Consuming Passions: History

Consuming Passions is Alan Ayckbourn's 80th play and premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, on 12 August 2016. It is a single play in two parts with each part (or act) having its own name (Premonitions & Repercussions). As it is considered a single play, both parts need to be seen and in the correct order for the play to make complete sense.
Behind The Scenes: 80th Play Or Not?
When Consuming Passions was announced by the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 2016, it was not advertised as Alan Ayckbourn's 80th full-length play, but rather as two connected lunchtime one act plays in the theatre restaurant.
However, when - later in the season - the play was scheduled to run as a whole in the McCarthy auditorium, Alan announced it was, in fact, his 80th full-length play. The reason he had not initially announced this was he felt if he had labelled it as such, the theatre would have promoted the 80th angle, which he disliked as he is not keen on the desire to number his works.
As a result,
Consuming Passions is not two connected one act plays, but his 80th full-length play; a play in two parts.
It is an unusual addition to the Ayckbourn play canon for several reasons. It is the first Ayckbourn play to have two named parts to it (the closest equivalent is the eight named variations of Intimate Exchanges). Whilst the first part / act (Premonitions) and second part / act (Repercussions) can be performed separately as one act pieces, the playwright considers they are two parts of one play (much like The Revengers' Comedies Parts I & II). Consuming Passions is written so that in order for them to make sense, both parts have to be seen in the correct order; again, this is the equivalent of seeing The Revengers' Comedies Parts I & II.

It is also one of the few Ayckbourn plays which was not written with theatre-in-the-round specifically in mind. Indeed, its original production at the Stephen Joseph Theatre saw it produced both in the open space of the venue's restaurant as well as the theatre's end-stage space, The McCarthy. It is ideally suited to a restaurant / bistro type space for which it was initially conceived.

Commissioned by the Stephen Joseph Theatre, the play was initially intended to run in tandem with a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's
Things We Do For Love at the venue. However, as the schedule changed, the revival became Henceforward… and Consuming Passions was joined by another new Ayckbourn work, The Karaoke Theatre Company for the summer's repertory season.

Consuming Passions played in repertory with The Karaoke Theatre Company with four of the latter's company performing in the play. Throughout the season every member of the Ayckbourn company (nine actors) appeared in two Ayckbourn productions (of the five performers in The Karaoke Theatre Company, four appeared in Consuming Passions with one moving on to Henceforward…. The other four actors in Henceforward… performing in another new piece No Knowing).

Although written as a single play, Alan devised
Consuming Passions so it could be performed in two parts during lunchtimes as the SJT in the Bistro space; the playwright has always favoured the lunchtime shows being performed in the restaurant area of the theatre and wanted to see them reintroduced at the venue after they became increasingly rare in the seven years following his retirement as Artistic Director in 2009. The play was also performed as a whole in The McCarthy as well throughout the season. Running at just short of an hour and twenty minutes with interval, it is also the shortest of Alan's full-length works.

It was only after the play had opened that the playwright confirmed this was officially his 80th full-length play (see right).

Consuming Passions is described by the author as a 'Hitchcockian thriller' and it returns top a favourite theme of whether we can trust all we see before us. Much like Woman In Mind, the protagonist of Consuming Passions - Melanie - is not a reliable narrator and the audience has to decide what they are seeing. Is Melanie seeing the future or is it all a product of her own troubled mind? The playwright's own view of what is happening can be found on the FAQs page.

Article by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.