The Stephen Joseph Theatre will present the world premiere of a new play by Alan Ayckbourn, Anno Domino, which will be available as an audio recording exclusively on the SJT website from 25 May to 25 June 2020. The writer’s 84th play will also mark Ayckbourn’s return to acting – 56 years after his last appearance on a professional stage.
The 81-year-old Olivier and Tony Award-winning author has also teamed up with his wife, actress Heather Stoney, to record the new show during lockdown.
Ayckbourn was due to direct the premiere of a new play written by him, Truth Will Out, alongside a new production of his 1976 classic Just Between Ourselves and SJT Artistic Director Paul Robinson’s production of The Ladykillers at the Scarborough theatre this summer.
However, after the SJT’s summer season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, Ayckbourn, a former radio producer, and Robinson hatched a plan to create a new play which Ayckbourn and Stoney could record and present online.
Anno Domino looks at the break-up of a long-established marriage and the effect that has on family and friends. In it, Ayckbourn and Stoney will play four characters each, with an age range of 18 to mid-70s. It’s the first time they’ve acted together since Ayckbourn’s last appearance on a professional stage, in William Gibson’s two-hander Two for the Seesaw at the Rotherham Civic Theatre in 1964.
After Two for the Seesaw, Ayckbourn pursued a hugely successful writing and directing career, while Stoney continued to act, appearing in many Ayckbourn world premieres. Her last full season as an actress was at the SJT in 1985, during which she appeared in the premiere of Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind.
Alan Ayckbourn says of his latest play:
“The inspiration for Anno Domino came from the idea that all relationships ultimately, however resilient they appear to be, are built on sand! And it only takes one couple to break up abruptly to take us all by surprise, then all of a sudden everyone is questioning their own unshakeable relationship.”
The SJT’s Artistic Director, Paul Robinson, adds: “We can’t wait for our audiences to hear Anno Domino. We were all hugely disappointed to have to suspend our summer season. We were so looking forward to seeing the brilliant Just Between Ourselves – ‘the one with the car on stage’ – and the world premiere of Alan’s up-to-the-minute satire, Truth Will Out.
“Anno Domino is one of Alan’s ‘lighter’ plays, a hopeful and rather joyous piece which will provide perfect entertainment in these troubled times. This is a hugely exciting and very contemporary response to the current situation, and shows yet again how Alan has always moved with the times.”
Anno Domino, a Stephen Joseph Theatre production, marks the first time Alan Ayckbourn has both directed and performed in one of his own plays. It is written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, performed by Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney, with final mix by Paul Stear.
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) May 15, 2020