House & Garden: In Brief

Key Facts relating to Alan Ayckbourn's House & Garden.
  • House & Garden are Alan Ayckbourn's 54th and 55th plays.
  • The world premieres were held at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, on 17 June 1999. House was performed in The McCarthy and Garden in The Round.
  • The London premieres were held at the National Theatre on 9 August 2000. House was performed in the Lyttelton and Garden in The Olivier.
  • Although they are classed and numbered as two distinct plays in the Ayckbourn canon, Alan Ayckbourn does consider House & Garden to be one piece and discourages productions from not staging both plays together.
  • The plays were written to make sense if only one play was seen and to be seen in any order. There is no correct order to see House & Garden, but the plays gain significantly from seeing both of them.
  • Alan Ayckbourn originally had the idea for a play in two auditoria performed by a single cast on the same night in the early 1972. The director Eric Thompson noted in an interview he believed this idea was also the inspiration behind The Norman Conquests (1973) showing three different perspectives of one weekend's events (although obviously not performed simultaneously).
  • The plays were written simultaneously with Alan writing one scene from one play and then the equivalent scene from the other play in order to keep track of movement between the two plays.
  • The role of Lucille Cadeau was a wedding gift from Alan to the actress Sabine Azema. When Sabine married the French film director Alain Resnais in Scarborough, Alan said his gift for her would be to write her a part in one of his plays. The role is delivered almost entirely in French and the vast majority of it is not translated for the audience.
  • Before writing the plays, Alan had one of his stage managers walk between The Round and The McCarthy auditoria at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, to test how long it would take an actor to get from one venue to the other. The time came in at 37 seconds, so within the plays Alan generally allowed 90 seconds before a character leaving one stage appeared on the other stage. This, however, was not suitable for the National Theatre where there was more than two minute walk between theatres and Alan had to make several subtle alterations to the script to accommodate this.
  • As produced at both the Stephen Joseph Theatre and the National Theatre, there is a third element to the play: The Fête. This took place in the foyer following every production with cast and company manning stalls and games, thus reduces the boundaries between off and on-stage even further.
  • Since the original production, House & Garden has been performed by professional and amateur companies around the world - not all in venues with two adjacent auditoria. Productions have been performed with theatres across the street from each other, in makeshift pavilions next to existing theatres and in one extreme case with both plays on one stage split in half (apparently not ideal due to noise bleed and limited audience capacity for the non-auditoria facing side!).
Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.

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