Hero’s Welcome & Confusions for Alan Ayckbourn tours

Confusions. Images Tony Bartholomew
Confusions. Images Tony Bartholomew

The extraordinary output of playwright Alan Ayckbourn shows no sign of abating with his latest work, Hero’s Welcome set to tour alongisde a revival of his 1974 hit, Confusions.

The Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in association with Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, is embarking on a national and international tour with the two productions written and directed by Ayckbourn.

The double act will tour the UK this spring before heading to the Brits off Broadway Festival in New York in the summer.

Confusions has become one of the most popular and studied new plays of the last 40 years.

Ayckbourn’s first revival of the classic comedy and his latest work were first seen at the SJT in 2015 as part of its celebratory 60th anniversary summer season.

Alan Ayckbourn said: “A chance to see, for those who doubt it(!), how my work has changed over 40 years. I must say, I hardly recognised myself …”

In Confusions, human frailty is laid bare as one hilarious situation after another unfolds – from a devoted and isolated mother to her unfaithful travelling salesman husband, through a solicitous waiter to well-heeled diners and an utterly shambolic garden fete.

Each of the plays connects to the next through one of its characters until the final one is reached when four people sit alone on park benches. The laughs, however dark, keep coming from high farce to poignant observation.

hero's welcome

There’s a Hero’s Welcome for Ayckbourn’s latest play. Seventeen years ago, Murray fled the neighbourhood under somewhat of a cloud and certain local folk have long memories, not least Alice, the mayor, whom he left standing at the altar.

Once the welcome flags have stopped waving and the town band has ceased playing, few of his friends seem particularly happy to see him back.

The Confusions cast features Stephen Billington (The Crucible – York Theatre Royal; Coronation Street, Hollyoaks) and Emma Manton (Love’s Labour’s Lost, Love’s Labour’s Won – Royal Shakespeare Company; The Office) in their company debuts.

Company veterans Russell Dixon (Roundelay, Time of My Life, A Chorus of Disapproval – SJT) and Richard Stacey (Arrivals & Departures, Surprises, Absurd Person Singular – SJT) return following recent SJT tours and productions.

They are also joined by Elizabeth Boag (Arrivals & Departures, Farcicals – SJT) who first performed with the company in 2013.

The cast also appear in Hero’s Welcome with a sixth company member, Evelyn Hoskins who now joins the tour (The Boy Who Fell Into A Book – SJT; Carrie – Southwark Playhouse; This Is My Family – Sheffield Theatres; The Sound of Music Live).

2016 Tour dates

January 13-23, Guildford Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
February 1-6, Cambridge Arts Theatre
February 8-13, Theatre Royal Windsor
February 15-20, Theatre Royal Bath
February 22-27, Eastbourne Theatres
February 29-March 5, Malvern Theatres.

The two productions will then tour to 59E59 Theaters in New York for the 2016 Brits Off Broadway festival (25 May-3 July), marking the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s sixth visit since 2005.

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