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.

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 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. The play was originally due to have Alan Ayckbourn in the lead role of Jim Jones, however, he was called up for National Service and had to vacate the role, although he was able to attend the first night of the play as a member of the audience.

The play is loosely based on
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. 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. Alan 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!

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 though, 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 (whose National Service had lasted just three days) was cast as the lead, 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; unfortunately, no known copies of the second production are known to have survived, making it difficult to ascertain how much the play was changed. 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.

The Square Cat, Alan has never allowed Love After All to be published or produced since, saying it belongs to a period of his writing when he was still learning his craft. The only surviving original manuscript of Love After All is held by the British Library.

Article by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.