Bedroom Farce

Written by Alan Ayckbourn

Thurs 25th February - Sat 27th February & Tues 1st March - Sat 5th March 1988

Directed by Ingrid Corrigan

Ernest and Delia eat pilchards in theirs, Nick is incapacitated in his and Malcolm and Kate hide shoes in theirs. What do you do in your bed? In three separate bedrooms, four couples sort out their marital relationships during one hectic night.

AuthorAlan Ayckbourn

Alan Ayckbourn (b 1939)

Alan Ayckbourn is one of the most prolific and widely performed of living English language playwrights and a highly regarded theatre director. He has written 74 full length plays and has won Olivier, Tony and Molière Awards for his work.

Ayckbourn was born in Hampstead and wrote his first play at prep school when he was about 10. After leaving school at 17, he began a temporary job at the Scarborough Library Theatre. In 1957, he married Christine Roland, another member of the company, and his first two plays were written jointly with her under the pseudonym of "Roland Allen". They had two sons, however the marriage had difficulties which eventually led to their separation in 1971. Neither he nor Christine sought a divorce for the next thirty years and it was only in 1997 that they formally divorced after which Ayckbourn married Heather Stoney.

In 1962 he became Associate Director of the Victoria Theatre Stoke-on-Trent and two years later he was a Radio Drama Producer for the BBC in Leeds. Ayckbourn established himself as a popular playwright in the the 1960s achieving West End successes with 'Relatively Speaking' and 'How The Other Half Loves' In the 70s he returned to Scarborough as the Director of Productions.

In 2007, following a stroke he announced he would step down from his role as Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Ayckbourn, however, continues to write and direct his own work at the theatre and in 2009, his contribution to theatre was recognised by the Olivier's Special Award.

PlayBedroom Farce

The play takes place in three bedrooms during one night and the subsequent morning. The eldest couple, Delia and Ernest, are getting ready to go out for a meal to celebrate their wedding anniversary; Malcolm and Kate, the youngest, are about to host a housewarming party, to which the other two couples; Jan and Nick and Susannah and Trevor, have been invited. At the last minute Nick hurts his back and is unable to go.

Matters are complicated by the fact that of the two visiting couples, Jan is Trevor's ex. After Susannah and Trevor have a blazing row, Susannah finds Trevor and Jan kissing. Susannah leaves the party and runs to Delia and Ernest (Trevor's parents). She ends up sharing Delia's bed, while Ernest is forced to sleep in the spare room. Meanwhile Trevor is offered a bed in a Kate's spare room, but decides to go and "straighten things out" with Nick and Jan, leaving Kate waiting up for him. Eventually Trevor and Susannah seem to be reconciled, but at the end of the play the audience might doubt whether this state of affairs will last.

Ayckbourn's clever uses of time and space makes this a very intricate and sophisticated comedy while also portraying the deteriorating and rebuilding of relationships among young couples. This play explores the differences in relationships between the younger and older generations while capitalising on certain unlikely issues that may strain the relationships even further.

The Bench Production

Bedroom Farce poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


ErnestDavid Penrose
DeliaJane Hemsley-Brown
NickPeter Holding
JanJo German
MalcolmDavid Hemsley-Brown
KateBernadette Russell
TrevorAlan Jenkins
SusannahSally Stidever


Director Ingrid Corrigan
Stage Manager Karen Bickers
Lighting Jacquie Penrose, Graham Scott
Mike Boyce
Poster Design Pete Woodward
Programme Lyn Mannell
Set Construction Pete Codd
Front of House Robbie Cattermole

Programme Notes

This play has its moments of near farce and yet still contains elements of the claustrophobic - maybe because it's all in bedrooms. It is also the first time I've made use, to quite such an extent, of the cross-cut device. Jumping the action from bedroom to bedroom gives the play an added rhythm over and above what the dialogue normally provides. Again, I've allowed the characters to progress, develop and resolve very much in their own way. Perhaps none of them finds instant happiness or sudden great self-insight. But at least they retain the dignity of resolving their own destinies.

Alan Ayckbourn

My own feelings is that 'Bedroom Farce' (one of his very best) is actually just as 'serious' as Ayckbourn's doomier plays. It carries an audience along on an almost unending crest of laughter; but that laughter is anything but mindless. Ayckbourn sets up a brilliantly comic device, lets his imagination take over and allows the ideas to spring out of exact observation of human behaviour.He reminds us all the time that a play is an artifact, a toy, a construct; but that, at its best, it can also illuminate the human condition.

Michael Billington, from his biography of Ayckbourn


The NewsLesley Goode

Ayckbourn play well worth visit

Cramming three double bedrooms onto the stage of The Old Town Hall, Havant, is no mean feat in itself; but that was just the first in an excellent production of 'Bedroom Farce' by the Bench Theatre.

The play explores one hectic night in the lives of four couples, and the tangled network of their relationships. But don't thing that it is a heavy philosophical tract - Ayckbourn's dialogue has a distinct thread of poignancy but it is primarily comedy, and was admirably brought to life by The Bench. We focus on each of the bedrooms in turn - a highly diverting dramatic device, and skillfully lit.

Jane Hemsley-Brown's sensible and stuck-in-her-ways Delia gained top comic marks, very closely followed by her "husband" Ernest (David Penrose), Kate (Bernadette Russell) and Nick (Pete Holding), who managed a tremendous presence while acting his entire role from his bed. Perhaps the wild-eyed whimpering Susannah (Sally Stidever) could have pitched her strife at a slightly lower level, or varies it a little - I found it hard to sympathize with her at all; it was a difficult job however to maintain such a character with little dialogue.

This is a well-produced and highly amusing play and well worth a visit. It runs until Saturday.

The News, 26th February 1988

Production Photographs