Alan Ayckbourn: Actor

The Square Cat (1959)

Production Details


Opening Night:

The Square Cat
Roland Allen (Alan Ayckbourn)

30 July 1959
Library Theatre, Scarborough

Stephen Joseph
Sidney Glover
Alice, his wife
Steve, his son
Susan, his daughter
Jerry Wattis
David Campton
Dona Martyn
William Elmhirst
Faynia Jeffery
Alan Ayckbourn

Quotes & Notes

1959 was a pivotal year in Alan Ayckbourn's theatrical career as it saw the start of his professional writing career with two plays The Square Cat and Love After All. However, the majority of his time was spent acting; writing played a relatively small part in his life (and was not a part that paid the bills!). Alan was based with the Studio Theatre Ltd company at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, for the summer and was intending to play a part in the company's winter season and tour. However, he was called up for National Service after the summer season and although this lasted service just three days in January 1960, by the time he returned to Scarborough, the season was under way, although he did find some work with the company during the tour.

The Square Cat was the first professionally commissioned play written by Alan Ayckbourn (using the pseudonym Roland Allen). It was written to showcase Alan's talents as an actor.

"The first play I wrote for the company [Studio Theatre Ltd at the Library Theatre, Scarborough] was a farce called
The Square Cat in which I played the lead. Determined to shine, I had written myself a role in which I played the guitar, sang and danced. I could do none of these things but the gods were looking kindly upon me and the play, surprisingly, was a success."
(Personal correspondence, 1980)

"I came on in act one and stayed on, with all the best lines, until the end, and I danced and sang and played the guitar - none of which I was very good at. It was an immensely practical way to start. I learned a great deal from seeing the same bits die every night."
(Sunday Times, 1 June 1986)

"I was acting in the first professionally performed play I wrote. I can remember nothing except fear beforehand and great relief afterwards."
(Personal correspondence, 23 January 1996)

“I did actually set myself as an actor an impossible task, yes. I did originally play a guitar, and sing a song, and dance - none of which I do at all well. A bloke called Donny taught me about five chords, in order that I could sing
I gave my love a cherry, which seemed a nice, extremely boring, morose song which goes on for ages. But even that I used to have very great difficulty with. I used to sing it on some… but on other nights, I would nod vaguely in the direction of the lighting box and they'd take the lights out rather swiftly; so I would just play one open chord - sploing - and the lights would go. And other nights I would sing, excruciatingly, I gave my love a cherry to a rather flat guitar, because I hadn't actually learnt to tune it.”
(Ian Watson, ‘Conversations With Ayckbourn’)

Review extract from the Scarborough Evening News (31 July 1959)
"Alan Ayckbourn, who learned to play the guitar for the occasion, although he does not play it for any length of time, gives his best performance of the season."
All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.