Chichester's Festival 2012 continues with two productions by Alan Ayckbourn, one of Britain's most popular and acclaimed playwrights. Surprises is a brand new play, presented alongside his award- winning classic comedy Absurd Person Singular. These two plays are co-productions with Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, and feature one company of actors. Surprises plays today, 8 August – 8 September and Absurd Person Singular runs 10 August – 8 September at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester.
Surprises is the gently funny and poignant depiction of several intertwined love stories set in the near future that explore the central theme of longevity. Absurd Person Singular follows three couples in three kitchens over three Christmases. This darkly comic story of culinary disasters, emotional breakdowns and social climbing established the tragi-comic genre that has become synonymous with Ayckbourn's finest writing. In 1974 it won the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy.
Surprises is Ayckbourn's 76th play in a career spanning over 50 years, while Absurd Person Singular was first staged in 1972. Ayckbourn recently became the first British playwright to receive both Olivier and Tony Special Lifetime Achievement Awards and was knighted for services to theatre in 1997. His work includes Man of the Moment, A Chorus of Disapproval, Woman in Mind, A Small Family Business, The Norman Conquests, Absent Friends and Relatively Speaking. He was Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from 1972 to 2009, where the majority of his work continues to be premiered.
Ayesha Antoine plays Eva Jackson in Absurd Person Singular and Grace/Seraphina in Surprises. Her theatre credits include My Wonderful Day (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough), One Monkey Don't Stop No Show (Sheffield Crucible) and Big White Fog (Almeida Theatre).
Bill Champion plays Ronald Brewster-Wright in Absurd Person Singular and Franklin in Surprises. His theatre credits include Intimate Exchanges, Haunting Julia and Love Songs for Shop Keepers (all for the Stephen Joseph Theatre Theatre, Scarborough).
Laura Doddington plays Jane Hopcroft in Absurd Person Singular, and Sylvia/Zandy in Surprises. Her credits include Life of Riley, I Ought to Be In Pictures, Miss Yesterday and Time and Time Again (all for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough).
Sarah Parks plays Marion Brewster-Wright in Absurd Person Singular. She also plays Lorraine/Inez/Bellina in Surprises. Her theatre credits include Mother Courage and Her Children (National Theatre) and Marlene (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough).
Ben Porter plays Sidney Hopcroft in Absurd Person Singular. He also plays Titus/Conrad in Surprises. His credits include Edward II (Sheffield Crucible), The Fall Guy (Manchester Royal Exchange), An Enemy of the People and The Invention of Love (both for The National Theatre).
Richard Stacey plays Geoffrey Jackson in Absurd Person Singular and Jan/Gorman in Surprises. His theatre credits include If I Were You (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough) Much Ado About Nothing (Theatre Royal Bath) and Twelfth Night (Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse).
Design is by Michael Holt, who has worked with Alan Ayckbourn for 35 years at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. His credits at this theatre include Awaking Beauty, A Trip to Scarborough and Communicating Doors. Other credits include La bohème (Sadler's Wells) and The Pilgrims Progress (Royal Opera House) and Billy Budd (Brisbane).