House & Garden: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's House & Garden.

Do you have to see both plays?
No, each play stands on its own and can be seen independently of the other. However for full enjoyment and appreciation of House & Garden - and for the full story - it is preferable to see both parts.

Is there a preferred order to House & Garden?
No, the plays can be seen in any order and it does not affect the viewing experience.

Could House or Garden be performed singularly without producing the other?
Theoretically you could, but the playwright's preference is for both plays to be produced as he wrote and intended them. House & Garden was written to be performed as two plays performed simultaneously with the same cast moving between each play. If you only stage one play, you're also only telling half the story.

Could you, theoretically, stage House & Garden with the ability to move from one play to another during the same performance?
Theoretically, you probably could. But it would make no sense whatsoever to an audience. It would also go against the author's intentions and, on a practical level, it would be almost impossible to achieve.
It would also again beg the question, why? Although the plays are obviously linked to each other, each play has its own narrative and concentrates on characters the other does not.
House tells its own complete story as Garden does, why would you interrupt the experience? To, say, watch House Act I followed by Garden Act II would mean seeing one play not resolve its plot-lines and come into another with little idea of what was going on. Generally a character featured in one play is only a walk-on in another and their plot lines are not resolved in the 'walk on' play. It would be a very unsatisfying experience for the audience and neither dramatically nor artistically would make any sense.

How do you allow for the possibility of a late entrance?
For the National Theatre production, Alan allowed for the possibility of a late entrance given the longer distances between auditoria than in Scarborough. To address the possibility that an actor might be delayed in moving from one auditoria to the next, he created the 'Emergency Dog'. Barking from Spoof, Teddy’s dog, would be played if an actor was late to the stage, this would indicate there was a problem and allow a character on stage to slow down their delivery or deliver some additional dialogue to cover the other actor’s entrance. Fortunately, the 'Emergency Dog' was never utilised in the National Theatre production.

How were the curtain calls handled with two casts?
Alan Ayckbourn's notes on how to handle the curtain call as well as the post-show fête can be found here.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.