The Ayckbourn Archive: Absurd Person Singular

These Archival items and images related to, arguably, Alan Ayckbourn's most famous play, Absurd Person Singular, are predominantly drawn from the Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York and The Bob Watson Archive at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Further details about the play can be found in Absurd Person Singular section of Alan Ayckbourn's Official Website here.

Absurd Person Singular (1972)

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Title: Notes (1972)
Copyright: Haydonning Ltd
Archive: Borthwick Institute For Archives

Description: Within the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York, there is a complete hadn't-written first-draft of Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular. This is a detail of one page which includes notes on the first act and thumbnail sketches of the layout of the stage for each act.

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Title: Brochure (1972)
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Archive: The Bob Watson Archive

Description: Until the late 1980s, Alan Ayckbourn was notorious for writing his plays at the latest possible time (i.e. just before rehearsals). As a result, when the Library Theatre, Scarborough, began to market the plays, they frequently had no idea what the play was about - as demonstrated here in this extract from the theatre's 1972 summer brochure.

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Title: Programme (1972)
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Archive: The Bob Watson Archive

Description: Until 1972, the Library Theatre did not incorporate images into their programmes, posters or marketing. Absurd Person Singular marks the first Ayckbourn world premiere to have a poster image - created with a lino cut. The programme is a relative rarity and one whose condition is frequently affected by the staples binding its two A4 card sheets, which have frequently rusted in surviving copies.

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Title: In Colour! (1972)
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust
Archive: The Bob Watson Archive

Description: There are no colour photographs of any Ayckbourn world premiere held in archive until 1972 with Absurd Person Singular at the Library Theatre. This blurred image shows the key scene in Act 2 when Eva tries to hang herself from the kitchen light.

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Title: West End (1973)
Copyright: To be confirmed
Archive: Borthwick Institute For Archives

Description: Absurd Person Singular still stands as the single most successful Ayckbourn play to ever be staged in the West End. Here the original company along with the playwright (centre back) and director Eric Thompson (front right) celebrate the play's success.

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Title: Peter Hall (1973)
Copyright: National Theatre
Archive: Borthwick Institute For Archives

Description: Alan Ayckbourn's close relationship with Peter Hall - Artistic Director of the National Theatre - began in 1973 when Hall wrote to Alan congratulating him win the success of Absurd Person Singular. His hope they would work together was achieved in 1977 with Bedroom Farce.

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Title: Programme (1973)
Copyright: To be confirmed
Archive: Borthwick Institute For Archives

Description: Absurd Person Singular has always been a difficult play to produce a promotional image for, this is the original cover to the West End premiere of the play in 1973 emphasising a partridge in a pear tree - an oblique reference to the climax of Act 2 of the play.

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Title: Flyer (1973)
Copyright: To be confirmed
Archive: Borthwick Institute For Archives

Description: A flyer for the West End premiere of Absurd Person Singular during 1973 with the type-face which would become the standard for the long-run of the production (replacing the original design from the previous panel).

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Title: Broadway (1974)
Copyright: To be confirmed
Archive: Borthwick Insitute for Archives

Description: Just as in the West End, Absurd Person Singular was phenomenally successful on Broadway and holds the longest run of an Ayckbourn play in New York. This is a flyer for the production which was directed, again, by Eric Thompson.

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Title: Laugh Count (1974)
Copyright: Haydonning Ltd
Archive: Borthwick Institute For Archives

Description: Famously, Alan Ayckbourn had several arguments with his Broadway producers. This included a request he swap Act II & III around as the second act was funnier. Alan refused and the producers commissioned a laugh count to prove their point. Alan thanked them for proving his point that the second act was supposed to be funnier than the dying fall of the third act.

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Title: USA Publication
Copyright: Nelson Doubleday
Archive: British Library

Description: This is the cover of the first North American publication of Absurd Person Singular, published in 1974 by Nelson Doubleday; the first Ayckbourn play to receive a mass-market edition in the country.

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Title: Roland Allen (1959)
Copyright: Haydonning Ltd
Archive: Borthwick Institute For Archives

Description: During 1985, the BBC adapted Absurd Person Singular for television with an all-star cast including Michael Gambon, Prunella Scales and Maureen Lipman. This is a publicity shot on the Act II set of the play.

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