A Chorus Of Disapproval: Frequently Asked Questions

Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd's answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Alan Ayckbourn's A Chorus Of Disapproval. If you have a question about this or any other of Alan Ayckbourn's plays, you can contact the website via the Contact Us page.

I'm studying A Chorus Of Disapproval, should I watch the film if I'm unable to see the play?
I'd avoid watching it. It is not recommended as Michael Winner's film adaptation of A Chorus Of Disapproval is very specifically his own interpretation / adaptation of the play and is at considerable odds with the playwright's intentions. It also makes substantial cuts to the dialogue (the film runs an hour shorter than the average stage performance of the play), practically excludes all references to The Beggar's Opera and is presented as a farce / sex comedy. It in no way reflects the play as written, deliberately makes decisions which are not supported by the original text and went against both the playwright's stated intentions and wishes.

Can I alter / update the play text for production?
No. To do so would break the terms of the production license / contract and lead to permission to stage the play being withdrawn. Alan Ayckbourn firmly believes the majority of his plays are period pieces and should be set when they were first written. He does not approve of alterations or amendments to allow the plays to be updated to the present day as he feels they are a product of their time and reflect the time when they written. Any substantive unapproved alterations to an Ayckbourn play text will lead to the author asserting his right to have the production license withdrawn and potential action by the licensing agent itself.

The play text recommends that the score for the musical numbers from The Beggar's Opera be the Frederick Austin version published by Boosey and Hawkes (1920 revised 1926). Where can I obtain this?
A digital pdf copy of the 1920 publication can be found here.

Is A Chorus Of Disapproval a farce / farce-comedy?
No. By no definition of the term can A Chorus Of Disapproval be considered a farce. Most significantly, Alan Ayckbourn does not consider it a farce and did not set out to write it as a farce. The playwright has described what he considers farce to be as: "Good farce explores the extreme reaches of the credible and the likely. It proceeds by its own immaculate internal logic and at best leaves its audience only at the end wondering how on earth they came to be where they are now. In other words, it takes the basic illusion of theatre whereby, as in all plays, the dramatist first creates a world and then convinces his audiences of its credibility - farce takes this illusion and stretches it to the limits and outside them. For me, farce begins when I feel that I am now leading an audience into realms beyond the laws of human probability." In no way does A Chorus Of Disapproval fit this description and, consequently, it should not be directed nor approached as a farce.

Although A Chorus Of Disapproval is set in Pendon, is this actually Scarborough?
An interesting question as Alan Ayckbourn has set many plays in his fictional town of Pendon, which he traditionally locates in the London commuter belt, probably in the vicinity of Reading. However, he has said on several occasions that the location of Pendon does shift in several plays and A Chorus Of Disapproval is one of these plays. Alan's biographer, Paul Allen, makes a case that Pendon is Scarborough in his book A Pocket Guide To Alan Ayckbourn's Plays suggesting Pendon permanently relocated to the small town in the north following It Could Be Any One Of Us and that given Scarborough is the only small town Alan knows, Pendon is a substitute for it (although there's no persuasive evidence to believe this is true and later plays quite clearly indicate Pendon has re-located to the south of England again). Alan Ayckbourn, on the other hand, has never specifically identified Pendon as being a substitute for Scarborough, but does consider that for the purposes of A Chorus Of Disapproval, Pendon did relocate to somewhere in Yorkshire (interview with the author, December 2012). Given the dialect of Jarvis - the only identifiably Northern person in the play, whose plot of family held land is so crucial - Pendon is likely to be more specifically West Yorkshire, possibly in the vicinity of Leeds, where Alan lived for five years during the late 1960s.

I understand there is another short play featuring Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society, is it published / available to produce?
In 1987, Alan Ayckbourn wrote An Evening With PALOS for the Colin Blakely Memorial evening at the Lyric Theatre. It is a short one act play based around PALOS's attempts to do a rehearsed reading of the epic narrative poem A View From The Pump, which - naturally - does not go as intended. The play has never been published nor is it available for production as Alan Ayckbourn wrote it specifically for the Colin Blakely memorial event and has only agreed to one other performance (at the University of York to mark the acquisition of the Ayckbourn Archive) since 1987.

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.