Life & Beth: 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.
  • Life & Beth was the first play Alan Ayckbourn wrote after his stroke in 2006. One of his inspirations to start writing again was the film adaptation of his play Private Fears In Public Places by Alain Resnais. He was particularly taken by the decision to set the film in a snow-bound Paris and hinted his new play might involve snow - although he feared his stage management would not be happy with the audience tunnelling their way out of the auditorium! Although Life & Beth was set at Christmas, the snow was - sadly - not to survive the writing process.
  • The play was originally going to be called Life After Beth and Alan, at this point, considered setting the play after Beth's death rather than after the death of her husband, Gordon. It is not known whether Alan intended Beth to be the ghost in his early concept for the play. Alan's intention to call the play Life After Beth was revealed in an interview with Chris Boyd for The Morning After: Performing Arts In Australia blog, published on 15 April 2008 prior to the official confirmation of the play's title.
  • Ella, Martin's girlfriend in Life & Beth, is one of only several main Ayckbourn characters who has no lines and is the most substantive role in an Ayckbourn play who never speaks. In an interview with the playwright in 2008, he noted: "Ella’s one of my few characters who never speaks. I never intended her that way: I started writing her and she came in the door and said “oh” once and I thought she hasn’t got anything to contribute. It’s a colour the play needs to have very clearly and these characters can be very strong. She starts in distress and ends in high dudgeon!"

The Trilogy Question
One of the most frequently asked questions regarding Life & Beth is whether it is part of a trilogy alongside Haunting Julia and Snake In The Grass and, if so, is this trilogy called Things That Go Bump?
Fact: Alan Ayckbourn has not written a trilogy called Things That Go Bump, nor has he ever referred to these plays as a trilogy nor used this title for the plays himself.
The confusion stems from the fact that when the three plays were produced together at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 2008, they were promoted under the season title of
Things That Go Bump. This was a marketing campaign created specifically for this season and the title has never since been used officially in association with the three plays. However, certain media reports and websites inaccurately referred to the plays as the Things That Go Bump trilogy leading to the - wrong - suggestion that these three plays formed a trilogy such as The Norman Conquests or Damsels In Distress.
While the three plays share similar themes (the supernatural, parents' relationship to their children) and
Life & Beth was written initially with the cast requirements of Haunting Julia and Snake In The Grass in mind, these three plays are not considered to be an actual trilogy. Rather they are three thematically connected plays which can be performed with the same company.
Any website or article which refers to
Haunting Julia, Snake In The Grass and Life & Beth as the Things That Go Bump trilogy or just a trilogy is inaccurate.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.