Friday, April 11, 2014

Degrees of separation

He did well, didn't he? I have been asking myself whether or not I actually met Alan Ayckbourn and my conclusion is that I must have done.

Why? Because I spent the summer of 1957 in the Yorkshire seaside resort, Scarborough. This is town I often tend to regard as 'home', since as a family we had always spent our annual holidays there, where my grandmother lived. From a very early age I was a regular user of the Scarborough Public Library, where as well as all the fabulous books there were the periodicals which interested me available in the Reading Room.
1957 was a bit special for me. For the previous two years we had lived as a family in the Untied States, in the State of Maine.But there was a re-location to the State of Texas on the agenda for the autumn. This prospect excited me. I was at the age of seventeen theatre-mad and very much looking forward to moving to Dallas. In that city there was a pioneer 'arena theatre' with its stage surrounded on all four sides by the audience seating, the Margo Jones Theater.

Looking back I realise that it was the 'staging mode' which interested me more than the drama which might be so presented..

Anyway, my discovery of the summer 1957 was that one of the Reading Rooms at the Scarborough Public Library had been converted to become Britain's first ever theatre-in-the-round, presided over by an avuncular visionary, Stephen Joseph. I was allowed to haunt the Library Theatre during the days of rehearsal and one evening I watched the performance of 'Glass Menagerie'. I recall long conversations about the theories of arena staging.

The point is that there was another adolescent who must have been there at exactly the same time, a lad a year older than I was, Alan Ayckbourn, starting his career as an Assistant Stage Manager. Did we meet? Did we talk? I wonder.

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