Rarely seen films in Alan Ayckbourn festival in Scarborough

A MINI season of movies based on the plays of Alan Ayckbourn will be screened at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre as part of the celebrations for the author’s 80th birthday.

A festival of Alan Ayckbourn films at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre includes Private Fears in Public Places
A festival of Alan Ayckbourn films at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre includes Private Fears in Public Places

The Ayckbourn film festival will include French director Alain Resnais’ Smoking, No Smoking and Private Fears in Public Places, and the BBC’s Absent Friends and Absurd Person Singular.

The playwright, who lives in Scarborough, joined what was then the Library Theatre in Scarborough in 1957 as an acting stage manager, and was its artistic director from 1972 until 2009.

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He was appointed director emeritus last year, in recognition of his six-decades long association with the company.

A scene from one of the films inspired by Ayckbourn's Smoking No Smoking

His latest play, the aptly-titled Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present, which he directs, premieres at the theatre on September 4.

Artistic director Paul Robinson said: “Alan celebrated his 80th birthday this year, and he joined this theatre when he was just 17. In the intervening years, for many of which he was our artistic director, he’s become one of the leading figures in British theatre.

“The festival features movies based on Alan’s stage plays made by the French auteur Alain Resnais, and, starring some of this country’s greatest actors, by the BBC - evidence, should it be needed, of his cultural importance, both in this country and worldwide.”

Smoking (September 20 at 2.45pm) and No Smoking (21 September at 2.45pm) are both based on his epic play Intimate Exchanges, which deals with the consequences of choice and how lives can take very different paths from the smallest to the biggest decision.

The play has eight significantly different plots dependent on the choices made and the films adapts six of these plots – three for each film.

Absent Friends (September 21 at 7.45pm) was adapted for the BBC show Theatre Night in 1985. Never released commercially, it is an exceptionally rare screening.

A tea party has been arranged for the recently-bereaved Colin by ‘friends’ and acquaintances. However, his acceptance of his situation and his fufilling time with his fiancée only serves to highlight and widen the rifts in other relationships. Michael Simpson directs Julia McKenzie, Tom Courtenay, Hywel Bennett, Maureen Lipman, Kate Lock and Dinsdale Landen.

Absurd Person Singular (22 September at 7.45pm), another BBC adaptation, was broadcast on BBC1 on New Year’s Day 1985, but despite its success has rarely been seen in the UK cinema, making this another incredibly rare screening.

Set in three kitchens over three Christmases, the story charts the relentless rise of the socially aspiring Hopcrofts at the expense of two other couples. Michael Simpson directs Michael Gambon, Maureen Lipman, Geoffrey Palmer, Prunella Scales, Cheryl Campbell and Nicky Henson.

Tickets for the individual films are £7 (concessions available) or see all five for £25. Tickets are available from the box office on 01723 370541 and online at www.sjt.uk.com.