Alan Ayckbourn: Actor


Little Brother, Little Sister (1960 / 1961)

Play: Little Brother, Little Sister
Author: David Campton
Opening Night:
22 June 1961
Venue:
Library Theatre, Scarborough
Staging:
Round

Director:
Stephen Joseph

Character
Cook
Sir
Madam

Actor
Alan Ayckbourn
David Jarrett
Rosamund Dickson
Stacks Image 192
Alan in Little Brother, Little Sister
Copyright: Scarborough Theatre Trust

Quotes & Notes

Little Brother, Little Sister was presented as one of four plays which comprised David Campton's Four Minute Warning. The play was originally presented as part of a winter tour by Studio Theatre Ltd during the winter of 1960 / 1961 and featured four one act plays: Little Brother, Little Sister; Soldier From The Wars Returning; At Sea; Mutatis Mutandis. The play was definitely of the Comedy Of Menace genre of the period.

Four Minute Warning was revived for Studio Theatre Ltd's summer season at the Library Theatre, Scarborough in 1961 but was presented with only three of the plays; Soldier From The Wars Returning having been dropped - possibly given the extreme amount of preparation Alan would have needed to perform in both roles as both a female, 108 year old nurse and a one eyed, one armed, one-legged barman!

Unfortunately no information other than casting is known for the 1960 tour and the details above are for the 1961 revival.

"I well remember
Little Brother, Little Sister. David Campton and I had been providing the theatre with a constant stream of plays. Both of us being fairly prolific, there was occasionally a season when our plays virtually alternated. Besides our (friendly) rivalry as writers there was another aspect of all this. We often appeared in each other's plays as well. It became quite a game to think up an 'unplayable' part for the other. I think Cook probably won that prize. I was temporarily floored when David handed me his new script with a malicious grin requiring me not only to age 80 years but also to change sex!
"It was a nightmare to learn, the makeup and nose putty took hours and the body padding (legs and arms as well) caused me to lose pounds every night. But it was great fun to play and I didn't half cause havoc when I walked into the gents toilet."
(Alan Ayckbourn, Personal correspondence)

"Besides writing we [David Campton and Alan Ayckbourn] also performed regularly in each other's plays. It soon became a matter of honour to try and write each other the ultimately unplayable, unrewarding - acting role - preferably as humiliating and physically uncomfortable as possible. We also became adroit at creating for each other unrecognisable or oft repeated cue lines combined with long tortuous speeches with impossible thought changes.
"But I have to concede that David was clearly the winner in all this. My own lame attempts to cause him discomfort by having his character regularly struck with blunt instruments or drenched in water, flour, treacle, soot and other substances (all strictly to further the dramatic action, you understand) was as nothing compared to his own sadistic streak when it came to writing roles for me....
"Probably the best/worst role he ever wrote for me, though, was a homicidal, 108 year old female cook/nanny trapped in a nuclear bomb shelter with two young protégés (the cook had long ago served up their parents for dinner).
"The character talked incessantly in a series of totally un-learnable non-sequiturs that made Beckett seem straightforward by comparison. I wore a ton of padding including foam rubber legs the size of tree trunks, an unyielding starched uniform, an off the peg grey wig and a false nose that regularly dropped off as the perspiration flowed down my mottled yellow make-up. Great role. Great prospects.
"And people continue to ask me, do I still want to act?"
(Alan Ayckbourn writing about David Campton in 2001)

All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd.