House & Garden: The Fete

For the original production of House & Garden at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and its revival at the National Theatre (RNT) in London, the performances were followed by a 'fête' held in the foyer of both theatres. The fête further breaks down the line between on-stage and off-stage action as it allowed the public to participate in the fête that is mentioned within the plays and which was run by members of the company in character as well as the stage management team and various volunteers.
Alan Ayckbourn has always expressed a desire that the fête should be a part of any production of
House & Garden, but scaled appropriately to the venue; when at the National Theatre, the venue featured artificial grass in the foyer and a beer tent - complete with special beer True Fingers - for the duration of the plays' run.
Here Alan Ayckbourn explains some of the reasoning behind the fête as well as providing some dialogue promoting the play by two of the characters, Teddy and Giles, which also helped cover the gap between the companies of each play moving between auditoria to take their curtain calls.


The Garden Fête (by Alan Ayckbourn)

In both the original Scarborough production and the subsequent Royal National Theatre production of House & Garden the plays were followed by a garden fête in the two theatres' shared foyer (and in the Scarborough case on the stage of Garden itself as well).
This really became a 'third act', uniting both the audiences and company who manned the stalls and side-shows. At the RNT we also kept a close watch each night for anyone in the audience who was even remotely a 'celebrity' and prevailed upon them to open the fete.
It is hoped that all future productions will also include some similar event. Besides providing a perfect ending to the evening (matinees were difficult) it also proved a great boost to ticket sales quite apart from the income derived from the sale of home-made produce and the side-show charges. In addition, it was an opportunity to include local charities who manned their own nightly stall.

Curtain Call Speeches
To publicise this (and to facilitate curtain calls) both Giles and Teddy made speeches from the stage.
In the smaller SJT Theatre (where the travel time between the two auditoria was approximately 40 seconds) these were made at the end of the calls, by Teddy from the set of
House and Giles from the set of Garden.
In the larger RNT (where the travel time between the two auditoria was around 1 minute 30 seconds) these speeches were made in the middle of the curtain call in order to allow the other actors to catch up. In this instance, by Teddy from the set of
Garden and Giles from the set of House.
Below are the two speeches as used at the RNT penned by the author, although it is anticipated that the details are likely to vary. Please note though that the 1 minute 30 seconds travel time (at a brisk walk) is the maximum distance for which the play(s) were designed.
The speeches for the RNT version were as follows:-

TEDDY: Ladies and Gentlemen, the weather, thank heavens, looks as if it's brightening up a bit so I'd just like to take this opportunity to remind you about our magnificent annual fête and to ask you, as you leave, please to look in and have a bit of fun. Remember, it's all in a very good cause. There's home-made produce, alcoholic refreshment, first rate games including my own particular favourite, the hoop-la stall - though I have, alas, to inform you that the bottle of scotch has already been won! Nonetheless don't miss it whatever you do. Especially since tonight I'm delighted to announce, owing to the indisposition of Madame Lucille Cadeau, a very special last minute guest has kindly stepped in and consented to launch the proceedings - none other than ...
Finally, do remember, if you haven't yet visited our fascinating House, it is regularly open to the public and tickets are still available through the normal sources. Thank you very much. Hope to see you there. I think the other lot have just about made it now so - on with the curtain call!

GILES: It looks, as far as one can judge, as if the rain's finally cleared at last so I do hope that before you leave you'll find time to look round our garden fête. Remember, it's all in a very good cause. There's home-made produce, alcoholic refreshment, wonderful games and side-shows including my own particular favourite, Bat the Rat. Many of us will be there, too, so please don't miss it whatever you do. Most especially since tonight I'm delighted to announce, owing to the indisposition of Madame Lucille Cadeau, we have a special last minute guest who has generously consented to launch the proceedings - none other than ...
Finally, I have been asked to remind you, if you haven't yet visited the wonderful Gardens here, they are regularly open to the public and tickets are available through the usual channels. Of special interest is the unique and quite fascinating range of shrubbery. Thank you very much. I hope we'll see you there. I think we're mostly just about set to continue now - so, on with the curtain call!

On matinee days when there was no fête following the afternoon performance, but when it was still necessary to make the speech, we modified it announcing that although it was still to wet underfoot following the rain, we would be holding the fête as usual, later on that evening for those of who were staying. The guest opener, if unknown, became a 'special mystery guest'.

Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn.

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