Love After All: History

Until 2007, Love After All was one of the great enigmas of Alan Ayckbourn’s playwriting career. Rarely read, never published and never performed professionally since 1960, it was the last of Alan's plays to be a genuine mystery largely due to the fact it was believed not a single copy of the original manuscript still existed. This mystery was compounded by the fact that within the space of a year there were two very different productions of the play and reminiscences of the two productions often conflicted with each other.
Behind The Scenes: Lord Chamberlain's Collection
Love After All was discovered in the Lord Chamberlain's Plays collection at the British Library, apparently unread since 1960. Between 1737 and 1968, every play intended for public performance had to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain's Office for examination and licensing; the collection holds every new script submitted to the office between 1824 and 1968. One of the enduring mysteries is why, when the British Library was known to have this collection, no researcher thought to search for Love After All in the collection prior to Simon Murgatroyd and the British Library's research in 2007.
In 2007, Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist Simon Murgatroyd and the British Library discovered what is believed to be the sole surviving copy of the original manuscript in the Lord Chamberlain's Plays collection at the British Library. This significant discovery helped to clear up many of the mysteries surrounding the play and restored the complete Ayckbourn play canon for the first time in more than 40 years. However, the full story behind Love After All remains tantalisingly out of reach due to the likelihood that no copies of the script for the second production have survived.

Love After All is Alan Ayckbourn’s second play and, like The Square Cat, was co-written with his first wife Christine Roland under the pseudonym Roland Allen (although it was no great secret that this was Alan's pen-name having been mentioned both in the production's programme note and by the local media). It was commissioned by Stephen Joseph for the 1959 winter season at Scarborough’s Library Theatre immediately following the successful production of Alan's first play The Square Cat.
Behind The Scenes: Speed Writing
It has never been satisfactorily explained why Alan felt the need to 'borrow' an existing plot for Love After All. However, this could have been due entirely to practical reasons and deadlines. He was commissioned to write it no earlier than 9 September 1959 (the end of the summer season) for rehearsals beginning no later than 9 December 1959 - less than three months to come up with an idea, write and submit a script!
The play is loosely based on the plot of The Barber Of Seville and is an Edwardian farce centred around Jim Jones' attempts to win the hand of the beautiful Angelica, despite the machinations of her miser father Scrimes who intends to marry her off to a member of the local aristocracy.

There is probably less merit to the very conventional
Love After All than The Square Cat - which at least had an original plot and with its contemporary setting more recognisably fits into the Ayckbourn canon. Its major noteworthy feature is that it has Alan's first multi-location set with a ground floor living room and first floor bedroom sharing the same set. Of all his plays, Alan has spoken the least about this work, although he believes it was 'quite fun.'

Alan noted that writing the second play was supposed to be more difficult than the first, but as he 'borrowed' the plot, he actually found it easier to write than
The Square Cat. He has frequently said that his early plays were written largely to show him off as an actor and Love After All certainly supports this as the hero appears on stage in a number of implausible disguises including Scrimes' long-lost American female cousin!
Behind The Scenes: National Service
Alan's experiences in the National Service are worthy of a play in their own right. At the time, the UK still required National Service for all 'healthy young men' aged from 17 -21 for 18 months; Alan was 20 years old in 1959 and had managed to avoid the call since 17. Famously he attempted to fail the initial exam by scoring zero (he mistakenly got two questions right) but the army knew he had his 'A Levels' and he was enlisted in the Royal Air Force as a clerk. In January 1960, he was sent to RAF Cardington for eight weeks basic training, his second day involving his medical / fitness examination. It transpired his examining doctor was writing a book about his army experiences and discovered Alan was a fellow writer. During conversation Alan let slip he had a literary agent (he didn't) and wasn't enthusiastic about doing his National Service. The Doctor promptly signed him out for his 'cricket knee' and two days later Alan was once again a civilian. National Service ended the same year with the last men entering service in November 1960.
Unfortunately, when it came to casting Alan was unable to take on the lead role of Jim Jones as he was called up for a - short-lived - National Service and would have been unavailable for Studio Theatre Ltd's winter tour which included the play. As a result, he had to settle for just attending the first night of the play as an audience member.

The world premiere of
Love After All took place on 21 December 1959 at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, and was directed by Clifford Williams; later to become an influential director with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Although only several reviews survive, it appears the play was well-received and was, like The Square Cat before it, another sell-out success for the theatre (although in context, it was only performed for five days). The success of the play led to it being revived for the following summer season; no play before this had been produced in two consecutive seasons at the Library Theatre.

Prior to that,
Love After All was taken on tour first to Newcastle-under-Lyme as part of a short repertory season and then, from 15 March 1960, to Southampton's Chantry Hall, where it was one of a number of plays performed that week ostensibly to introduce the concept of in-the-round theatre to a new audience.

The play was revived by Studio Theatre Ltd for the 1960 summer season with a new director, Julian Herington. He disliked several aspects of the play and chose to update it to a modern setting - although the single surviving review incorrectly insists it was still Edwardian - and changed many of the characters’ names. Alan was cast as the lead this time, now called Peter Jones, and gained a good review for his energetic, quick-changing performance.

Alan believes the second version of the play was far less successful than the original production thanks both to Herington's alterations and being a less capable director than Clifford Williams. This production also marked the end of Julian Herington’s career with the company, who was fired after allegedly spending the entire season’s budget on just his productions of
Wuthering Heights and Love After All.

Unfortunately, no known manuscripts from the second production are known to have survived, making it difficult to ascertain how substantially the play was changed. Our knowledge of the play is also restricted by the fact that the single copy of the original manuscript held by the British Library is pre-performance and does not include any alterations or notes that came during the rehearsal and performance process.

The Square Cat, Alan has never allowed Love After All to be published or produced since 1960, saying it belongs to a period of his writing when he was still learning his craft. Although he has twice given permission for short extracts to be performed (once under his own direction at an anniversary event at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2017), his desire is that Love After All will never be produced again.

For those wishing to research
Love After All, the only surviving original manuscript is held by the British Library.
Article by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.