Alan Ayckbourn: Early Writing

Prior to his first professional commission, Alan Ayckbourn recalls he wrote approximately a dozen one act plays between his first professional acting job in 1956, aged 17, and the premiere of The Square Cat in 1959. Very little is known about any of these plays and only a handful of them are still in existence.

None of these plays are considered part of the acknowledged Alan Ayckbourn play canon; they have never been performed or published and, where manuscripts exist, they are available only for research purposes and permission will not be granted for their performance or publication. They represent Alan Ayckbourn's very earliest consistent attempts at playwriting and were seen by very few people, primarily his mentor Stephen Joseph.

Details of the plays and when they were written are very sketchy as very little information about them survives and the playwright himself has little recollection of them. The details below are the result of research by the playwright's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd in consultation with Alan Ayckbourn. All surviving manuscripts are held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute at the University of York. Further details about these plays can also be found in the website's book
Unseen Ayckbourn.

Surviving Manuscripts

The Season (circa 1957): The earliest surviving Ayckbourn manuscript considered to be in existence. This is a one act play with four scenes for two actors. It is a love story which moves forward each scene from medieval times to a post-apocalyptic landscape.

The Party Game (circa 1958): A one act play set around the events of a social party. Discovered in a Scarborough loft in 2007, it is known to have been written for amateur performance but declined by the one Scarborough company it was submitted to. The play is notable for its portrayal of fractured and dysfunctional relationships; a foretaste of much that is to come from the playwright. Further details about the play can be found here.

Relative Values (circa 1959): A one act comedy about a recently bereaved American aunt visiting her family in the UK, who re-evaluate their relationships and lives as a result of her blunt and abrasive behaviour.

Mind Over Murder (circa 1959): Possibly written after his first professional commission The Square Cat premiered, this exists as both a play manuscript and a television screenplay. Alan Ayckbourn's first known attempt at writing a thriller, it follows a professor and policeman trying to discover who murdered the professor's sister.

Lost Manuscripts

Pirandello play (circa 1957): A play influenced by the playwright Pirandello and which Alan Ayckbourn recalls showing to his mentor Stephen Joseph.

Ionescu play (circa 1957): A play influenced by the playwright Ionsecu and which Alan Ayckbourn recalls showing to his mentor Stephen Joseph.

The Honeymoon (circa 1959): A play first mentioned by Alan Ayckbourn's first wife, Christine Roland, in Paul Allen's Ayckbourn biography Grinning At The Edge. Written after the couple's honeymoon in 1959 (it is uncertain whether it was written before or in the immediate aftermath of the premiere of The Square Cat), it is not known what happened to the play, although it was never performed.