Awaking Beauty: Background

Premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, during Christmas 2008, Awaking Beauty was the final Alan Ayckbourn play to open at the theatre while Alan was Artistic Director of the company.

Awaking Beauty marked Alan's fourth collaboration with the composer Denis King and their third full-length musical together. It was written in March 2008 whilst the Stephen Joseph Theatre was touring Alan's adaptation A Trip To Scarborough. While away from Scarborough, he wrote the entire book for the musical and recalls it was practically complete before Denis King even received it to begin work on the music.

Denis King recalls his remit was to create a musical without music - or more specifically without instruments. Although accompanied by a piano, the brunt of the music is carried by an a cappella chorus and some complex harmonising. Alan and Denis along with their partners subsequently went on holiday together to refine and finish the musical, which was officially announced in July by the Stephen Joseph Theatre alongside what would be an acclaimed revival of
Woman In Mind.

The musical is the first Alan has written aimed specifically at adults, largely due to its themes and infrequent language rather than anything offensive. The plot, a sequel to
Sleeping Beauty, subverts the genre to see fairy tale characters relocated to suburbia whilst taking a poke at the beauty industry and the perception of beauty. In its theme and concept, it can be seen as a definite progression of Alan's earlier musicals Dreams From A Summer House and Orvin - Champion Of Champions.

A slightly extended rehearsal period enabled Denis King and musical director Jonathan Williams to work with the cast on the complex harmonies of the piece and to manage its technicalities. Michael Holt's stage design involving several traps, whilst the play also featured three bespoke remote-controlled animatronic singing puppet babies designed and created by Lee Threadgold.

The play premiered on 16 December 2008 in the round at the Stephen Joseph Theatre and received largely positive reviews. An original cast recording was also produced for the company, but which has never been made publicly or commercially available.
Awaking Beauty was published by Samuel French in 2010.

The final performance of
Awaking Beauty on 17 January 2009 informally marked the end of Alan Ayckbourn's 37 year tenure as the company's Artistic Director, although he did not officially step down until 31 March 2009.

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