Life Of Riley: Background

Life Of Riley is Alan Ayckbourn's 74th play and premiered on 21 September 2010 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

Alan began writing the play in October 2009, completing the first draft on 11 December 2009; apparently he rewrote the entire first act before completing the play.
Life Of Riley was first mentioned to the general public in an interview between the playwright and journalist Lucy Johnston in the Elmbridge Lifestyle magazine on 26 January 2010. At approximately the same time, the actors Liza Goddard and Kim Wall committed to the play; Liza had appeared previously in the world premieres of If I Were You and Life & Beth at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Kim Wall had previously appeared in the 2009 Ayckbourn At 70 celebration at Northampton's Royal & Derngate, winning plaudits for his roles in Just Between Ourselves, Private Fears In Public Places and Man Of The Moment, the latter being directed by Alan Ayckbourn who was impressed by his performance as Douglas Beechey.

In interviews and during the launch of the Stephen Joseph Theatre's summer season in May 2010, Alan revealed that the play's title character, George Riley, would not appear in the play and that the play also bore similarities to his 1974 play
Absent Friends. When questioned on BBC Radio York as to whether the character of George was inspired by anyone in particular, Alan specifically stated he was not based on or inspired by a specific person. It was later revealed Alan's intention was for the audience to build up their own picture of the pivotal character of George around who everyone in the play revolves.

Life Of Riley opened at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, on 21 September 2010 sharing the same company as his revival of Communicating Doors with the plays in repertoire with each other. Reviews were generally positive with Libby Purves, the new lead critic of The Times, being particularly enthusiastic about her first experience of an Ayckbourn world premiere in Scarborough. The Times also ran an editorial leader on the same day proclaiming Alan as a "giant of the stage."

This production of
Life Of Riley toured two round venues, the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme, and The Old Laundry, Bowness-on-Windermere, immediately following its world premiere run at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. In January 2011, an end-stage tour of the play, directed by Alan Ayckbourn, opened at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford. Life Of Riley was published by Faber in October 2011 as part of the Alan Ayckbourn: Plays 5 collection.

The North American premiere of the play took place very quickly with a production in April 2011 at The Old Globe, San Diego.

On 16 May 2012, it was announced by
Variety at the Cannes Film Festival that the acclaimed French film director Alain Resnais (who has previously adapted two other Ayckbourn plays) would be making a film of Life Of Riley entitled Aimer, Boire et Chanter. The film premiered on 10 February 2014 at the Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer prize. Sadly, it was to be Resnais's final film as he died shortly afterwards on 1 March 2014. The film's UK premiere was on 6 March 2015 and it was also picked up for North American distribution at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

Copyright: Simon Murgatroyd. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.