Way Upstream: Facts

Way Upstream

Play Number: 27
World Premiere: 2 October 1981
Venue: Library Theatre, Scarborough

Premiere Staging: In-the-round

Published: Samuel French
Other Media: Television; Radio

Cast: 3m / 4f
Run Time: 2hrs

Note: Written to be performed on a flooded stage with a boat 'floating' on it.
  • Way Upstream is Alan Ayckbourn's 27th play.
  • The world premiere was held at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round, Scarborough, on 2 October 1981.
  • The London premiere was held in the Lyttelton at the National Theatre on 4 October 1982 - eventually! The play was originally scheduled to officially open on 18 August but notorious issues with the production delayed the opening.
  • Way Upstream is set on a cabin cruiser ideally on a body of water within the theatre space with the cabin cruiser capable of movement around the flooded 'stage'. It has been performed on water in-the-round, end-stage, traverse and two sided as well as on an actual river on several occasions. The play can also be performed 'dry' with numerous ingenious solutions to simulate the boat's movement on water over the years.
  • The North American premiere of the play was a tour of the original Scarborough production to the Alley Theatre, Houston, in 1982. Despite crossing the Atlantic and working on a limited budget, the production was staged on a flooded stage in repertory without an issue - as opposed to...
  • The National Theatre's 1982 production is notorious for closing the National Theatre! During previews of the show, the boat struck the fibre-glass water-tank (the design of which the National Theatre had been warned was a very bad idea by both Alan Ayckbourn and the designer Alan Tagg), splitting the tank and dumping 6,000 gallons of water into the bowels of the theatre and the electrical control room.
  • It is regarded as the first Ayckbourn play to break away from the suburban home setting he was known for and from which the playwright increasingly uses a wide variety of locations for his plays. This is also seen as the point when Alan's plays began investigating wider social and moral issues.
  • It is one of Alan Ayckbourn's plays set in his fictional town of Pendon (at least it begins in Pendon before setting off upstream). Other notable Pendon-set plays include Relatively Speaking, Ten Times Table, Sisterly Feelings, A Chorus of Disapproval and Improbable Fiction.
  • Water has been a recurring feature of Alan Ayckbourn's plays beginning with a pond in Time And Time Again (1971) and most notably featured in the river of Way Upstream and the swimming pool in Man Of The Moment.
  • Way Upstream has been adapted for both television (1988) and radio (1997). The television adaptation, directed by Terry Johnson, was entirely recorded as an outside broadcast and was recorded on film, allowing it to receive its world premiere at the National Film Theatre during the 1987 London Film Festival.
  • Way Upstream is the first Ayckbourn play to feature on-stage nudity and was the first play at the Stephen Joseph Theatre In The Round to feature full-frontal nudity. This appears to have caused more issues with the local press than the actual audiences judging from reports from the time….
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