Singular, The Norman Conquests trilogy, Bedroom Farce, Just Between Ourselves, A Chorus Of Disapproval, Woman In Mind, A Small Family Business, Man Of The Moment and House & Garden. His plays have won numerous awards, including seven London Evening Standard Awards. They have been translated into over 30 languages and are performed on stage and television throughout the world.
Plays by Ayckbourn have also been filmed, in French and English. Four of his plays have been staged on Broadway, attracting two Tony nominations. In 1991, he received a Dramalogue Critics Award for his play Henceforward….
Although his plays have received major West End productions almost from the beginning of his writing career, and hence have been reviewed in British newspapers, Ayckbourn's work was for years routinely dismissed as being too slight for serious study. Recently, scholars have begun to view Ayckbourn as an important commentator on the lifestyles of the British suburban middle class, and as a stylistic innovator who experiments with theatrical styles within the boundaries set by popular tastes.
In February 2006 he suffered a stroke, and states on his website that "I am making a good recovery from my recent stroke. I received an overwheliming number of get-well cards and good wishees. I was extremely touched by the love and concern shown by so many friends, acquaintances and occasionally complete strangers", adding that "Rest assured I'll be back."
Evening Standard award, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990
Some of Ayckbourn's early play are unavailable for production.