Ten Times Table: Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes offers a glimpse at some rarely known facts regarding the writing of Alan Ayckbourn's plays with material drawn from the Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York and the playwright's personal archive.
  • Ten Times Table marked the first play since Absurd Person Singular where Alan actually stopped writing, threw away half of what he had completed and began re-writing. Originally, the play was multi-locational moving between the committee room and the homes of the various committee members, but Alan decided the play should stick to the single location of the committee room. Although the original manuscript no longer survives, various notes for this concept have been found. The page below shows Alan Ayckbourn's sketch for the layout of the set which includes the table at the centre of the stage with acting areas in the four corners of the in-the-round space. Note that several of the character names and relationship are different too than in the actual play. These notes are held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute at the University of York.
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  • At the time of writing Ten Times Table, Alan would dictate his script to his partner - now wife - Heather Stoney. She was due to play the character of Charlotte in Ten Times Table, but when he rewrote the play, he told her as he began dictating again that her character had been cut from the play!
  • The first night of the production featured the first example of an Ayckbourn play beginning outside the performance space. First night patrons received a mock programme for the fictitious John Cockle Festival. Posters for the festival decorated the foyer and staff even wore John Cockle Festival t-shirts. The brochure ranks amongst one of the rarest of Ayckbourn collectibles. This expansion of the play away from the stage would later reach its ultimate conclusion in House & Garden (2000) when the fête featured in the play took over the Stephen Joseph Theatre's foyer following the production; this was taken even further by the National Theatre’s production in 2001 which saw the foyer transformed for the fête including a beer tent and artificial turf!
  • It has been argued that several characters in Ten Times Table were inspired by real people; Alan initially hinted this might be true but later would deny this. In Paul Allen's biography of the playwright - Grinning At The Edge - though, actor Robin Herford notes that Alan told him that his character, Councillor Donald Evans was based on Councillor Maurice Plow, a bank manager who had also been a member of Scarborough Theatre Trust for many years. Maurice was famous at the theatre's previous home, the Library Theatre, for leading a rebellion against Stephen Joseph's decision in 1958 to end the playing of the National Anthem after every performance; he would even resign from the board in protest before later rejoining.
  • An inspiration not intended by Alan Ayckbourn but which would become part of the West End production transpired thanks to the actor Julia McKenzie. The playwright recalls that when Julia was looking for inspiration for her role of Helen, she turned to then Leader of the Conservative Party - later Prime Minister - Margaret Thatcher.
All research for this page by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. The sketch is copyright of Alan Ayckbourn and held in the Borthwick Institute at the University Of York and should not be reproduced without the permission of the copyright holder.