Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist

Celebrating Alan Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular at 50

Press Release

This is the press release announcing the discovery of the Absurd Person Singular manuscript pages and is available for press / media use. If you have any enquiries regarding it, please contact me by emailing

Absurd Person Singular's History Re-Written With Archive Find
A remarkable archival discovery has re-written the history of Alan Ayckbourn’s seminal play Absurd Person Singular during its 50th anniversary.

A discovery of the long thought lost, original abandoned draft of
Absurd Person Singular, alongside concept notes and the first hand-written first draft of the play, in the Ayckbourn Archive at The Borthwick Institute of Archives at the University of York offers a new perspective into one of the key works of late 20th century British Theatre.

The discoveries are highlighted in a new website, jointly launched by Alan Ayckbourn’s Archivist and the Borthwick Institute, offering an insight into this discovery and how it completely alters the traditional story of how the play was created.

Previously the playwright has spoken of how he abandoned his initial draft of the play after 10 pages moving the action from three living rooms to three kitchens and removing a fourth couple when he began re-writing it.

The new discovery actually found he had written 40 pages of this initial abandoned draft - consisting of a complete first act and half the second act. The script bears almost no similarity to the actual play with entirely different dialogue, character relations and plot points. What is even more astonishing is that the abandoned script and actual play were all written within the same week.

Simon Murgatroyd M.A., Alan Ayckbourn’s Archivist and the person responsible for the find, said it was a highly significant discovery, particularly in light of the play celebrating its world premiere 50 years ago at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, in 1972.

"This is the sort of find Archivists dream of making and it was astonishing to read these hand-written pages and realise we had found Alan's long believed lost abandoned draft of the play. This discovery highlights the rare occasion when the playwright gets it wrong, corrects himself and goes on to produce an acknowledged classic of British Theatre. Alongside the discovery of the previously unknown substantial cuts following the first performance of the play, for the first time, in conjunction with the Borthwick Institute for Archives, we can tell the complete story of how this extraordinary piece of British theatre came to be created."

The discovery coincides with other recent acquisitions pertaining to the play which include rehearsal and production manuscripts, which also reveal the playwright cut half-an-hour of material from the play following its first public performance; these cuts have never been publicly seen since.

Absurd Person Singular is believed to be the only Ayckbourn play which was abandoned before being re-written and then also had a substantial amount of material cut from it. It is also the only play in the Ayckbourn Archive at the Borthwick Institute whose journey can be followed from concept to world and West End premieres.

The playwright Alan Ayckbourn, one of the UK’s most successful living playwrights, noted even he was surprised at the discovery - most of which he had long forgotten.

“It’s exciting to know that on the 50th anniversary of the world premiere of
Absurd Person Singular, the Borthwick and my Archivist have re-discovered my earliest notes and drafts of the play - which had long since passed from my own mind! Whilst my focus is ever forward and always on my next play, I’m delighted that the archive exists at York for people to come and make similar discoveries of the many things that have been forgotten over time - I’m sure there is much still to discover!”

The hand-written pages are held in the Ayckbourn Archive and the Borthwick Institute and available for the public to view onsite. The website has been launched to accompany the discovery and explore the history of the writing of this play including images of some of the newly discovered pages.

Gary Brannan, Keeper of Archives and Research Collections at the Borthwick Institute for Archives, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been able to support and facilitate this amazing discovery, which has totally changed our perception of Sir Alan’s early work. It was a really exciting moment when Simon told us about what he’d found! Sir Alan’s archive is a huge resource full of potential moments like these and is an incredible record of a groundbreaking career. The archive is there for everyone to use, be it for study, research or simple enjoyment. We can’t wait to hear about the next big discovery in the archive!”

The Ayckbourn Archive was acquired for the national by the Borthwick Institute for Archives during 2011 and includes plays, correspondence and other material from throughout the playwright’s entire career. The archive is entirely accessible to the public and full details can be found at on the website. The contents of the discovery will be unique to the Borthwick as the playwright will not be publishing the newly found material nor allow it to be performed.

Sir Alan Ayckbourn is regarded as one of the UK’s most successful living playwrights and has, as of 2022, written 87 full-length play the latest of which -
Family Album - recently premiered in Scarborough. He has won numerous awards including Olivier and Tony Awards and was Knighted for ‘services to theatre’ in 1997. Absurd Person Singular is counted amongst one of his most acclaimed and popular plays; it has the longest run of any Ayckbourn play in both the West End and on Broadway.

The full story behind the discovery and its significance can be found at

Simon Murgatroyd Biography
Simon has been Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist since 2005, having launched the playwright's official website in 2002 as a result of research for his MA into the playwright and his plays. Originally a journalist for the Scarborough Evening News, Simon has been writing professionally since 1992 and has written material for the majority of Ayckbourn world premieres and West End productions since 2006. His book, Unseen Ayckbourn, was first published in 2009 and has been recently updated with a wealth of new material looking at the playwright's unpublished, unwritten and withdrawn works over the past six decades. He has also contributed to several books about the playwright.

His main role is Alan Ayckbourn's Archivist, responsible for maintaining the playwright's archive and his official website. Simon deals with research enquiries from around the world pertaining to the playwright ranging from the BBC to students studying Alan Ayckbourn's plays. Over the past two years, he has also moved into original multimedia content creating videos and podcasts which look into the playwright's career and plays.

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