Alan Ayckbourn’s latest play The Girl Next Door in rehearsals at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre

Linford Johnson, Naomi Petersen, Bill Champion in The Girl Next DoorLinford Johnson, Naomi Petersen, Bill Champion in The Girl Next Door
Linford Johnson, Naomi Petersen, Bill Champion in The Girl Next Door

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Rehearsals are under way for Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre’s first in-house production of this year -  Alan Ayckbourn’s The Girl Next Door.

The 85th play by the prolific dramatist, it is currently in rehearsals, directed by the author, and can be seen at the theatre from Friday June 4 to Saturday July 3.

The Girl Next Door sees veteran actor Rob Hathaway stuck at home during the summer of 2020 with only his sensible older sister for company. Rob has little to do but relive his glory days when, as the star of the nation’s favourite TV period drama National Fire Service, he ruled the roost as George ‘Tiger’ Jennings: wartime hero, and living legend among firefighters.

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Then one day Rob spots a stranger hanging out the washing in the adjoining garden. But the neighbours haven’t been around for months. So who is the mysterious girl next door? And why is she wearing 1940s clothing?

Alan Ayckbourn said : “I was born in 1939, so my earliest memories are of a sort of lockdown: of crowding into Anderson shelters or subway stations; of sleeping in deckchairs or on my mother’s lap. Things have come full circle for me.

“The Girl Next Door is an affirmation of love across the generations – I hope it’s positive and hopeful for those today crawling out of their metaphorical Anderson shelters blinking into the light."

In a move designed to keep the show running if any of the company exhibit symptoms of Covid-19, the production will feature two separate casts.

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The bulk of the shows will be performed by Bill Champion, Linford Johnson, Alexandra Mathie and Naomi Petersen who will make up a bubble with their stage management team.

But should any of that bubble show symptoms, the entire group will have to self-isolate – and a second bubble comprising Georgia Burnell, Michael Hobbs, Tayla Kovacevic-Ebong, Eliza McClelland and a second stage management team will be ready to step in. They will also perform the show on a number of dates throughout the run.

The Stephen Josph Theatre's artistic director Paul Robinson, said: “The safety of our audiences, staff and visiting freelancers, including the actors, is paramount.

“For this first show of 2021, which opens before the final step of the government’s roadmap on June 21, we thought it was important to have a second team on hand in case of any problems.”

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Written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, assisted by the Stephen Joseph's associate director Chelsey Gillard, The Girl Next Door is designed by Kevin Jenkins with lighting design by Jason Taylor. Casting is by Sarah Hughes..

The Girl Next Door can be seen in the Round from Friday June4 to Saturday July 3. Tickets, priced from £10, are available from the box office on 01723 370541 and online at