Joking Apart: Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes offers a glimpse at some rarely known facts regarding the writing of Alan Ayckbourn's plays with material drawn from the Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York and the playwright's personal archive.
  • The earliest notes relating to Joking Apart are held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York. Two pages of A4 hand-written pencil notes ostensibly relating to Just Between Ourselves (1975) include a broad outline for a "3 act study of 7 characters over x years." This patently does not refer to Just Between Ourselves and probably laid the seed for Joking Apart three years later. The actual note can be found on the Archive page.
  • Another hand-written note held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the University of York (reprinted below) illustrates Alan's calculations for the ages of the characters over the course of the play. Interestingly, Brian's various girlfriends - who get younger with each scene in the actual play - are noted to get older (final line 'G' for girls) before being crossed out and their ages reversed. The same note (but not reproduced) also suggests originally the girlfriends would change with each scene but would remain approximately the same ages (mid-20s) rather than getting younger in counterpoint to the 12 year ageing process of the other characters in the play.


  • Joking Apart premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, on 12 January 1978 for a short run before being revived for the summer season at the venue. When the play was revived though it featured new sound effects for the pivotal tennis match in the play. Apparently the effects for the original production had been recorded in a car park and both passing cars and the sound of Scarborough's seagulls could be heard in the background! The new recording eliminated both cars and anachronistic birds from the country-set play.
  • The West End premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's Joking Apart was unusual in that it immediately followed Alan's previous play, Ten Times Table, into the Globe Theatre. Ten Times Table closed on 3 March 1979 and Joking Apart opened four days later on 7 March. Alan Ayckbourn recalls going to the final performance of Ten Times Table and staying in the theatre to watch the get out of that play and the get in of Joking Apart, knowing it was unlikely he would ever see anything similar in the West End again.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. The note is copyright of Alan Ayckbourn and held in the Borthwick Institute at the University Of York and should not be reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder.