The Jubilee Show: History

The Jubilee Show is classified as one of Alan Ayckbourn's Grey Plays. These are plays which are acknowledged miscellaneous minor pieces by Alan Ayckbourn, which have received limited performance but have never been published, are not available for production and are not included in the official canon of Ayckbourn plays.

Some plays slip under the radar only to emerge years later, having all but been forgotten. Such is the case with
The Jubilee Show, a revue by Alan Ayckbourn and Mervyn Watson performed just once and promptly forgotten. All that remained was a single manuscript filed away, but no record of this or any of the production's details were kept by the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough.

The Jubilee Show dates back to the silver anniversary of the coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1977. The Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round was already celebrating the Jubilee with a successful lunchtime show called Westwood Coronation Day Street Party, by Bob Eaton. This show had proven to be a tremendous hit and, as a result, it was decided to mount a one-off revue for the actual night of the anniversary.

Mervyn Watson, then a director at the theatre, did the research and with Alan shaped it into a revue with songs; it seems likely much of the writing was probably by Mervyn Watson. The piece is ostensibly a trip through the major events of the past 25 years delivered as a slightly surreal news broadcast. The entire acting company were involved and the pianist Michael Garrick performed the musical arrangements. The play was performed on 7 June, 1977, to a practically empty house.

What had seemed a good idea in the wake of
Westwood Coronation Day Street Party's success (which had already been performed that day to a full house) was tempered in hindsight with the realisation most people were either watching the celebrations on TV that evening or taking part in the myriad events organised to celebrate the day. The revue was never performed again and was forgotten. Because it was a late addition to the season, it is not included in any brochures and no flyers or programmes for the play survive. The discovery of the script in 2007 stuffed at the back of a filing cabinet led to it being identified and its place in the Stephen Joseph Theatre's history restored.

A copy of the revue is held in the Ayckbourn Archive at the University Of York.

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