a life in architecture
Britain's most prolific playwright, Alan Ayckbourn, is familiar with most of the country's theatres, but cites his favourite as the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough (pictured), of which he is artistic director. He calls the refurbished 1936 Odeon Cinema 'a building with a heart', with space that excites actors. He is equally passionate about his home, also in Scarborough.
In the late 60s, Ayckbourn bought the Georgian terraced house which once belonged to his mentor, Stephen Joseph. A few years later, the adjoining end-of-terrace house became vacant. He bought that and installed a conservatory and a swimming pool. A nearby disused school then became a popular target for young arsonists. Realising the insurance implications for his own property, Ayckbourn decided to buy that too. The result is an unusually long house. A member of the theatre staff lives on the top floor, the Ayckbourns live on the two main floors, and the basement flat is rented out.
Ayckbourn is so in love with the theatre that the old school building houses a rehearsal room. He says he can imagine himself in old age - he recently celebrated his 60th birthday - wheeling himself into a rehearsal, declaiming a few speeches ('I was a very bad actor. That's why I decided to write plays and produce them'), then wheeling himself back to the house.
Alan Ayckbourn's new double bill 'House' and 'Garden' opens at the Stephen Joseph Theatre on 12 June, tel 01723 370541