Arrivals & Departures: History

Arrivals & Departures is Alan Ayckbourn's 77th play and premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, on 6 August 2013 in repertory with a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's play Time Of My Life.
Behind The Scenes: Production Syndicate
The world premiere production of
Arrivals & Departures was made possible by a fund-raising initiative called the Production Syndicate, which was supported by the following people.
Roy & Pat Ainger
Dave Bennet
Alexandra Bradley & Wanda Maciuszko
Linda & Brendan Connor
Charlie & Liz Cook
Ros & Alan Haigh
Mike Linham
Karyl Rey
Bernard Riley
Peter Nunan
Sarah Wareing
Don Andreason
Anonymous donor
Alan Ayckbourn was commissioned to write the play by the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the summer of 2012 for the summer 2013 season. He began writing the play during August 2012 and it was finished during September - although it was not without its difficulties.

The play was commissioned with the intent it would share the same size cast as Alan's revival of
Time Of My Life, which Arrivals & Departures would play in repertory with. However, Alan realised that he could not shoehorn his idea for a new play into such a small cast and - not willing to compromise the play - wrote it with an expanded cast size of 11 adults and 2 children. The Stephen Joseph Theatre agreed to the expanded company on the understanding he would write another piece for the four actors to financially justify them. This led him to write two new one act plays, Farcicals. That Alan chose not to shoehorn Arrivals & Departures into a smaller company or abandon the idea altogether (even with a company of 11, there are still more than 30 different characters), may well reflect on his frustrating experiences the previous year when his new play Surprises had arguably suffered after he had to hugely scale down his original plans for the piece and that year's Ayckbourn revival.

To help fund a more ambitious (and expensive) production in 2013, the Stephen Joseph Theatre launched the
Production Syndicate; a variety of experiences related to the production of the play which could be bought by the public with the proceeds going towards the cost of staging of Arrivals & Departures.
Behind The Scenes: The 2012 Factor
Alan's decision to write a play with such a large cast reflects his frustrations during the 2012 summer season at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.
Initially, Alan had planned to revive
A Small Family Business - producing it in Scarborough for the first time - alongside a new play, Surprises, which featured 12 actors.
The plan was derailed by the SJT's financial situation and Alan was asked to reduce his company to six actors and revive
Absurd Person Singular instead with Surprises scaled down to a less ambitious piece; which arguably suffered from the change.
Although Alan agreed to this, he was then frustrated to see the financial stipulations did not appear to have been applied consistently throughout the season's other productions.
Arrivals & Departures was officially announced by the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, on 25 February 2013 and had its world premiere on 6 August 2013 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. The play was met with a five-star review from The Times within which the publication's lead theatre critic, Libby Purves, described it as Alan's 'new masterpiece: ambitious, inventive, mischievously funny but emotionally serious with a shocking, ironic and redemptive final twist.' The play was almost unanimously well-received with the consensus being this play once again showed Alan Ayckbourn innovating and moving into new territory as a playwright. At the end of 2013, it was also listed in The Guardian as one of the critic Michael Billington's top 10 shows of the year.

This need to continually innovate in his writing sees Alan Ayckbourn pushing himself in a new direction with
Arrivals & Departures and it is his first play centred around memories. The play is framed by a subplot centred on a military team's attempts to apprehend a terrorist at a train station, but the main plot is actually centred on a military liaison Ez and a traffic warden from Harrogate called Barry whose stories are told through flashbacks; the play's title derives from the fact many of the scenes are set at various points of arrival and departure such as railway and bus stations and airports.

Arrivals & Departures is also a rare example of the north and south definably - and intentionally - colliding. It is one of his few plays specifically set in London and one of the few to feature a character definably from Yorkshire in the shape of Barry from Harrogate. The only other play which has these two features is RolePlay.

In 2014, the play toured the UK as part of the
Ayckbourn Ensemble; redirected by Alan Ayckbourn for the end-stage, it was performed in repertory with Time Of My Life and Farcicals. The Ayckbourn Ensemble then toured to the Brits Off Broadway festival at the 59E59 Theaters, New York, during June 2014, marking the fifth visit to the festival by Alan Ayckbourn with his home company; the trio of plays received overwhelmingly positive reviews from publications such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The production was also named as one of the top ten shows of 2014 by Time magazine.

On 1 March 2014, the acclaimed French film director Alain Resnais died. He had previously adapted three Ayckbourn plays with his final film,
Aimer, Boire et Chanter, being an adaptation of the play Life Of Riley. The day after his death, his wife, Sabine Azema, and producer, Jean-Louis Livi, announced he had begun work on his next film just prior to his death and, had he lived, his next film would have been Arrivées et Départs, an adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's Arrivals & Departures.

Arrivals & Departures was released for production in 2016 to both professional and amateurs and was published by Faber in 2018 as part of the collection Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 6 and as an acting edition by Samuel French in 2019.

Article by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.
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