Way Upstream: Articles

This section features articles by Alan Ayckbourn and other authors on the play Way Upstream. Click on a link in the right-hand column below to access the relevant article.

This is extract from an article written by Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist, Simon Murgatroyd, for the Stephen Joseph Theatre's 'Circular' newsletter during 2018.

A Trip To Houston

Having successfully launched Way Upstream at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the Round, Scarborough, during 1981. Alan Ayckbourn had an offer to tour the ambitious play the following year.

Tours at the time were not unusual for the company, but
Way Upstream was in a different league. This was a play set on a cabin-cruiser 'floating' on a flooded stage. Not perhaps the obvious candidate for touring given the huge impracticalities, but Alan always liked to give his company a challenge and this was a chance to tour somewhere outside of the normal touring circuit.

Quite far outside in fact.

4,700 miles and an ocean away.

So in 1982, the Stephen Joseph Theatre toured
Way Upstream to the Alley Theatre in Houston, North America; the company's first trans-Atlantic tour.

Consider this. This was the play that became notorious for its problems and practically flooding the National Theatre later in 1982 despite all the finances and technological know-how available.

Yet earlier that year, Alan toured the show from Scarborough across the Atlantic without any notable or substantial issues and on a budget which would have been minuscule compared to the National Theatre’s budget.

This was Alan and Scarborough showing the world just how good its theatre was.

The Alley Theatre was also a theatre-in-the-round of a similar scale to the SJT and they would also tour to Scarborough.

The company visited for a month with
Way Upstream and a revival of Absent Friends, - a production Alan directed specifically for Houston and which was never seen anywhere else. The Alley Theatre arranged the practicalities for Way Upstream - such as creating the boat and the tank under guidance from Scarborough - which apparently went relatively smoothly despite the distance.

The tour was considered a great success although Alan, truth be told, was never entirely certain how
Way Upstream had actually been received. Feedback ranged from audiences walking out in disgust at the nudity in the play to one person making the perceptive observation he felt he had just seen the Bible told in reverse (actually, quite a valid interpretation of the play).

Whatever the audience thoughts, the production was considered a success and did not have any of the technical difficulties which blighted the National Theatre production

And although Alan was proud of his transfer, it marked a watershed of sorts for the company with many of the actors who had been in repertory for several seasons deciding either to move on or take a break from Scarborough.

Alan’s hopes of bringing
Way Upstream back to the SJT during the summer of 1982 were thus scuppered. But it did lead to something equally challenging and adventurous - Intimate Exchanges.

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