Double Hitch: History

Double Hitch 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.

Double Hitch is one of several one act plays written by Alan Ayckbourn for performance by amateur dramatic societies in the early 1960s. It was written by Alan under the pseudonym of Roland Allen, although quite when is unknown. Officially, a performance licensee was issued by the Lord Chamberlain's Office on 27 February 1962 (until 1968, any public performance - professional or amateur - had to be approved by the Lord Chamberlain's Office), which means the play should not have been performed before that date and, with reference to the license, was probably first 'officially' performed circa March 1962.

However, in late 2009 a former member of Scarborough Theatre Guild, Evelyn Corradine, supplied the Bob Watson Archive at the Stephen Joseph Theatre with scans of programmes for productions of the play prior to 1962. She was able to date these programmes to 1960 at the latest and, again previously unknown, that the play was produced several times before February 1961 normally in conjunction with at least one other play,
Lonesome Like by Harold Brighouse. The play does seem to almost certainly have been premiered at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, performed in-the-round though. It was long thought Double Hitch premiered with another Ayckbourn play Follow The Lover, this is almost certainly not the case as there is currently no evidence of Follow The Lover being performed earlier than 1962.

The original production is believed to have been directed by Margaret Boden and comes from a period when Alan recalls writing a number of short one act plays for amateur production. These are known to include
Double Hitch, Follow The Lover, Love Undertaken and The Party Game. Of the surviving manuscripts, two copies of Double Hitch are known to exist, one held by the British Library and a second held in a private collection.

Unlike the other plays intended for amateur performance from that period,
Double Hitch had an extended shelf-life. In addition to at least two performances in 1960 (in all likelihood there were several more), two further separate performances of the play are also known to have taken place.

Double Hitch was staged at the Fourth In-The-Round Festival, at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, by Anlaby Youth Drama Group and directed by Harry Mays. This production took place between 17 - 21 September, 1963. A second production was presented by Scarborough Technical College Drama Group at the British Drama League Combined Theatre Festival at The Library Theatre, Scarborough. The year of the festival is not known (but possibly 1964), although the play was performed on a Friday night and the adjudication was by Alan Ayckbourn's mentor Stephen Joseph - who was presumably aware of the play already!

The only known complete original copy of
Double Hitch is held in the Lord Chamberlain's Collection at the British Library. The play is a one act comedy about two honey-mooning couples who find themselves double-booked into a decrepit cottage and features a cast of two male and two females.

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