Alan Ayckbourn Directs ABSURD PERSON SINGULAR and SURPRISES at Chichester Festival 2012

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ABSURD-PERSON-SINGULAR-and-SURPRISES-20010101

Chichester's Festival 2012 continues with two productions by Alan Ayckbourn, one of Britain's most popular and acclaimed playwrights. Surprises is a brand new play, presented alongside his award- winning classic comedy Absurd Person Singular. These two plays are co-productions with Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, and feature one company of actors. Surprises plays 8 August – 8 September and Absurd Person Singular runs 10 August – 8 September at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester.

Surprises is the gently funny and poignant depiction of several intertwined love stories set in the near future that explore the central theme of longevity. Absurd Person Singular follows three couples in three kitchens over three Christmases. This darkly comic story of culinary disasters, emotional breakdowns and social climbing established the tragi-comic genre that has become synonymous with Ayckbourn's finest writing. In 1974 it won the Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy.

Surprises is Ayckbourn's 76th play in a career spanning over 50 years, while Absurd Person Singular was first staged in 1972. Ayckbourn recently became the first British playwright to receive both Olivier and Tony Special Lifetime Achievement Awards and was knighted for services to theatre in 1997. His work includes Man of the Moment, A Chorus of Disapproval, Woman in Mind, A Small Family Business, The Norman Conquests, Absent Friends and Relatively Speaking. He was Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from 1972 to 2009, where the majority of his work continues to be premiered.

Ayesha Antoine plays Eva Jackson in Absurd Person Singular and Grace/Seraphina in Surprises. Her theatre credits include My Wonderful Day (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough), One Monkey Don't Stop No Show (Sheffield Crucible) and Big White Fog (Almeida Theatre).

Bill Champion plays Ronald Brewster-Wright in Absurd Person Singular and Franklin in Surprises. His theatre credits include Intimate Exchanges, Haunting Julia and Love Songs for Shop Keepers (all for the Stephen Joseph Theatre Theatre, Scarborough).

Laura Doddington plays Jane Hopcroft in Absurd Person Singular, and Sylvia/Zandy in Surprises. Her credits include Life of Riley, I Ought to Be In Pictures, Miss Yesterday and Time and Time Again (all for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough).

Sarah Parks plays Marion Brewster-Wright in Absurd Person Singular. She also plays Lorraine/Inez/Bellina in Surprises. Her theatre credits include Mother Courage and Her Children (National Theatre) and Marlene (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough).

Ben Porter plays Sidney Hopcroft in Absurd Person Singular. He also plays Titus/Conrad in Surprises. His credits include Edward II (Sheffield Crucible), The Fall Guy (Manchester Royal Exchange), An Enemy of the People and The Invention of Love (both for The National Theatre).

Richard Stacey plays Geoffrey Jackson in Absurd Person Singular and Jan/Gorman in Surprises. His theatre credits include If I Were You (Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough) Much Ado About Nothing (Theatre Royal Bath) and Twelfth Night (Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse).

Design is by Michael Holt, who has worked with Alan Ayckbourn for 35 years at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. His credits at this theatre include Awaking Beauty, A Trip to Scarborough and Communicating Doors. Other credits include La bohème (Sadler's Wells) and The Pilgrims Progress (Royal Opera House) and Billy Budd (Brisbane).

Lighting Design is by Jason Taylor, who has lit over 300 productions. Previous credits for Chichester include Entertaining Angels and Top Girls (which transferred to the West End in 2011). Scarborough credits include The Nutcracker Prince, Blithe Spirit and Carmen Dear Uncle.

Surprises and Absurd Person Singular are sponsored by Baker Tilly and Oldham Seals Group.

Surprises is at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, from 8 August – 8 September, 7.45pm, matinees 2.30pm, except for the Press Night performance on 13 August at 7.00pm. Absurd Person Singular is at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, from 10 August – 8 September, 7.45pm, matinees 2.30pm, except for the Press Night performance on 13 August at 2.00pm. Tickets: Previews/Press Nights £23.50, Evenings/Matinees £29.50.

Opening up Surprises is a pre-show talk in which Alan Ayckbourn joins Kate Mosse in conversation about his new play. This event will be held in the Minerva Theatre on 14 August, 6.00pm. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance through the Box Office.

Alan Ayckbourn: Britain's Secret Radical is a pre-show talk by Dan Rebellato, playwright and Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London. He offers insights and context regarding Absurd Person Singular. This event will be held in the Minerva Theatre on 6 September, 6.00pm. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance through the Box Office.

After Words – join some of the cast and creative team to discuss Absurd Person Singular on 20 August and Surprises on 28 August.

Surprises and Absurd Person Singular are co-productions with the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Surprises runs from 12 July – 28 July and Absurd Person Singular runs from 8 June – 28 July at Scarborough. The productions then return to Scarborough from 11 September – 13 October.

These two productions are part on the London 2012 Festival – a chance for everyone to celebrate London 2012 through dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, fashion, film and digital innovation across the UK.

Press Night: Please note there will be a double press performance on Monday 13 August, Absurd Person Singular is at 2.00pm and Surprises is at 7.00pm

Previews/press night: £23.50. Evenings/matiness: £29.50. Book online at www.cft.org.uk or call the Box Office on 01243 781312

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