Arrivals & Departures: BackgroundArrivals & 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.
Alan Ayckbourn was commissioned to write the play by the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the summer of 2012 for the summer 2013 season which would also include a revival of his play Time Of My Life. He began writing the play during August 2012 and it was finished during September - although it was not without its difficulties.
Initially the idea was the new play would share the same cast as Time Of My Life, however Alan soon realised that he could not shoehorn the ideas for a new play into such a small cast and wrote it with an expanded cast size (11 adults and 2 children as opposed to Time Of My Life's cast of 7). As a result of agreeing to the expanded company, the Stephen Joseph Theatre suggested Alan also write something for the extra four actors to help make the season financially viable, this led to Alan also writing two new one act plays, the Farcicals for the season. 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 experiences with Surprises the previous year. This play had originally been conceived on a far grander scale than produced with a company of 12 actors and had, arguably, suffered as a result of being down-sized to a company of six.
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.
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 military's team's attempts to apprehend a terrorist at a train station, but 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.
In 2014, the play was 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.
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 prior to his death with Arrivées et Départs, an adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's Arrivals & Departures.
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