It was probably inevitable that Director Mike Lord’s choice of play for his directing debut with DADS would be written by Alan Ayckbourn. After being tipped off by DADS, Mike attended a residential summer school course last year on Directing Ayckbourn, tutored by actor Richard Stacey, who has worked for many years with Alan Ayckbourn, funded with a bursary from the Oxfordshire Drama Network.
Which play would Mike choose though? As of 2018 Ayckbourn has published 82 full length plays. Mike proposed Joking Apart, which Alan Ayckbourn is on record as saying, of all his own plays it, is one of his favourites. Mike comments, ‘When I chose Joking Apart for DADS, I’d no idea it was the fortieth anniversary of its premiere. Then, shortly afterwards, I discovered that Alan Ayckbourn was directing an anniversary revival in Scarborough this summer. To add to the coincidence, I saw publicity photos of the rehearsals showing my former tutor Richard as one of the cast. There was obviously something in the air!’
A comedy, like many of Ayckbourn’s plays, Joking Apart was apparently written in response to an angry woman who said to him, ‘Hundreds of us live very happily with one another. Why can’t you write about us?’ So he did but, as you might expect with Ayckbourn, there’s a twist in the tail. This painfully funny play is ostensibly about a happy couple, Richard and Anthea (played by Ian Brace and Carol-Anne Tilley), and their daughter Debbie (Phoebe Scotland), for whom everything seems to fall into place. However, everyone else suffers because of their happiness, and quiet misery, unrequited love and jealousy befall the people closest to them: their immediate neighbours, the innocent local vicar Hugh (Jim Cottrell) and his wife Louise (Rosemary Mills); Sven his business partner (Mark Williams) who is married to Olive (Kate Phillips); and the couple’s friend Brian (Russell Bailey).
Mike’s day job is producing corporate videos for local production company Blue Lotus Media. Last year, he branched out into ‘proper films’, writing and directing a short comedy-drama that had some success on the film festival circuit. He has been asked if his markedly different directing style has been influenced by his film work. Mike’s view is that, ‘After 25 years of acting in amateur theatrical productions, I’ve developed very definite ideas of how directors should work to get the best out of us actors. Add to that the ideas I’ve learnt from the summer school course, and it must be a shock to the senses for some! But, the cast are enjoying the experience. I’m delighted to have a strong cast of local actors, including a couple of newcomers. Everyone’s geared up for what is one of Ayckbourn’s funniest plays.’
Joking Apart will be performed at Dorchester on Thames Village Hall, Queen Street in Dorchester on Thames from 21st – 24th November 2018. Tickets are available via the DADS website and from the Dorchester Co-op.