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Ayckbourn Premieres Uncle at SJT Before London

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Alan Ayckbourn's new version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya - which was originally commissioned by London producers David Pugh and Dafydd Rogers for a starry West End opening - will now receive its world premiere this summer as part of the new season at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre (SJT), where it runs from 12 July to 30 September 2011 (previews from 7 July).

Ayckbourn’s retelling of Chekhov’s 1899 classic, entitled Dear Uncle, is set in 1935 in the Lake District, where Marcus is in love with the married Eleanor and schoolgirl niece Sonya is secretly in love with family doctor and confirmed bachelor David.

Dear Uncle, which Ayckbourn originally revealed to Whatsonstage.com in February 2009, had been pegged for a 2010 West End production, with Matthew Warchus directing a cast led by Ralph Fiennes and Ken Stott. A spokeswoman told Whatsonstage.com this week that that planned London premiere had been derailed by availability of venue and talent, but there are still hopes that the play will make it the West End eventually.

Casting for Scarborough has not yet been confirmed, but Ayckbourn will direct it himself as the first of two productions of his plays that he’ll stage in the upcoming season at SJT, where he was artistic director until March 2009 and has remained involved in his subsequent (still hectic) “retirement”. In the autumn, he’ll direct the world premiere of his 75th play, Neighbourhood Watch, which runs from 13 September to 15 October 2011 (previews from 8 September). The new comedy, which is described as a "cautionary tale of the dangers of taking the law into your own hands", also marks the 300th new work to be commissioned by the Scarborough theatre.

In addition to the pair of new Ayckbourns, the season will include several revivals: Arthur Miller's The Price, directed by David Thacker (5-30 April); Marlene, Pam Gems’ play about legendary screen and stage actress Marlene Dietrich, helmed by artistic director Chris Monks (26 May-18 June, 24 August-3 September); and a double bill of Brian Friel’s The Yalta Game and Miller's Elegy for a Lady (28 June-10 September). Following modern adaptations of The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance Chris Monks also adapts and directs a new version of Bizet's Carmen set in a run-down shopping mall (28 July-3 September).

Meanwhile, SJT’s 2010 production of Ayckbourn’s comedy thriller Communicating Doors will start a national tour at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on 5 May, before visiting Brighton, Oxford and Richmond with further dates to be announced.


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