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Short plays, long plays, in the round - Alan Ayckbourn is a hit in Notts ; First person In his last regular column for the Post, Roy Ainscough,...

July 18, 2013


Short plays, long plays, in the round - Alan Ayckbourn is a hit in Notts ; First person In his last regular column for the Post, Roy Ainscough, president of Nottingham and Notts Drama Association, says drama groups should pay thanks to one particular playwright

IT is unrealistic to expect community groups to emulate the London and provincial professional theatres.

Yet they still offer exciting fare, if they so choose - and their loyal supporting audiences pay tribute to them when they tackle productions involving larger casts and more imaginative settings.

Choosing the play means that groups must take into account the financial costs, the limited number of readily-available actors, and the restrictions imposed by the spaces they use for their productions. Pressure from audiences leads groups to limit their productions to farces involving no more than six to eight characters, and most of the scripts available to them are copies of those in the West End.

Farce is not easy to pull off successfully - yet there are some very exciting examples of groups overcoming their limited resources.

There was a time when professional theatres would not tackle large cast plays because of the costs of engaging professional actors, they had resorted to using celebrities from television or film.

Community groups cannot use this approach: their celebrities will be their home-grown actors known to their audiences and acknowledged without fuss.

But acting is only part of the theatrical experience, and local groups have ventured into large-scale productions involving children and young people, and with imaginative use of theatre in the round.

Plays with music are rare because, sadly, musical support is not always readily available; there are few musicians willing to work with community groups without payment.

There are few groups prepared to offer works by French or Italian playwrights; and there are also few recognising the attractive features of the one-act play. These, the theatrical equivalent of the short story, allow groups to introduce newcomers who are nervous of parts involving a lot of line learning, and directors prepared to take on the challenges of a full-scale production.

We should pay tribute then to Sir Alan Ayckbourn for his work at the Stephen Joseph theatre in Scarborough. Not only has he written more plays than Shakespeare, he also uses the theatre in the round form of presentation and he has offered some delightful collections of short plays.

Hardly surprising then that the most often performed plays in Nottinghamshire over the last 20 years have been his.

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