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Laura Howard on... working with Alan Ayckbourn in Communicating Doors and Life of Riley

Laura Howard is one of six cast members performing at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre for two Alan Ayckbourn plays; Communicating Doors and Life of Riley.

Most famed for her role in TV’s Midsomer Murders, Laura is appearing in her first Ayckbourn play, with the added bonus of the writer himself directing it.

Sir Alan Ayckbourn was the Artistic Director at the Theatre until 31 March 2009, and has written 74 national and internationally award winning plays, the majority of which have premiered in Scarborough.

Taking time out from what must have been an exhausting rehearsal schedule, Laura Howard spoke to WhatsOnStage.com a couple of weeks before the Doors curtain up, to give us her take on the productions, living and working in Scarborough and the legendary Alan Ayckbourn.

How are the rehearsals going for Communicating Doors and Life of Riley?

They’re going really, really well. It’s very relaxed, very well organised which is marvellous in that we all know what we’re meant to be doing and when we’re meant to be learning what. And very funny actually, it’s great watching everyone else do their thing.

Alan Ayckbourn is directing both plays; what is he like to work with as both a director and colleague?

He is a wonderful man - very funny, professional and a pleasure to work with. He keeps us all very entertained with his many anecdotes.

Can you give us a brief synopsis of both plays?

Life of Riley is interesting because it’s kind of centred around a chap whom we never meet, a chap called George Riley. You see six different people who in varying ways have a relationship or connections with this guy. It’s called Life of Riley because even though we never see him, he seems to be living the life of Riley because all these other people are running around him.

The character I play, Monica, and the other two women in the play - Tamsin and Kathryn - have all had some kind of relationship with George so we see everybody’s different perspective on this chap and of their relationships with him.

Riley has only a few months of his life left, and the play’s about his closest acquaintances remembering him and his impact on their lives. He is plotting something, however, which could have huge consequences for all of the characters.

Communicating Doors was written in 1994 but is set in the future; 2014. It is a weird and wonderful plot that involves time-travel through a hotel room door, a dominatrix called Ms Poupée Désir, and lots of comedy moments. I play the character of Jessica, who is the first wife of Reece - the dying man who we first meet at the start of the play being visited by the dominatrix. The plot is very intricate and cleverly written.

Which is your favourite?

I think at this stage it’s absolutely too early in the day to say. They’re both very, very different, but both absolutely fantastic. Absolutely brilliant writing. I don’t know that there will be a favourite.

Communicating Doors runs from 5th August to 8th October and Life of Riley – which is a world premiere – is also running from 16th September to 16th October. Won’t that be very exhausting for you all?

We are working to a very tight, busy schedule. But it’s an awful lot of fun, and a great experience to work with Alan here in Scarborough. It’s a very rewarding job.

Have you worked in or visited Scarborough before? Either way, what do you think of the town?

This is the first time I’ve ever worked in Scarborough or with Alan. It’s a lovely town and theatre. I am staying with the other female cast members and we’re all very much enjoying being by the beautiful coastline, and of course sampling the local fish and chips!

What would you say to people who might have to travel a long way to Scarborough to see the plays? How would you encourage them to make the journey?

It’s a chance to see Ayckbourn directed by Ayckbourn – and a world premiere which is very exciting! It’s at the Stephen Joseph Theatre which is theatre in the round and where Alan was Artistic Director so it’s the perfect place to see his plays.

Can you summarise your previous acting work?

I’m most well-known for playing Cully Barnaby (John Nettles’ daughter!) in Midsomer Murders. But I’ve done other television and theatre work as well. There was time in between filming each series of Midsomer Murders to do different things.

What work have you got lined up next?

I’m in these two plays at the Stephen Joseph Theatre until 16th October and then Life of Riley is touring so I’ll be going to the New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme and The Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness with that.

- Laura Howard was speaking to Ruth Kilner.

Tickets for both productions are available through the Box Office on 01723 370541 or on the theatre's website at www.sjt.uk.com


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