Scarborough (1990)A Londoner by birth, I came to Scarborough as an aspiring actor and assistant stage manager when I was 17, and have never wanted to leave. At first, it was the work which drew me. Stephen Joseph, who founded the Theatre-in-the-Round (common nowadays but virtually unheard of then), was running a very unconventional operation by the standards of 1956-7. Scarborough was very exciting, with Stephen encouraging young actors and writers to tackle new work. In my case, he concentrated on getting me to write and direct.
People I knew in London theatres complained about seldom seeing a tree and here I was walking to work along the beach. I was happy, too, to watch my two sons grow up beside the sea.
When Stephen Joseph died in 1967, I effectively took on his mantle, committed to a theatrical alternative to London. Being in charge, I also found myself in a lucky position: I've never had a play turned down because, apart from one or two for Stephen, I've never submitted one to anyone except myself.
And the Scarborough audiences: they like value for money up here. They sit there almost saying out loud: `I've paid good money for this; now make me laugh'. Northern people have an honesty, bluntness, even rudeness - call it what you like, but I find it very good. They don't say what they don't feel. If they seem to be enjoying the evening, they really are.
Scarborough is a typical seaside town, with an influx of summer visitors, many of whom wouldn't normally go into a theatre but who think: `Hell, we're on holiday. Let's go mad'. We even had a very nice review in the New York Times this summer, and we've started getting parties from the other side of the world.
I draw a lot of my material from here. As an aid to concentration, I love walking on the moors. There's some magnificent countryside, miles and miles of it, glorious, open and unspoilt. Walking around and finding bits of moorland that I never knew existed gives me great pleasure.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.