Scarborough link to 50 years of National Theatre

View of The National Theatre from Waterloo Bridge.
View of The National Theatre from Waterloo Bridge.

The National Theatre is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a raft of events including screenings of its plays in Scarborough.

A television programme will also acknowledge the contribition made to its development by Scarborough-based playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn.

A gala performance from the South Bank venue will be broadcast live on BBC 2 on Sunday November 3 – this will include an excerpt of Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce performed by Scarborough-born actress Penelope Wilton and Nicholas Le Prevost.

Bedroom Farce was the first Ayckbourn play to be produced at the National Theatre – and also marked Ayckbourn’s directorial debut in London.

The play opened at the National in 1977 and although it was commissioned by Peter Hall for the National, it was first produced at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1975.

Reviews for the play were excellent – marred slightly by a number of prominent critics arguing Ayckbourn plays were too commercial for the National and should remain in the West End – and the play was a huge early hit for the venue.

Ayckbourn’s connection with the National Theatre is a significant part of his career and, between 1986 and 1988, he was a company director with the venue.

It has staged 10 of his plays including Small Family Business, House and Garden, A Chorus of Disapproval and Way Upstream – which famously flooded it when a water tank burst.

Executive director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Stephen Wood was head of the National Theatre press office for 14 years.

“It is an extraordinary place and an extraordinary place to work,” said Stephen. “There is nowhere else like it in the world. It has the best of everything, actors, directors, writers and technical staff.”

During his time at the National, Stephen worked with acknowleged greats of the stage including Sir Laurence Olivier – who was in the vanguard of forming the National Theatre and was its first director.

Events in Scarborough marking the anniversary include screenings of its 2011 hit Frankenstein, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, today at 7pm and on November 26.

War Horse, which opened at the National in 2007, will be screened next year.