Standing Room Only: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's Standing Room Only.

Why is Standing Room Only attributed to both Roland Allen and Alan Ayckbourn?
When Standing Room Only was premiered at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1961, it was credited to Alan Ayckbourn's writing pseudonym Roland Allen (see below). When Alan moved to the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, the following year, a revival of Standing Room Only - directed by Alan - was staged in 1963 and Alan credited it to his own name. The only other subsequent production of the play was also credited to Alan Ayckbourn. As a result, the play has been credited to both Roland Allen and Alan Ayckbourn and, as a result, is considered both the final Ayckbourn play to be credited to his pseudonym Roland Allen as well as the first play to be credited to Alan Ayckbourn.

Why did Alan Ayckbourn use a pseudonym for his first four plays including Standing Room Only ?
Alan Ayckbourn wrote his first four plays under the pseudonym Roland Allen and the reasons are two-fold. In the case of The Square Cat, it was to reflect the fact he co-wrote the play with his first wife, Christine Roland; the name is an amalgam of Christine's surname (Roland) and Alan's Christian name (Allen). The second reason is that Alan was an established actor with the Library Theatre company in Scarborough by this time and the pseudonym differentiated him as a writer from his established role as an actor. Having set the precedent with his first play, he continued using the pseudonym for all his early plays at the Library Theatre, only choosing to use his real name after he had left the Library Theatre company in Scarborough in 1962 to work at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent.

Why isn't Standing Room Only available to be performed? / Why hasn't Standing Room Only been published?
Alan Ayckbourn considers his earliest plays to be his first steps as a playwright when he was learning his craft. As a result, he doesn't feel they particularly reflect the quality or standard of writing he would later achieve and do not stand up particularly well due to his inexperience as a writer. As a result, he has never allowed them to be performed again and has not published the plays. For researchers interested in the early plays, they are available to read at both the British Library and within the Ayckbourn Archive at the University of York.

The website states Alan Ayckbourn there are numerous different variations of the script for Standing Room Only, which is considered to be the definitive version?
There are probably more different variations of Standing Room Only in existence than any other Alan Ayckbourn play and this is the result of the unusual circumstances which surrounded it. It was premiered at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1961 before being revived and revised by Alan Ayckbourn at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, in 1962. It was also picked up for the West End by the producer Peter Bridge leading Alan to write a number of different drafts at Bridge's suggestion to suit whichever star he was trying to court and other West End trends; all pointless as the play was never produced in the West End. As a result, the definitive version of the play is considered to be the 1962 revival script, which was directed by Alan Ayckbourn and featured substantive revisions to the original text.

Where am I able to read Standing Room Only for research purposes?
A manuscript for the original production of Standing Room Only is held in the Lord Chamberlain's Collection at the British Library; this is the unrevised script used for the Library Theatre, Scarborough. The definitive text of the play (taken from the Victoria Theatres production in 1963) as well as other proposed West End drafts of the play are held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the University of York.

Is Standing Room Only the first of Alan Ayckbourn's science-fiction / speculative fiction plays?
Yes, it is considered to be the first of many speculative fiction plays such as Henceforward…, Comic Potential and Surprises. Depending on the version of the script, the play was set in either 1997 or 2010 having been written in 1961. Strictly speaking, Alan did write an earlier science-fiction piece, The Season, several years earlier which preceded his first professional commission. However, The Season was never performed and has never been published or officially acknowledged within the Ayckbourn play canon, so Standing Room Only is considered the first of his genre plays.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.