Standing Room Only: Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes offers a glimpse at some rarely known facts regarding the writing of Alan Ayckbourn's plays with material drawn from the Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York and the playwright's personal archive.
  • The Ayckbourn Archive, held at the University of York, holds more versions of Standing Room Only than practically any other Ayckbourn play. It is unique in having surviving copies of the various different manuscripts relating to the play as it progressed from its world premiere production at the Library Theatre, 1963, through various drafts for the London producer Peter Bridge to Alan Ayckbourn's own revival of the play in 1963 and a final 'definitive' manuscript. Although the plots remain similar and retain much of the dialogue, there are substantive differences between the texts including additional characters, altered names, a different time setting for the play and - with regard to the London scripts - increasingly ambitious and extravagant effects.
  • In Paul Allen's biography, Alan Ayckbourn: Grinning At The Edge, it notes that Standing Room Only was the play which began Alan's long association with his literary agent Margaret 'Peggy' Ramsay. Lacking an agent at the time (all interest in his work was handled by the Library Theatre's secretary Ken Boden), the producer Peter Bridge introduced Alan to Peggy soon after he optioned Standing Room Only for the West End. Despite having only written four plays, none of which had actually gone into the West End, Peggy took Alan on as a client. She would remain his agent until her death in 1991 and he would remain with the company she formed.
  • Standing Room Only marks Alan Ayckbourn's first foray into the speculative fiction genre as a playwright; something which becomes an increasingly common aspect of his writing from the late 1980s onwards starting with Henceforward… (1987). Intriguingly, although Alan Ayckbourn would not return to this genre for more than 25 years, despite his relative inexperience as a playwright in 1961 his use of science / speculative fiction in Standing Room Only is remarkably close to how he utilises it later in his career as a metaphor for the present day. Standing Room Only does have some strong sci-fi tropes (dysfunctional future, totalitarian Government, gridlock across the country, sterilisation of the population amongst others), but it is essentially a play about family and moral values; the speculative elements - even at this stage of his career - are not allowed to overwhelm the human story of the play.
Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd