My Very Own Story: World Premiere Reviews

This page contains a selection of reviews from the world premiere production of Alan Ayckbourn's My Very Own Story at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, in 1991. All reviews are the copyright of the respective publication and / or author. Extracts from reviews of the original London production can be found here.

My Very Own Story (by Robin Thornber)
"I'm glad that Alan Ayckbourn has returned to writing plays for children - a genre that he avoided for years after an early false start. There aren't enough good plays for very young audiences but in the past few years Ayckbourn has added two or three new classics.
He seems to relax when writing for children, compared with the brittle tensions and awesome forebodings of his adult plays. Not that he's condescending or sloppy - the writing is as finely honed as ever - but an avuncular wry playfulness comes over him, which I find captivating. This one is billed as being for five-year-olds upwards - and intelligent adults.
The toying with form that we see in his adult work becomes even more explicit.
Mr A's Amazing Maze Plays was a fantasy quest with precision stagecraft. Last year's, This Is Where We Came In, had the actors in open mutiny against the tyranny of the narrative voice.
And again this year, in
My Very Own Story, an apparently simple tale becomes elaborately layered - disguising a philosophical debate on the nature of reality and illusion and subjective perceptions of objective reality as a running gag - as three competing narrators summon the players to tell their own, overlapping stories.
It sounds like Stoppard for tots, and it is, complete with exuberant wordplay. It's also deliciously light-hearted fun embellished with wittily allusive pastiche of a range of literary styles as a Victorian chiller, a suburban romance and a medieval morality tale of sorcery all interlock.
And the performances in Alan Ayckbourn's own production - all a little larger than life and mildy self-mocking without quite being camp - are as consummate as the storytelling. I hope the young Scarborians appreciate the uniqueness of these Saturday morning matinees as much as they appeared to at the premiere."
(The Guardian, 12 August 1991)

My Very Own Story (by David Jeffels)
"Alan Ayckbourn makes a classic contribution towards securing theatre audiences for the future with a highly entertaining new children's play
My Very Own Story.
While it can be as delightful entertainment, it stretches the imagination of the young minds in the audience as the players act out the many parts, stimulating them, and at the same time, delighting and exciting them.
Ayckbourn has been conscious of the need to hold their attention and to do so has created three play-lets within the one production by using three central storytellers who are all supposed to be the same person.
Convincing performances and audience involvement make for superb theatre and it was interesting to note how many adults attended the performance, probably to claim they would have seen all Ayckbourn's 43 plays, but more likely to justifiably appreciate another dimension of the internationally famed skills of the playwright.
Directed by Ayckbourn, the play also has some splendid musical direction from John Pattison, and lighting effects by Jackie Staines, while the set design is by Juliet Nichols.
Those taking part are Robert Austin, Peter Bourke, Jeffrey Chiswick, Glyn Grain, Anna Keaveney, Elizabeth Kelly, Rebecca Lacey, Crispin Letts, Isabel Lloyd, John Pattison, Elizabeth Rider, James Simmons, and Gary Whitaker.
This excellent production is a must for theatregoers on holiday at Scarborough and as Ayckbourn himself says "It's suitable for children of five years and upwards - and intelligent adults!"
Don't feel inhibited if you have no child to take - it's truly smashing entertainment whatever your age!"
(The Stage, September 1991)

My Very Own Story (by Bob Keogh)
"It is tempting to feel that Alan Ayckbourn's knowing adult entertainments will in the long run be less important than his works written for the young.
For arguably the most important task of the stage is to cultivate its future audience, which requires writers who can communicate effectively with children, ensnaring them within the magic of the theatre.
This, Ayckbourn, with his compound of a near unfailing comic gift and theatrical craftsmanship, can certainly do, as his latest bit of Saturday morning storytelling shows.
Perhaps there is a bit too much straight "storytelling", in the sense that a good deal of time seems to be taken up by narration while the actors mime the events. But that seems not to worry the young audience following this three-in-one tale.
Nor does the absence of props. Atmospheric lighting and appropriate costume changes are enough for their imaginations to be engaged.
Best of all, perhaps, is the way they accept the artificiality of it all - the actors stepping outside their roles to contest the drift of the story, or the collision of three narrators all trying to tell their stories simultaneously, raise at least as much laughter as comic business within those tales.
In its form - ostensibly three stories which arise one from the other to bring us full circle - it echoes last year's
This Is Where We Came In, which is itself due for a welcome revival next Christmas."
(Yorkshire Post, 12 August 1991)

Thinking Child's Fairy Story
"Three into one will go - and very neatly!
Story-telling takes on a new twist in this Saturday morning children's show as three narrators conjure up an interlinking tale.
Imaginative direction and sparkling acting by a talented team provide vibrant entertainment, with the audience as part of the story.
The yarn, the thinking child's fairytale with a warning about the consequences of greed and vanity, is pepped up with characters such as a baying, mysterious donkey, a cloaked sorcerer and two children who enjoy being naughty.
The bare stage comes alive thanks to clever lighting and Ayckbourn's wit, which is delivered with brilliant timing.
Peter Bourke is outstanding as Frederick, the short-sighted husband who makes an ass of himself, and Isabel Lloyd is the perfect wife who gets her come-uppance.
The talents of Rebecca Lacey, the anxious sister, and Jeffrey Chiswick, playing taciturn Yerp, shine through.
The play does not have the colourful, enrapturing appeal of Ayckbourn's play for children last year,
This Is Where We Came In, but it is an enjoyable family treat."
(Scarborough Evening News, 12 August 1991)

All reviews are copyright of the respective publication.