A Chorus Of Disapproval: 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.
  • A Chorus Of Disapproval is Alan Ayckbourn's 31st play, yet this wasn't his original idea. When Sir Peter Hall, the Artistic Director of the National Theatre, wrote to Alan in January 1984 enquiring about a new play for the venue. Alan replied Hall was very welcome to see his next play (his 31st play) which he was due to write in the spring. Alan told him the title would be Who Do You Think? and that it would have “a smallish cast and be of a fairly light nature.” Obviously, he never wrote this play. What happened to Who Do You Think? - or whether it was anything more than just a title - is not recorded but it seems likely with Hall interested in a new Ayckbourn play, possibly for The Olivier auditorium, that the author’s intentions were shaped by the need for something larger and more ambitious.
  • Alan Ayckbourn's initial plan for A Chorus Of Disapproval was to base it around a performance of Rudolf Friml's The Vagabond King - Alan was very taken by the copious staging notes in the acting editions! He also hoped to employ amateur actors who would be placed in the audience and 'chime' into the action of the play. Auditions were advertised and took place for these amateur roles, but both plans were eventually dropped. The actors' union Equity refused permission for the production to use amateur actors - and Alan didn't have the most positive experience at the auditions anyway - and the Rudolf Friml estate, which owned the rights to The Vagabond King, was not happy with Alan’s intentions and refused to allow him to use the piece. With deadlines approaching, Alan decided to simplify his initial concept and went back to one of his original inspirations, John Gay's The Beggar's Opera.
  • A Chorus Of Disapproval marked a shift in the way Alan wrote his plays. Prior to 1984, Alan's first drafts were hand-written in pencil on foolscap pads, but midway through writing A Chorus Of Disapproval, Alan purchased his first word-processor. As a result this is the last Ayckbourn play where a first draft (albeit only Act I) identifiably exists; subsequently everything would be done on word processor or computer and early drafts would frequently not be kept.
Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without the permission of there copyright holder.