Absent Friends: Archive

The Archive highlights significant documents relating to Absent Friends which are held in Archive by either Alan Ayckbourn, the Ayckbourn Archive at the University of York or The Bob Watson Archive at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. All material is copyright protected and should not be reproduced.

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Absent Friends is one of the few Ayckbourn plays where early ideas and notes have survived in archive (for further examples, see Behind The Scenes). The notes are held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the University of York and offer a fascinating insight into Alan’s ideas Alan for the play. The note above was handwritten in faint pencil and has been enhanced to make the writing visible. It offers a set of characters very different to what appears in the final play, transcribed below:

Arthur (4 square)
Grace (his sister), with words of hope. The optimist in the midst.
Caroline (his daughter), nervous wreck
Paul (his son-in-law), Remote and self-possessed
John (his son), weedy, recovering from a breakdown
Evelyn (his daughter-in-law), strong, maternal
Colin, Evelyn’s brother

(Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn)


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This letter is Alan Ayckbourn’s response to a letter from Peter Hall praising Absent Friends, but which queried the climax of the play. The letter shows Alan’s thoughts on Absent Friends and his believe that the play’s dying fall was the only honest way to end it.
Correspondence held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York shows Peter Hall was very enthusiastic about Absent Friends and actively pursued its London premiere for the National Theatre (it had already been sold to Michael Codeon for the West End). All of which was taking place as the NT and Alan negotiated staging an Ayckbourn play at the venue, which would be realised in 1976 with Bedroom Farce. (Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn)


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This photo with Alan Ayckbourn (centre-back) apparently paying no attention to his actors Christopher Godwin & Eileen O’Brien is notable as it is the earliest photograph held in archive of Alan in rehearsals for one of his own plays. The photograph was taken in Library Theatre at Scarborough during rehearsals for Absent Friends in 1974. (Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust)

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Although Absurd Person Singular was the first Ayckbourn world premiere to have a poster image (see here), it did not replace the Library Theatre’s generic programme image. Absent Friends marks the first world premiere of an Ayckbourn play to have a programme with a cover design specific to the play. The simplicity of the design still marks it as one of the more successful images for the play since it premiered. (Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust)

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A publicity shot for Manhattan Theatre Club’s New York premiere of Absent Friends in 1991. This was notable as the first professional stage role of Gillian Anderson (centre back) as Evelyn with Brenda Blethyn (front right) as Diana. (Copyright: To be confirmed)

All material on this page is copyright of the respective person(s) / organisation(s) and should not be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder / holding organisation.

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