Alan Ayckbourn is getting dangerously close to 70 – and we’re not talking about his age (he turned a sprightly 66 earlier this month). As part of its 50th anniversary season, Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre (SJT) will this summer present the world premiere of Improbable Fiction, the 69th play by Ayckbourn, the theatre's long-serving artistic director, who also happens to be the country's most prolific playwright.

In the Pendon Writers’ Circle, all of the aspiring authors have at least one book in them, but they’re having problems getting them out. Improbable Fiction, which runs in repertoire from 26 May to 17 September 2005, is directed by Ayckbourn and designed by Roger Glossop. The cast features Clare Swinburne.

SJT’s 50th anniversary season will also feature Ayckbourn’s revival of his “outraged suburbia” comedy, Time and Time Again, running from 28 July to 17 September 2005. First seen at Scarborough in 1971, the play was one of Ayckbourn’s early hits in the West End, where it starred Tom Courtenay. In it, family black sheep Leonard, who has a habit of talking to garden gnomes, has trouble wooing the lovely Joan.

Ayckbourn's many other successful comedies include A Small Family Business, Relatively Speaking, Way Upstream and Absurd Person Singular. His most recent West End transfers have included Things We Do for Love, a revival of Bedroom Farce, and the multi award-winning Comic Potential. His 67th play, Private Fears in Public Places, first seen at SJT last year, receives its London premiere next week when it transfers from Scarborough to Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre ahead of a season in New York.


Back at Scarborough, the two Ayckbourn plays are joined in the SJT’s 50th anniversary schedule by the world premiere of Playing God, the first stage play by BAFTA Award-wining sitcom writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (Birds of a Feather, Goodnight Sweetheart, Shine on Harvest Moon.

Ed is a rock ‘n’ roll legend. He’s married to the beautiful and vivacious Claudia, a travel writer with a guilty secret. Best friend Clive is a man of contradictions. He’s married to high-flying Henri, a tough businesswoman with a spiritual sideline. One night during dinner, Ed makes an announcement that puts them all off their pudding. Playing God is directed by Laurie Sansom and runs from 30 June to 3 September 2005.

- by Terri Paddock