Deadline extended so listeners can catch Alan Ayckbourn's audio play Anno Domino

The deadline for listening to Alan Ayckbourn’s 84th play, Anno Domino, has been extended by one week following huge demand from theatregoers worldwide.
Alan Ayckbourn and his wife Heather StoneyAlan Ayckbourn and his wife Heather Stoney
Alan Ayckbourn and his wife Heather Stoney

The show, which is available as an audio recording exclusively on the SJT’s website, was due to end at noon on Thursday June 25 but will now be available until noon on Thursday July 2 after feedback suggested that, despite it already having attracted more than 12,500 listeners, plenty of theatre fans are still keen to listen.

The Stephen Joseph Theatre's artistic director Paul Robinson said: “So far more 12,500 people have heard Anno Domino, nearly 1,000 of them last weekend alone. That represents 31 complete sell-out performances in our Round auditorium, where Alan’s shows are usually premiered.

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People have listened in from all over the globe, including the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe.

“We’re keen to make it accessible to as many people as possible, so we’ve decided to extend the listening period by a week. But this really will be your last opportunity to hear it.”

The show proved particularly popular in the States after being favourably reviewed in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and featuring on Morning Edition, the flagship show of National Public Radio, which is listened to right across the country.

Anno Domino is Alan Ayckbourn’s 84th play, and also marks his return to acting – 56 years after his last appearance on a professional stage.

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The 81-year-old Olivier and Tony Award-winning author teamed up with his wife, actress Heather Stoney, to record the new show during lockdown.

Ayckbourn was due to direct the world premiere of a new play written by him, Truth Will Out, alongside a new production of his 1976 classic Just Between Ourselves and Paul Robinson’s production of The Ladykillers at the Scarborough theatre this summer.

However, after the summer season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, Ayckbourn, a former radio producer, and Robinson hatched a plan to create a new play which Ayckbourn and Stoney could record and present online.

Anno Domino looks at the break-up of a long-established marriage and the effect that has on family and friends.

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In it, Ayckbourn and Stoney play four characters each, with an age range of 18 to mid-70s. It’s the first time they’ve acted together since Ayckbourn’s last appearance on a professional stage, in William Gibson’s two-hander Two for the Seesaw at the Rotherham Civic Theatre in 1964.

After that, Ayckbourn pursued a hugely successful writing and directing career, while Stoney continued to act, appearing in many Ayckbourn world premieres. Her last full season as an actress was at the Stephen Joseph in 1985, during which she appeared in the world premiere of Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind.

Alan Ayckbourn said: “The inspiration for Anno Domino came from the idea that all relationships ultimately, however resilient they appear to be, are built on sand! And it only takes one couple to break up abruptly to take us all by surprise, then all of a sudden everyone is questioning their own unshakeable relationship.”

Anno Domino marks the first time Alan Ayckbourn has both directed and performed in one of his own plays. It is written and directed by Alan Ayckbourn, performed by Alan Ayckbourn and Heather Stoney, with final mix by Paul Stear.

Anno Domino is a Stephen Joseph Theatre production.

You can listen to Anno Domino, for free, on the Stephen Joseph Theatre website: until noon on Thursday July 2.