Standing Room Only: World Premiere ReviewsThis page contains all the reviews held in archive of the world premiere production of Alan Ayckbourn's Standing Room Only at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in July 1961. All reviews on this page are the copyright of the respective publication and / or author and should not be reproduced.
New Play In The Round
"On Saturation Saturday 1985 there is a traffic jam in Shaftesbury Avenue. Among one of the vehicles that is stopped and is still there 25 years later is a London Transport bus, 30 ft. long by 8 ft. wide.
The bus, or the remains of it, is the chief feature on the stage of the Library Theatre, where Standing Room Only a comedy written by Roland Allen, a young playwright in his early twenties, was given its first public performance last night.
It is a colourful, extraordinary, highly fantastic and wholly, enjoyable play, a diversion where we laugh at a future which is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
This is the third* of Allen's plays - all comedies - which have received a first performance in Scarborough, and, as in the other two, the author (as Alan Ayckbourn) takes a part, this time as a humourless and insensitive housing inspector.
Marriage for him and his wife (Rosamund Dickson) who live on the bus with her sister and father, means "registering". No babies are allowed until the wife has passed a motherhood examination. Babies born before this time are illegal.
The father, Stanley Page, is a blustery old man who sits in the cab of the bus most of the time and remembers the "good old days" of Elvis Presley and Adam Faith. His other daughter, Hazel Burt, is a serious type, inclined to anti-socialism. She finds an ally in David Jarrett, who, posing as a bus inspector, comes to live with them.
The strange array of clothes has been designed by Christine Roland, the author's wife."
(Scarborough Evening News, 14 July 1961)
*Standing Room Only was actually the fourth play by Roland Allen (the writing pseudonym used by Alan Ayckbourn) to open in Scarborough.
Is There A Manager To Drive This Bus To Shaftesbury Avenue? (by Joan Macalpine)
"Stephen Joseph's company at the Library, Scarborough, have established a reputation for zany off-beat comedies, plays which say, "Isn't this absurd? Isn't it ridiculous, funny and impossible?" and then, suddenly "Isn't this true?''"
In the past the chief writer in this vein has been David Campton. Now, in Standing Room Only, Roland Allen takes his turn. We remember him as a writer of farces, and his new play is very funny, but it is also totally logical, and a cautionary tale for tomorrow.
Let us suppose that the population continues to increase by compound interest - as it is doing - and that more and more people buy cars - as they are doing - and that nothing is done about it until too late - as almost nothing is being done - and the inevitable end will be Saturation Saturday, when London's traffic comes to a great and final halt in the rush-hour.
Mr. Allen has taken this inevitability, and considered its consequences, taking a traditional cockney bus-driver and his family, and setting his play on their bus, stuck in Shaftesbury Avenue since before the two daughters were born.
A desperate government is raising skyscrapers ever higher, and has answered its population problem by making childbirth illegal. And here on the bus, the impossible accident has happened and the law-abiding daughter and the son-in-law - who is a pillar of the civil service - are having an illegal baby.
With completely logical absurdity this situation is followed through in a comedy which the cast clearly enjoys at as high a pitch as the audience. The play has still a slight untidiness in parts, but it is the untidiness of exuberance, and does nothing to spoil the evening.
Stanley Page as the cockney driver sighing for the corned beef of yesteryear; David Jarrett as the mysterious outsider; and Alan Ayckbourn as the meticulous, humourless public servant, come together to make a brilliant trio of Expectant Fatherdom.
They are well matched by Rosamund Dickson and Hazel Burt as the two girls, the first a simple believer in what "they" say, and the other an unsentimental individualist.
The play's gaiety is enhanced by the inspiredly [sic] futuristic costumes by Christine Roland, and by the wildly impressionistic bus on which Stephen Joseph has set it.
Mr. Allen has imagined his bus in Shaftesbury Avenue: is there no management to drive it there?"
(The Stage, July 1961)
Life In London Transport
"During the past three years. Roland Allen's farces have delighted Theatre in the Round audiences at Scarborough and his new play Standing Room Only, which opened last night at the Library Theatre, should please as many as enjoyed The Square Cat and Love After All. For he has not stood still, even if the bus in which his characters live has. Here is a polished, zany comedy, full of crazy logic and nonsensical sense.
In 1985 the traffic in a vastly overpopulated London grinds to a halt, and the driver settles down with his family to make the best of the vitamin pills and the brown-Windsor-substitute while they wait for the traffic to move. Then one day a strange young man turns up, and life turns upside down.
Stanley Page, as the driver, finds a part ideally suited to his warm style of comedy, and Alan Ayckbourn makes him an excellent foil as the law-abiding young man who suddenly finds he has broken the law. David Jarrett's mysterious stranger is a striking and effective figure, and the two girls, played by Hazel Burt and Rosamund Dickson, provide a fine contrast in the feminine angle on life in London Transport."
(Unknown publication, 14 July 1961)
All reviews are copyright of the respective publication.