World premiere of new Alan Ayckbourn play written in lockdown - when and how to hear it

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The world premiere of a new play by Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Anno Domino - written in lockdown - will be broadcast later this month.

It will also mark Sir Alan’s return to acting ... 56 years after his last appearance on a professional stage.

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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.

The couple live in Scarborough, Sir Alan artistic director of Stephen Joseph Theatre there for many years.

Sir Alan, one of the world’s most prolific playwrights, was due to direct the world premiere of a new play written by him, Truth Will Out, alongside a new production of his 1976 classic Just Between Ourselves and Stephen Joseph Theatre’s artistic director Paul Robinson’s production of The Ladykillers at the Scarborough theatre this summer.

However, after the  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.

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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 that, Sir Alan 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 Stephen Joseph in 1985, during which she appeared in the world premiere of Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind.

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Sir Alan said: “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 Stephen Joseph Theatre’s  artistic director Paul Robinson, said: “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.

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“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 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.

Anno Domino is a Stephen Joseph Theatre production.

You can listen to Anno Domino, for free, on the theatre’s website.

It will be broadcast from noon on Monday May 25, available until noon on Thursday June 25.